Night Characters

The main characters in Night include Eliezer Wiesel, Chlomo Wiesel, Moshe the Beadle, and Juliek.

  • Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel is a Jewish man who recounts his experience in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
  • Chlomo Wiesel is Elie’s father, who tries to protect his son in the camps.
  • Moshe the Beadle is Elie’s kind tutor, who indulges Elie’s interest in Hasidic Judaism.
  • Juliek is a gifted violinist and a fellow inmate of Elie’s in Auschwitz.

Characters

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Eliezer Wiesel

The experience of being a young Jewish boy imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II is presented through Eliezer’s perspective. In many ways, he reflects the typical teenage experience, concerned about his family, his faith, and his community. Yet, because he is positioned within this particular historical context, Eliezer’s experience reflects the profound struggle to survive within a society that has allowed racism to guide societal standards. 

Eliezer is naïve in the opening scenes, questioning why Moishe the Beadle cares whether others believe that he has witnessed horrific tragedies. As the narrative progresses, Eliezer loses nearly everything he cares about, including his home and his entire family. Struggling to survive in the midst of starvation, physical abuse, and mental anguish, Eliezer begins to question his faith; these feelings climax when he is forced to watch a young child be hanged for “crimes” against the Nazi party, and the little body is “writhing” for a half hour, caught between life and death. 

After this experience, Eliezer believes that God himself is “hanging…from [the] gallows.” Still, he continues to fight for survival alongside his father; when he sees other sons prioritizing their own survival and thus abandoning their fathers, Eliezer commits himself to remaining loyal. In late January of 1945, Eliezer awakes to find that his father, who had been quite ill for some time, is gone; Buchenwald is liberated in early April, and Eliezer is transferred to a hospital to recover.

Shlomo Wiesel

Eliezer describes his father as a “rather unsentimental” man who rarely displayed his feelings, even among his family. The community of Sighet deeply respects this man, as he works tirelessly to improve the welfare of others, and they often seek his opinion to guide their community policies. After being deported, Eliezer and his father desperately attempt to remain together, and their efforts are successful despite neverending obstacles. 

Once, when it appears that Shlomo will not survive the next selection, he attempts to increase his son’s chances of survival by passing along the only possessions he still owns: a knife and a spoon. Eliezer worries that he will fail his father at some point, becoming like other young boys who have abandoned their aging fathers to increase their own chances of survival. He proves faithful, however, taking turns staying awake through death marches so that his father doesn’t die of hypothermia. 

When they are close to liberation and arrive at Buchenwald, Eliezer’s father becomes very ill, and Eliezer is vigilant in trying to offer care and encouragement. One morning when he climbs down from his top bunk, Eliezer finds that his father is gone and wonders if he was still breathing when the SS officers moved him to the crematorium.

Moishe the Beadle

Moishe the Beadle, who is “the poorest of the poor of Sighet,” serves as a religious mentor for young Eliezer, and he encourages Eliezer to deeply consider matters of faith. As a foreign Jew, he is among the first to be deported but escapes and returns to Sighet to warn others of the horrors he has witnessed. After his return, Moishe no longer speaks of God, and his demeanor is completely changed. Unfortunately, people dismiss him, claiming that he only seeks pity or that he imagined the experience. People of Sighet resume their typical lives, and Moishe eventually falls silent, knowing what awaits.

Juliek

At Buna, Eliezer meets Juliek, a musician. Later, after they are marched to Gleiwitz, the two are both nearly crushed. Somehow, Juliek disentangles himself from the pile of bodies and also manages to save his beloved violin. Eliezer hears Juliek playing a Beethoven concerto with his “whole being,” cradling the damaged instrument as if it houses his “extinguished future.” The next morning, Eliezer finds Juliek dead, his trampled violin laying beside him.

Mrs. Schächter

Mrs. Schächter is trapped inside the cattle car that carries Eliezer and his family away from their home and toward the concentration camps. She is in her fifties and travels with her ten-year-old son; she is typically a quiet woman and has frequently visited Eliezer’s home. Inside the car, Mrs. Schächter desperately misses her family and eventually becomes hysterical. She begins screaming about a fire that no one else can see, crying out that they are all fated to meet it. Her words understandably agitate the already-tense passengers, and as her visions of fire continue, they eventually beat the delusional woman into submission, finally quieting her. However, when they reach Birkenau, the ominous presence of the crematorium and the pervasive smell of burning flesh proves that Mrs. Schächter’s visions were prophetic.

Akiba Drumer

Early in their imprisonment, Akiba Drumer is a source of encouragement to others, reminding them that God is “testing” them and His “punishment” is actually a sign of love, as through their suffering, he is killing the evil that resides within each of them. After enduring long hardships, Akiba loses his faith and tells the others that he can no longer endure the cruelty of the SS. With hollow eyes, he gives up the constant battle and does not survive the next selection.

The Young French Woman

When Eliezer is imprisoned at Buna, he is assigned to work in a warehouse beside a young French woman whom Eliezer believes could be Jewish. Because she speaks only French, Eliezer is unable to communicate with her. However, after he is severely beaten at work one day, the woman brings him a bit of bread and wipes blood from his forehead, whispering encouragement to him in near-perfect German. Years later, Eliezer runs into this woman in Paris, and she explains that she risked exposing her true identity to him because she knew he was trustworthy.

Dr. Mengele

Dr. Josef Mengele was a notorious physician known for his cruel experiments on those imprisoned in concentration camps. His awful experiments were based on the unscientific maxims of Nazi racial theory; many people died as a result of these experiments. Eliezer meets Dr. Mengele when he first arrives at Auschwitz; he lies about his age and claims that he is a farmer in order to improve his odds of survival. His answers fool the doctor, and Eliezer thus passes his first inspection.

Hilda and Bea

Hilda and Bea are Eliezer’s two older sisters. They are mentioned in the opening chapters, then never mentioned again following their separation upon arrival at the concentration camps; their absence in the narrative is a somber homage to the tragic reality of their deaths in the camp. 

Tzipora

Tzipora is Eliezer’s younger sister. As he is separated from his mother and sisters, Eliezer watches his mother stroking Tzipora’s blond hair “as if to protect her.” During this touching moment that has imprinted itself into his memory, Eliezer doesn’t realize that this is the final time he will ever see them.

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