What was Wiesel's response to the scene at Auschwitz?
In section three of Night, the Jews of Sighet arrive at Birkenau, reception center for the concentration camp of Auschwitz. After the "selection," Elie and his father believe they are being marched to their deaths. The fires that were foretold by Madame Schächter on the train have come true. Elie witnesses a pit of flames where the bodies of children and even babies are being dumped. The group of men are marched toward it, amidst weeping and prayers. It is during this scene that Elie begins to doubt God. As he hears the prayers of his fellows, he begins to question why he should be thankful to a God who could allow such a thing to happen:
For the first time, I felt revolt rise up in me. Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for?
Miraculously, Elie and his father survive. Rather than the pit, they are marched into barracks and eventually go through the rest of the initiation to the camp, including showers and disinfection. Nevertheless, Elie now contends that the God he had worshipped is dead. The scene has destroyed his faith:
Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.
This loss of God is a continuing theme in the book as Elie witnesses more and more atrocities and inhumanity. The scene of the burning children is only the beginning of a nightmare which covers a year of Elie's young life.