In chapter three of Night by Elie Wiesel, which character(s) are witnesses? Explain all instances.

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Night by Elie Wiesel is a personal story about Elie's time in several concentration camps; it is also a testimony that these events happened. That makes him a witness to these happenings, and everyone with him was also a witness. 

A witness is defined as the following:

a person who sees something (such as a crime) happen

a person who makes a statement in a court about what he or she knows or has seen

a person who is present at an event (such as a wedding) and can say that it happened.

By any definition, then, people who see something happen are witnesses, and the witnesses in chapter three fall into the following categories:

Jewish witnesses:

  • Everyone who was in the cattle car with Elie, including his mother, father, and sister Tzipora
  • The current nameless "inmates" of Birkenau/Auschwitz/Buna, specifically including the one who warns Elie and his father to lie about their ages and the one who frightens and intimidates them about the horrors of the place right after they arrive
  • "Bêla Katz, the son of an important merchant of [Elie's] town"
  • The Kapos who beat the inmates with their truncheons
  • The Gypsy inmate who mercilessly torments Elie's father
  • Akiba Drumer [who] said: 

God is testing us. He wants to see whether we are capable of overcoming our base instincts, of killing the Satan within ourselves. We have no right to despair. And if He punishes us mercilessly, it is a sign that He loves us that much more....

  • "Hersh Genud, well versed in Kabbalah, [who]spoke of the end of the world and the coming of the Messiah."
  • "Tens of thousands of inmates [who] stood in rows while the S S checked their numbers."

German witnesses:

  • SS agents and guards
  • Dr. Mengele
  • "The orchestra [which] played military marches near the camp entrance"
  • Some young girls who flirt with the guards.

Dead witnesses: 

  • The nameless dead Jewish babies and adults lying in a ditch
  • Bêla Katz's father
  • Stein from Antwerp, a relative of Elie's mother.

An unseen witness:

  • God.

Each of these witnesses, if asked, would have a different story to tell about the awful and tragic events of this time and place. Some would say the Jews deserved this treatment, some would say that God turned his back on His people, some would say that they had no feelings at all about the events. This is why, of course, it is important to talk to all witnesses before determining, or trying to determine, the truth of a matter. 

There was a time when the witnesses who knew this truth were not believed, but we (or at least most of us) believe. 

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