In Night by Elie Wiesel, how does Elizer’s interaction with the French girl strengthen or diminish his faith?

Eliezer's interaction with the French girl strengthens Elie's trust in humanity because she selflessly helps him, putting her life on the line to do so. The guards were unaware that she was Jewish. By talking to Elie in German she might have been sentenced to death, but she chose to in spite of the potential harm because she saw his need for kindness and compassion. When they meet later, they share a mutual understanding and trust from their experience together.

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The French girl's kindness to Eliezer can be said to strengthen his faith in people. I doubt it has any effect on his religious faith, which, from the time of his arrival in the camps, has existed in a kind of limbo of neither belief nor disbelief. The episode with...

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The French girl's kindness to Eliezer can be said to strengthen his faith in people. I doubt it has any effect on his religious faith, which, from the time of his arrival in the camps, has existed in a kind of limbo of neither belief nor disbelief. The episode with the French girl is one in which she compromises herself by helping him after he's been beaten up by the guard Idek.

The girl has been "passing" for "Aryan." Part of her disguise has been to avoid revealing that she can speak German. This is because many European Jews spoke Yiddish, which is actually a dialect of German, so it was normal for many to speak standard German as well. It's possible that although this young lady was from France, her parents or other relatives might have migrated from the German-speaking countries or from central or eastern Europe. In those regions, the educated Jewish population normally spoke German regardless of the particular country in which they lived. It was a part of Europe where borders were constantly changing, and where German speakers had been the political elite in territories east of Germany. Eliezer's family speaks German, though they lived in Hungary. This is because of their Jewish background and the fact that before WWI, Hungary had been part of the empire of Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary was dominated by German speakers, although a dual monarchy between ethnic German Austrians and Hungarians had been established in 1867.

I've included these details because, as Wiesel himself implies, the girl is endangering herself not only by helping him in the camp, but by speaking German to him. Years after the war, when he sees her in Paris on the métro, he re-bonds with her. She senses his question to her will be whether or not she is Jewish. That she is Jewish confirms to him what he must have sensed already in the camp. It also shows the extent of her selflessness in having helped him. The message is thus one that conflicts with the more pessimistic one that emerges from some personal accounts about the Holocaust. Unlike in many cases, people are not inevitably reduced by the death-camp into an everyman (or woman) in their state of mind and behavior. Sometimes it seems that personal survival becomes the only thing of significance. Wiesel shows that human goodness emerges even in the worst and most brutal situations.

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Sent to a new camp in Poland called Buna, a place the young Eliezer and his father find themselves the regular target of a sadistic Kapo, one of the Jewish prisoners appointed by the German prison guards to supervise work groups, named Idek. Eliezer finds himself working near a French woman whom he believes appears Jewish, but who has been classified by the prison administrators as an Aryan subjected to hard labor. Eliezer notes in Night that the two were unable to communicate due to language barriers, he unable to understand French and she ignorant of German. Following a particularly vicious beating from Idek, the young boy is comforted by the French woman. The story’s narrator describes the scene as follows:

“I was aching all over. I felt a cool hand wiping the blood from my forehead. It was the French girl. She was smiling her mournful smile as she slipped me a crust of bread. I knew she wanted to talk to me but she was paralyzed with fear.”

In the next passage, Wiesel’s autobiographical novel describes an encounter with this woman years later in the Paris metro. Eliezer approaches her and initiates a conversation that forces the woman to relive those days in Buna. The two sit down at a café terrace where Eliezer asks a question that had remained with him since those days many hears ago in the horrors of the Holocaust. Anticipating his question, the woman confesses that she is indeed Jewish, but had succeeded in concealing her knowledge of German and her true religious faith, a ruse that probably saved her life. As the two part ways, she states that she suspected that Eliezer had been aware of her true ethnicity, but that she knew he would protect her secret.

The woman’s kindness following his beating at the hands of Idek strengthened Eliezer’s faith in mankind precisely because it was such an act of caring under the harshest conditions imaginable. In a time and place of inhumanity on a scale never before seen, here was a moment of humanity between two individuals who had never spoken to each other before. The woman had risked a beating or worse to help Eliezer and had counseled him wisely about the need to contain his anger (“Keep your hate, your anger, for another day, for later. That day will come, but not now.”). Clearly, Eliezer never forgot that moment in time and his recognition of the woman many years later provided an opportunity to thank her.

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In Night by Elie Wiesel, after arriving at Buna, Elie and his father were sent to a warehouse to work. Their kapo, Idek, wass known for having frenetical fits, and nobody was safe when he was in the midst of one. For no reason anyone could discern, one day while Elie was working, Idek chose him and unleashed his fury, beating Elie until he could hardly move. A French girl, who worked at the warehouse as well, comforted Elie. He thought she was Jewish, but she wasn't a prisoner. He found out years later that she was indeed Jewish, but had passed for Aryan.  

This encounter increased Elie's faith in humanity. This girl risked her life to speak to him in German--to give him a few words of comfort. If the wrong person had heard, she would have been reported and sent to a concentration camp. Elie realized what she was risking for him, and that is what renewed his faith and helped him to keep going. The French girl said to him,

"Bite your lip, little brother....Don't cry. Keep your anger and hatred for another day, for later on. The day will come, but not now....Wait. Grit your teeth and wait..." (Wiesel 51).

Elie never forgot those words.

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