Please explain this quote from "Night":  "The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion."

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps this poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller might help you understand:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the
social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the
trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

The laws that were imposed on the Jews did not seem so bad...the wearing of stars, the closing of businesses, the moving to ghettos...none of this meant death.  It was a gradual process that the Jews didn't realize the seriousness of until it was much too late to act.  As a peaceful people, the Jews expected that the restrictions put on them were tolerable and would soon end.  They did not in their wildest dreams think of the possibilities of concentration camps, torture, starvation, and death.  Had they seen a glimpse into this future, I am quite certain they would have rebelled most violently.

clane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Jews of Sighet never fought against each new law and edict passed because they thought if they went along with it the war would end and they wouldn't have to fight. They believed wholeheartedly that if they did everything that was asked of them that no one would treat them poorly. When the Jews were given the yellow stars of David to wear Elie's father tried to reassure his community by saying that the stars were harmless and they weren't lethal. Elie, thinking back as he writes this memoir write, "Poor father, of what then did you die?"because that was the attitude the Jews had of everything they were asked to do. In the ghetto the Jews were happy to be left alone away from the persecution so they accepted it. They had literally deluded themselves into thinking that they would remain safe and get to go home soon. The ghetto was quite literally ruled by the Jews' delusions about the war and the capabilities of the Nazi regime.

hbrazelton | Student

The Jews were simply unwilling to believe that this type of cruelity and prejudice existed in their world.  They could not imagine the fate that awaited them at the concentration camps and refused to contemplate it.  They didn't fight against the rules of these imposed ghettos because doing so would require that they believe that something bad could happen (and currently was happening) to them.  There in lies the delusion - if they didn't accept it as reality, then it wasn't. They continue to believe that everything will return to normal.  It is not until they smell the fires and see the hell that is Birkenau that they believe a place like this actually exists.