There are, sadly, people in the world today who deny that there had ever been a systematic and painfully successful policy and effort on the part of Nazi Germany to eliminate entire groups of people from the earth. To most such individuals, a hatred of Judaism, anti-Semitism, resides at the...
There are, sadly, people in the world today who deny that there had ever been a systematic and painfully successful policy and effort on the part of Nazi Germany to eliminate entire groups of people from the earth. To most such individuals, a hatred of Judaism, anti-Semitism, resides at the core of their beliefs. To others, the suggestion that such an effort could possibly have been conceptualized and carried out simply defies belief. For many European Jews during the 1930s, the thought that discrimination and abuse—mainstays of Jewish existence throughout Europe for hundreds of years—could extend to extermination was similarly beyond comprehension.
Such is the situation Elie Wiesel described in Night, his depiction of life as a young European Jew during the Holocaust. In Wiesel’s account, this manifestation of disbelief—until it was too late—is embodied in the person of Moishe the Beadle. Early in Night, Wiesel describes the figure of Moishe the Beadle in the context of the young boy’s to-date unrequited desire to be educated in ancient mystical Jewish beliefs, as follows:
Moishe the Beadle, the poorest of the poor of Sighet, spoke to me for hours on end about the Kabbalah's revelations and its mysteries.
Moishe, the “poorest of the poor” and “awkward as a clown,” is an eccentric figure in Wiesel’s village. His socioeconomic status and fervent belief in and respect for Kabbalah constitutes a mark against his credibility when that credibility was most tested. When the fascist authorities decree that all foreign Jews in the town of Sighet must assemble for relocation, Moishe, a foreigner to this town, is among those taken away. He returns, however, with a story of mass slaughter of his fellow Jews at the hands of the Nazis that is met with disbelief by the other Jews of Sighet, as described by Wiesel:
people not only refused to believe his tales, they refused to listen. Some even insinuated that he only wanted their pity, that he was imagining things. Others flatly said that he had gone mad. As for Moishe, he wept and plead.
Wiesel’s fellow Jews rejected Moishe the Beadle’s tale of mass execution because they ascribed to this almost pathetic figure absolutely no credibility and because, as noted, the notion of extermination was beyond their ability to comprehend—a phenomenon unfortunately repeated in villages and towns across Eastern Europe.