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If you have not read Night, by Eli Wiesel, you should definitely add it to your list of books to get to at some point. It can be read in one evening, and although it is short, is extremely powerful. Many of my students have enjoyed this book—even non-readers.
Make note that it is set during World War II, as part of Germany occupation of surrounding countries. Adolf Hitler decides to purge the human race of those he believes are inferior or weak. This includes not just the Jews, but Gypsies and even those who are handicapped—the list of targets is very long. The main characters in the story are Eliezer Wiesel and his father Chlomo. Some of the action takes place before the Germans imprison them at the death camp. The beginning introduces Eliezer's faith; there is also Moshe the Beadle's warning—he lives through a mass execution of Jews, left because the soldiers believe he is already dead.
Moshe had changed. There was no longer any joy in his eyes. He no longer sang. He no longer talked to me of God or of the cabbala, but only of what he had seen. People refused not only to believe his stories, but even to listen to them.
There is also the people's refusal in Sighet (Eli's town) to believe that what they hear from other sources is true. Most of the townspeople never see "the writing on the wall."
The remainder of the book takes place in the Nazi camps Eli and his father are shipped to, along with thousands of others. They arrivefirst at Birkenau, are separated from Eli's mother and sister, and never to see them again. Later the men are marched to the notorious Auschwitz, located on the border between Germany and Poland. Then on to Buna, then Gleiwitz, and finally to Buchenwald.All the while, Eli stays close to his father—they are never separated in the moves. They witness executions, beatings; father and son often receive these beatings. They are starved, worked and marched mercilessly. Their survival is miraculous.
The marching for sometimes hundreds of miles in the worst condition takes its toll. All Eli's father wants to do is lie down. At one point he rests next to others, but Eli realizes those "resting" there will never get up again, and he tries to move his father:
"Father," I said. "You can't stay here."
I showed him the corpses all around him...
"I can see them, son...Let them sleep. It's so long since they closed their eyes...They are exhausted..."
His voice was tender.
...For a long time this argument went on. I felt that I was not arguing with him, but with death itself, with the death that he had already chosen.
It is finally, then, at Buchenwald that Eli's father succumbs to dysentery. At this point, Eli is near death himself, and it is again a miracle when air raid sirens go off as the front is moving closer; the resistance attacks the SS in the camp (who flee), and by the evening...
...the first American tank stood at the gates of Buchenwald.
Trying to reduce this to the four sentence you requested, would probably sound something like this:
Night, by Eli Wiesel, is the story of the Nazi's attempted extermination of Jews and others at death camps located in and around Germany during World War II. Eli and his father are the main characters who try their best to survive in the most terrible circumstances. Eli's faith in God and humanity are tested—especially as he watches his father die, just a short time before their camp is liberated. Eli survives, but is never the same man again.
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