Night Questions and Answers
by Elie Wiesel

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In Night, what does author Elie Wiesel say is left behind in the trains other than the Jewish people's last valuables? What does he mean by this?

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Heather Garey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Elie Wiesel’s Night, there are no named or numbered chapters. In what would be chapter 3 (page 29 in the version I’m working with), Elie opens with this statement:

The beloved objects that we had carried with us from place to place were now left behind in the wagon and, with them, finally, our illusions.

The Jews in Elie’s village (Sighet) had ignored the warnings of Moishe the Beadle, who was taken from the village when the decree came that all foreign Jews would be evacuated. Moishe was taken but managed to escape captivity because he was mistaken for dead. He returns to the village and shouts in the synagogues, begging and pleading with the Jews to listen to his warnings. He tries to tell them what is coming, but they refuse to listen.

The Jews in Elie’s village are also aware of Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Jews, but they doubt the veracity of it. They don’t think it will be possible for him to wipe out an entire race of people. Then, in the spring of 1944, they receive the news that Germany is about to be defeated on the Russian front, so they breathe a collective sigh of relief and believe their worries are over.

Even as they are loaded on the train en route to Birkenau, they believe they are just going to a resettlement camp. They don’t see the reality of what they are about to endure. Madame Schachter seems to have premonitions of the horrors that await them, but they dismiss her as well. It’s only when they are escorted off the train at Birkenau and forced to leave their belongings that they face the reality of their dire situation. It is at this time that Elie’s faith begins to fracture, as well.

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kathik eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Night, upon arriving at Auschwitz, author Elie Wiesel says,

"The cherished objects we had brought with us thus far were left behind in the train, and with them, at last, our illusions" (Wiesel 27).

Before the train pulled into Auschwitz, the Jewish people from Sighet still had hope. There was talk about "resettlement camps," where the men would work, and conditions might be hard but tolerable. Some even thought wherever they were going might not be bad at all. They would be able to continue their lives much as they had before, and eventually they would be able to go back home to their village. These were the illusions about which Wiesel wrote. The Jews had no idea how bad things were about to become; but as they stepped off the train at Auschwitz, they could see the fires, they could smell flesh burning, they could feel the Nazis' truncheons hitting their bodies. They had no choice but to leave their illusions behind once the reality of Auschwitz struck them. 

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