Why were the Jewish musicians not allowed to play music by Beethoven in Chapter 4 of Night?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To understand the reasons why Jewish musicians were not allowed to play music by Beethoven as described by Elie Wiesel in Night, it is important to comprehend the Nazi agenda. Hitler and members of the Nazi party had agreed to purge the Jewish community, among other groups termed undesirable, from humanity. The hatred towards these communities was extreme, and the Nazis made this clear by subjecting millions to forced labor and mass killings (holocaust). Basically, what they were communicating through their actions was that Jews and other "undesirables" were undeserving of life. For this reason, they were also undeserving of the German culture. It was an insult to the Nazis for a Jew to play German music (Beethoven was a German composer and musician). The Jews were considered inferior and subordinate to the Nazi Germans.

In Night, Elie met some musicians while at one of the concentration camps. The musicians, who were previously popular, and possibly played in front of German audiences, were barred from playing Beethoven or German music in general. This was an extension of the Nazi agenda, to prove to the Jews that they were undeserving.

We struck up conversations with our neighbors, the musicians. Almost all of them were Jews. Juliek, a Pole with eyeglasses and a cynical smile in a pale face. Louis, a native of Holland, a well known violinist. He complained that they would not let him play Beethoven; Jews were not allowed to play German music. Hans, the young man from Berlin, was full of wit. The foreman was a Pole: Franek, a former student in Warsaw.

mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Night, Elie Weisel tells his horrific story of being held in Auschwitz. In chapter four, the Jewish people were not allowed to play any music by Beethoven. Beethoven is the famed German composer. The SS, led by Adolf Hitler, thought that Germans were the supreme race, and that the Jewish people were nothing. Hitler wanted to eliminate the Jews altogether. They didn't think the Jews were pure enough to play anything that a German had composed. The Jews were not allowed to play any music that was from a German.

The Nazi's main goal was to dehumanize the Jewish population. They tried to strip them of everything that made them human. They shaved their heads, stripped their clothes and tattooed numbers in their arms. Their names were taken from them and they were only known by a number. By taking away their right to play music, was an even farther example of how the SS tried to make the Jewish people become nothing. What is interesting is the strong sense of who the Jews are. Their faith kept on living even among the most horrible conditions. There is even evidence that they celebrated Passover while in the camps. No matter how hard Hitler tried, he just couldn't break the spirit of the Jews.

Elie Weisel suffered and lost so much, but he still survived, and not just survived, but thrived. The SS tried to take even music away from them, but in the end they couldn't destroy to strength of the Jews. 

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Jewish musicians were not allowed to play music by Beethoven because he was a famed German composer and musician; "Jews were not allowed to play German music".

The sense communicated by the restriction was that the Jews were not worthy to play the music of the German masters.  It goes along with the systematic denial of the Jews of rights and privileges accorded other citizens of the Nazi regime.  With the rise of Hitler, the Jews and other "undesirables" were first discriminated against, then persecuted, and finally eliminated from the fabric of German society through mass deportation and murder.  The prohibition against Jews playing German music was just one part of Hitler's movement to eradicate them in his "Final Solution" (Chapter 4).