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Night, published in 1958 and translated to English in 1960, marked the end of Elie Wiesel’s ten year, self-imposed vow of silence where the Holocaust survivor wrote nothing about his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. In contrast to The Diary of Anne Frank (1947), which capitalizes on young Anne’s innocence, Wiesel’s memoir revealed the cruelty and horrors of the Holocaust in vivid detail. Night details Wiesel’s loss of faith in humanity and in God. The metaphorical night darkens as Wiesel’s faith diminishes throughout the memoir as a result of his experience in the network of Auschwitz concentration camps, which include Birkenau, Auschwitz and Buna-Monowitz.
There are four primary instances in Night that demonstrate Wiesel’s loss of faith. The first instance occurs as Wiesel enters Buchenwald, is separated from his mother and sisters and faces the possibility of losing his father. He relates, “Around us, everyone was weeping. Someone began to recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I do not know if it has ever happened before...that people have ever recited the prayer for the dead for themselves...For the first time, I felt revolt rise up in me. Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for?” (33).
The second instance occurs shortly after, as Wiesel suffers his first night in camp. This is one of the most cited and memorable passages in Night: “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed...Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never” (34).
A third example occurs when the child, the sad-eyed angel, faces execution. This is an important moment for Wiesel’s loss of faith as the child symbolizes innocence and the execution marks the death of innocence. Wiesel recalls, “One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly place...Three victims in chains – and one of them, the little servant, the sad-eyed angel... ‘Where is God? Where is He?’...We were weeping...The two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue tinged. But the third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive... For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes... Behind me, I hear the same man asking: ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is He? Here He is – He is hanging here on this gallows” (64-65).
The final example follows the child’s execution. Here, Wiesel laments the death of innocence and rebels against God. Angrily, Wiesel calls out to God: “’What are You, my God,’ I thought angrily...What does Your greatness mean, Lord of the universe, in the face of all this weakness, this decomposition, and this decay?...Why, but why should I bless Him? In every fiber I rebelled...Praised be Thy Holy Name, Thou Who hast chosen us to be butchered on Thine alter?” (66-67).
"Introduction" Nonfiction Classics for Students Vol. 4. Gale CengageeNotes.com 25 Nov, 2013 http://www.enotes.com/topics/night-wiesel#introduction-introduction
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Trans. Marion Wiesel. 1958. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.
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