How Does Wiesel React When His Father Is Slapped By The Gypsy?

How does Wiesel react when his father is slapped by the Gypsy?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elie Wiesel describes a moment in the Auschwitz Camp when a Gypsy struck his father with such force that his father was knocked to the ground. At Auschwitz, the Nazis would put other prisoners in charge. The prisoners would oblige in the hopes of receiving better treatment. Wiesel's father, Schlomo, simply asked if he could use the bathroom when the incident took place. Wiesel's own reaction to the violence is described as inaction:  

I stood petrified. What had happened to me? My father had just been struck, in front of me, and I had not even blinked. I had watched and kept silent. Only yesterday, I would have dug my nails into this criminal's flesh. Had I changed that much? So fast? Remorse began to gnaw at me. All I could think was: I shall never forgive them for this. My father must have guessed my thoughts, because he whispered in my ear:  --Page 39, Night

Wiesel was obviously shocked by the treatment of his father by another inmate. This was early in his stay at Auschwitz before the reality of his situation had been internalized. He almost immediately regretted not acting out on behalf of his father. There was truly not much that he could have done in the situation, but that does not assuage his sense of loss. His loss of humanity and dignity. His loss in the freedom to do what is right, what is in his best interests.  This loss of decency is an important theme throughout Wiesel's work.