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I find the questions which ask students to relate their own lives to the events in the book to be somewhat impossible, to be honest. Hopefully, in America (where I teach), no one in any of my classes has anything close in a matter of comparison. I also find that the reactions to the book are so strong and sobering that to ask kids to "relate" would almost downplay the experience of those who were truly involved.
On the other hand, one thing I do like to get into is the original propoganda of the Nazi's and how much time was spent preparing before the Jews were even deported. I like to talk about the international lie that set the entire thing off. Then, it is interesting to tie that back to the little things kids do to each other or the lies and prejudices they ignore because they seem so insignificant. While it may be impossible to relate to Wiesel's actual experience, the universal human condition of hatred and how it starts can certainly be discussed. This always opens several lines of communication and self-reflection in my classes.
How about coming up with another title? (My students are always relieved, somehow, to know that he also wrote Dawn, as it gives them hope for this disillusioned young man.) One of my favorite questions when reading Night is why Elie seems to spend so much attention on people's eyes? The answer, of course, is that in a world where most physical features can change, the eyes can not. What else can eyes tell us? A new cover for the book for the visual learners.
I would suggest that a very good discussion point, and one that might be very powerful, would be for students to identify one instance in the book that students can relate to on a personal level. There is much in the book that takes place in the specific context of the time period, but I think there is much in way of personalized experiences that students might find analogous to the issues presented. We have to remember that at the time of Wiesel's writing, he is a teen, an adolescent. Certainly, we wouldn't want any of our students to have a first hand experienced idea of what Wiesel went through, but sadly enough, many of our students might be able to speak quite eloquently to issues such as abandonment, torment, abuse, cruelty, isolation, and regret. Hearing their voices on these issues might be powerful. Another interesting open discussion would be for students to identify a narrative, either literary or news based, of other atrocities from the victims' point of view. Wiesel and situations in Rwanda or other parts of the world may instigate an interesting dialogue. Finally, if you have any artists, maybe an interesting assignment would be to have them create a mural of Wiesel's experiences. You could add your own stipulations (use of words not allowed, modern pictures, hand drawn pictures.) If you broadened it to everyone having to do the assignment, you could even have an art exhibit of human atrocities and then have a gallery showing where students examine their work and others' in assessing the different ways they and their colleagues have shown human cruelty. This would be an interesting discussion.
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