How are Moshe the Beadle and Madame Schachter thematically similar to one another?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The experiences and treatment of Moshe the Beadle and Madame Schächter thematically represent the prevalence of inhumanity and dehumanization toward individuals throughout the Holocaust. Both characters are Jewish and not only suffer at the hands of the Nazis but are also abused by other Jews. After Moshe the Beadle escapes a Nazi firing squad in the Galician forest, he returns to Sighet and attempts to warn the Jewish citizens of the advancing Nazi forces. Unfortunately, the Jewish citizens dismiss his warnings and call him crazy. He is treated like a pariah in the town of Sighet and the Jewish citizens ignore him.

Similar to the treatment of Moshe the Beadle, Madame Schächter hallucinates on the train and begins screaming. In order to stop Madame Schächter from shouting, the other Jewish prisoners begin to physically beat her. Through the terrible treatment of both characters, Wiesel illustrates how the violent, inhumane atmosphere of the Holocaust affected how Jewish citizens treated one another. Both Moshe the Beadle and Madame Schächter suffered from the inhumane treatment of both the Nazis and others. Their treatment emphasizes the dehumanization that took place during the Holocaust. Even regular citizens were capable of violently oppressing one another and abusing members of their community, which leads to a poignant observation regarding the violent nature of humanity.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thematically, both characters are linked to one another because they represent the dehumanization that served as the true horror of the Holocaust.  Wiesel constructs his narrative to speak to the element of dehumanization and the silencing of voices that becomes the sad legacy of the Holocaust.  In this frame of reference, the dehumanization techniques that the Nazis imposed on the victims are the same patterns that the victims imprint upon one another.  In framing the Holocaust in this manner, there is an ethical/ moral statement being made, enabling Wiesel's work to be seen in a philosophical light.

Moshe the Beadle and Madame Schachter are two characters that represent this.  Both are not silenced by the Nazis, but rather the Jewish people of Sighet.  Both of them are rejected by their own people.  Moshe is discarded when he comes back to Sighet to warn the Jewish people of what is coming.  Madame Schachter is silenced emotionally and physically when she keeps screaming of fire.  Both of them are seen as insane, refused to be acknowledged.  The label of insanity makes it easier to denigrate them and relegate them to the periphery.  However, Wiesel makes it clear that both of them were lucid in their thinking and that their rejection is a reflection of the abuse of power that both aggressors and sometimes victims ended up displaying in the Holocaust.