In Night by Elie Wiesel, why can't the musicians play Beethoven? 

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Night, Elie Wiesel tells the story of his time in a concentration camp. It is a short book replete with horrible inhumanities which are perpetrated on the Jews. They were starved, worked, dehumanized, beaten and, of course, burned and killed. 

One of the other awful things the Germans did was prohibit the Jews from playing Beethoven's music--or any music written by a German composer. The reason for this is that the Germans viewed the Jews as inferior beings, dogs even; conversely, they esteemed themselves as the superior race. In short, the Germans did not want to insult their German musical geniuses by letting the Jews play their music.

This is a complete dehumanizing of the Jews, for one of the most human things about us is an appreciation for things that speak to the soul, like art and music. Taking that away is crushing to the Jews' spirits.

There is a grand moment in chapter six (if you have not reached this point in your reading, this is a spoiler alert!!) when Juliek plays Beethoven. 

It had to be Juliek. He was playing a fragment of a Beethoven concerto. Never before had I heard such a beautiful sound. In such silence… The darkness enveloped us. All I could hear was the violin and it was as if Juliek’s soul had become his bow. He was playing his life…He played what he would never play again.

Juliek played away his life and, in doing so, offered a kind of life to Elie and the others.