What is the community's impression of the soldiers when they first arrive in Night by Elie Wiesel?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The community is reassured by the German soldiers at first, because they seem polite.

As hard as it is to believe, the people in Elie Wiesel’s community have no idea what the German soldiers are about to do when they first arrive, or what kind of people they really are.  In fact, their first impressions are not of fear and horror.  They are of relief.

Wiesel comments that he associates German soldiers with death and anguish now, but his first impressions were different.  The Germans were originally carefully woven into Jewish society.  They stayed in Jewish homes.  They walked the streets.  They were not frightening then.

Still, our first impressions of the Germans were rather reassuring. The officers were billeted in private homes, even in Jewish homes. Their attitude toward their hosts was distant but polite. They never demanded the impossible... (Ch. 1)

Wiesel comments that the German soldiers are not offensive, but it is the last part of this quote that stands out to me.  They would certainly demand the impossible of the Jews later on.  While at first the German soldiers were polite and maybe even kind to the Jews, the truth is that this kindness would create a false sense of security.

It was not to last.  As they rounded them up into ghettos, keeping them closer and closer together wither fewer and fewer rights, it would not be long before the Germans were losing the war and they would go to the next step in the plan, the Final Solution, and begin mass extermination.  Then the Jews would be moved into transports, train cars, to concentration camps.  The same German soldier who brought a Jewish woman a box of chocolates might eventually be shoving her into a car for Auschwitz. 

Wiesel knew all of this, of course, as he wrote.  He could see the future for his characters in his memoir, himself and his people.  He knew that they would all meet their doom, but he understood why.  He knew that they were clinging to the hope that their captors, the nice Germans, would never betray them.  The irony drips from his statement.

The Germans were already in our town, the Fascists were already in power, the verdict was already out—and the Jews of Sighet were still smiling. (Ch. 1)

He is not blaming his people.  The blame is on the Nazis.  Yet the pain is clearly there.  Wiesel has been through a lot.  He knows what is about to happen, and hindsight is twenty-twenty.

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ssandhu05's profile pic

ssandhu05 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Honors

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The Jewish community had seemed to be on edge, but thought that the soldiers were not too harmful since they had reassured the community that nothing was going to happen to them. The reason why I say that they were on edge is because during that part of the book, during that time, radio broadcasted the advancement of the German army when they came closer to Elie's community. The soldiers didn't seem to be polite, I think, because these soldiers had forced to shove the Jewish people into entering the torture that they had to later endure in the book. Though later it's revealed the true nature of treatment that the Jewish receive on their end, the soldier in the beginning seemed to equal to any average person. With guns and a uniform.

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