What is the culture in Night by Elie Wiesel?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The culture that Wiesel addresses in his narrative is the Jewish culture.  This particular culture was targeted by Hitler and the Nazis during the Holocaust.  The entire premise of the Holocaust is shown to be a systematic extermination of the Jewish culture.  The opening of the narrative in Sighet is one in which Eliezer is a student of Jewish sacred texts such as the Kabbalah and one in which his studies of Jewish spirituality are essential to his being in the world.  It is here in which one sees the culture of the narrative to be the Jewish one.

At the same time, Wiesel details the culture of those who lived in the camps.  This culture is one of brutality and survival.  Part of what makes Night such a compelling work is that Wiesel is able to illuminate the culture of the death camps.  This consists of the dehumanization, the suffering, and the lack of identity that the victims of the Nazis were forced to embody.  In the narrative, this culture is seen in children who betray parents, the abandonment of communitarian ties, and the cruelty that compels individual to abandon hope of divine redemption.  When Eliezer feels that he is nothing but "ashes," it is an embodiment of the culture of suffering that the Nazis perpetrated on their victims and the culture of the narrative.

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