In Night, what does Elie Wiesel mean when he said he had ceased to feel human?

When Elie Wiesel said he ceased to feel human, he meant that the Jews were treated worse than dogs, enduring dehumanizing behavior by the Nazis that stripped them of any semblance of civilized life or any ability to feel like human beings. They were forcibly packed into cattle cars and deported. Families were separated. They were stripped, made to walk naked in front of others, beaten, fed barely anything, and endured inhuman conditions that made them feel less than human.

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Elie Wiesel ceased to feel like a human because that was precisely what the Nazis intended for every prisoner within their concentration camps. For Elie, I would argue that the process of dehumanization began when his family arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau and he and his father were separated from his mother and sister. Leaving them without protection and destined for the gas chambers would have killed a small part of both Elie and his father.

To the guards in the concentration camps, Elie is not Elie Wiesel. He is merely A-7713. While living with this new "identity," he endures every kind of suffering and hardship imaginable, from witnessing murders and brutality to experiencing cold, hunger, exhaustion, and cruelty in measures that are hard to imagine.

For Elie, another part of ceasing to feel human is connected to the way his feelings toward his father change. When his father gets beaten up one day, Elie surprises himself by feeling anger towards his father for not being able to deflect the blows.

Life in the concentration camp forces Elie to rethink everything that he previously held dear: his relationship with his family, his relationship with God, and his belief in justice. The brutality that he faces and the swift realization that his life means nothing to his oppressors both play huge roles in Elie ceasing to feel like a human being.

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When Elie Wiesel said that he had ceased to feel human, he means precisely that. He and his father and the other Jews in the camps are treated worse than dogs. The dehumanizing behavior they endure at the hands of the Nazis strips them of their ability to maintain any semblance of civilized life. Elie says, "In a few seconds, we had ceased to be men." In the preface to the book, he questions how to describe the indescribable

or the discovery of a demented and glacial universe where to be inhuman was human, where disciplined, educated men in uniform came to kill, and innocent children and weary old men came to die?

They are packed into cattle cars on a train and deported to an unknown location with menacing police and Nazis threatening to harm them if they resist. Once at the camp, families are separated. They are stripped figuratively and literally. Proud men like Elie’s father, who is accustomed to having the respect of the local people in their town, are made to walk naked in front of all the other prisoners. They are beaten, fed barely anything, and begin to shrink away to skin and bones. This makes them feel less than human, although it does not strip Elie of his humanity. When the little pipel is hanged, Elie and the others are moved. Despite the inhuman conditions, they can still recognize their own humanity and the humanity of the victims being hanged.

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In Chapter 3, Wiesel states,

In a few seconds, we had ceased to be men . . . The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. My soul had been invaded—and devoured-—by a black flame.

In this quote, we see the loss of humanity that Wiesel feels as a result of the grotesquely inhumane treatment at the hands of the Nazis. The officers work the inmates so hard that the only feeling left is exhaustion. They strip each person of his sense of liberty. The inmates are starved to the point that they fail to resemble humans. They lose their very names as numerical tattoos are inscribed on their arms; Wiesel simply becomes A-7713.

In Chapter 4, he shares similar reflections:

I was nothing but a body. Perhaps even less: a famished stomach.

In situation after situation, day after day, the Nazis prove that they do not value the life of the inmates; they exist simply to provide labor, provide anything of value (jewelry, gold teeth), and provide a target for abuse.

Because of this ongoing treatment and the inability to retaliate in any way, Wiesel begins to lose hope. He is trapped in his prison (for no crime—simply because of a hatred of his racial ancestry) with no means of escape, no one who can help, and no control over his life. Because the Nazis have taken away everything that constitutes a meaningful life, Wiesel begins to feel a loss of his own humanity.

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I think that anyone reading this concentration camp account must be struck by the intense surreality of what is being narrated. It is just so unbelievable and horrid and so far from our experiences in the 21st Century that we are just unable to comprehend the full extent of the horror that the author relates. What Wiesel is saying is that the way he was treated finally made him consider himself to be inhuman. The Germans treated the Jews as little more than cattle to be set to work and slaughtered on whim. Finally, this treatment impacted Wiesel and the way that he viewed himself. There are numerous instances in the novel to show how treating Jews like animals lowers their own standards of humanity as well, such as when they fight on the train for bits of bread that German spectators throw for them.

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