Why did the townspeople remain complacent with the German army in Night by Elie Wiesel?  

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kathik eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The townspeople in Night by Elie Wiesel remained complacent when the German army first came into town because they really did not know what was happening. Sure Moshe the Beadle had warned them, but nobody believed him. How could anything so terrible really happen in that day and age?  Furthermore, when the Germans arrived in Sighet, they initially treated the townspeople well, and they were respectful to everyone. The officers were housed with families--some of them even in Jewish households. Wiesel wrote about an officer who stayed with neighbors of theirs. The officer was kind to them. He even bought the lady of the house a box of chocolates. Those who believed things were not going to get worse were pleased.

"Well, there you are, you see! What did we tell you? You wouldn't believe us. There they are your Germans! What do you think of them? Where is their famous cruelty" (Wiesel 7)?

When one hasn't been subject to terrible cruelty, it is hard to imagine it might happen to you, and the Jews of Sighet felt this way. It didn't take long for the Germans to show their real faces. On the last day of Passover, several leaders in the Jewish community were arrested, and as Wiesel wrote, "The race toward death had begun" (Wiesel 8).

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Jews of Sighet doubt the German Army’s resolve to carry out what Hitler had promised. When the officers first arrive in Sighet, the Jews are initially in anguish. However, the soldiers feign politeness towards them. The Jews welcome and host the soldiers in their homes. The soldiers, on the other hand, respond with kindness:

However, our first impressions of the German were most reassuring. The officers were billeted in private houses, even in the homes of Jews. Their attitude towards their hosts was distant, but polite.

In one of the homes, the soldier buys a box of chocolates for the mistress as a gesture of goodwill. These kind acts by the soldiers mislead the Jews into thinking that no harm will come to them. However, once their orders arrive, the soldiers quickly turn against their hosts. They arrest the Jewish leaders and demand that the people remain confined in their homes, and they make the Jews wear the yellow star and later place the Jews in ghettos.