To discuss the ideas that are developed in Night about circumstances that compel an individual to respond, think about the circumstances in the first scenes in the book. Here, Moishe the Beadle tries to warn Eliezer and the other Jews in his town about the atrocities that will come their way if they don’t respond and do something. Neither Eliezer nor the other Jews believe Moishe the Beadle’s testimony about the mass shooting that he escaped. The Jews in the town don’t take action; they don’t respond.
The circumstances that cause the Jews not to respond could be attributed to normalcy. Moishe the Beadle’s lethal account doesn’t accord with what the Jews in Eliezer’s community are experiencing. After Moishe gives his account, Eliezer admits that “life seemed normal once again.” He’s studying Jewish texts, spring is arriving, and people are getting married and having babies. The sense that nothing’s wrong—that all is as usual as it can be amidst a war—creates circumstances that compel an individual not to respond.
Now, think about how the circumstances in the Nazi concentration camps compel Eliezer and the other prisoners not to respond. Here, it’s possible to argue that they don’t respond like they normally would because their circumstances aren’t normal. “This is what the antechamber of hell must look like,” says Eliezer. “So many crazed men, so much shouting, so much brutality.” The surreal quantity of violence creates conditions in which one’s normal attitudes toward cruelty and ruthlessness are upended. In normal circumstances, Eliezer says he would have done something if he’d seen his father get slapped. In the circumstances of the camp, Eliezer doesn’t even blink when the Gypsy assaults his dad.