In Elie Wiesel's Night, what are the lives of Sighet's Jews like before the German invasion?

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Nightis a harrowing memoir of a young man attempting to survive the Holocaust. In its first chapter, Night reveals much about the Jewish community where Elie spends his youth. These observations teach the reader about what daily life was like in Sighet and the countless other Jewish communities destroyed...

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Night is a harrowing memoir of a young man attempting to survive the Holocaust. In its first chapter, Night reveals much about the Jewish community where Elie spends his youth. These observations teach the reader about what daily life was like in Sighet and the countless other Jewish communities destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Day to day life in Sighet is something to which many readers can relate. “The shopkeepers were doing good business, the students lived among their books, and the children played in the streets.” This sentence is timeless and placeless. It applies to civilizations from thousands of years ago just as well as it does to today.

One thing the reader learns early on is that for the Jews of Sighet, their religion plays a large role in their daily lives. Even Elie, still a child in the memoir’s opening pages, dutifully studies the Torah. His father, though not a rabbi, is a highly respected member of Sighet’s Jewish community. Wiesel notes that his father “was more involved in the welfare of others than that of his own kin.” Though one can interpret this statement as negative, it shows the degree to which Elie’s father is an active member of his community.

Though religion ties Sighet’s Jewish residents together, these ties are not unbreakable. When foreign Jews, including Elie’s mentor Moshe the Beadle, are deported by the Hungarian police, they are quickly forgotten. “What do you expect,” someone in the crowd says as the train car full of foreign Jews pulls away. “That’s war.” Even Elie moves on, only to be surprised later when Moshe reappears in Sighet after escaping the Nazis' death squads.  

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