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In Night, why was questioning higher authority significant?

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In Night, it was important not to question higher authority because questioning their oppressors in Sighet and the death camp could lead to horrible results. The Jewish prisoners did not question their oppressors as a measure of self-preservation. Holding on to their faith and not questioning the higher spiritual authority was often the only way some Jews could try to survive.

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In Night, it was important not to question higher authority of both the corporeal authorities and the spiritual one. In terms of the corporeal authorities—i.e. other people who are the oppressors in the town of Sighet and then in the death camp—it was important not to question them because any questions or seeming breach of obedience could lead to horrible results. The German authorities, and also the Hungarian authorities before the Jews were deported from Sighet, proved how often they could be cruel and violent towards the Jews. During the deportation, Elie says that

The Hungarian police used their rifle butts, their clubs to indiscriminately strike old men and women, children and cripples.

In a rational world, someone attacking a child or a person who is elderly or crippled would be universally acknowledged as a monster. Yet the Hungarian police have no problem attacking these people as they are rounding the Jews up to transport them to concentration camps where they will be systematically killed.

Similarly, any lack of obedience or questioning authority within the camps could as easily lead to a beating at the hands of the Nazis or to being sent to the crematorium and murdered. The Jews did not question their oppressors as a measure of self-preservation. For instance, Elie writes,

Instead of sacrificing my miserable life and rushing to his side, taking his hand, reassuring him, showing him that he was not abandoned, that I was near him, that I felt his sorrow, instead of all that, I remained flat on my back, asking God to make my father stop calling my name, to make him stop crying. So afraid was I to incur the wrath of the SS.

In terms of questioning the spiritual authority, there was a wide range of response from the inmates in terms of their relationship to G-d. Many people ceased to believe in G-d altogether. As Elie writes,

Have we ever considered the consequence of a less visible, less striking abomination, yet the worst of all, for those of us who have faith: the death of God in the soul of a child who suddenly faces absolute evil?

Later, he writes, “Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.” Elie appears to lose his faith when he endures the horrors of the death camp and hears his father’s anguished cries of pain. Other people are fearful of voicing any rejection of or questioning the authority of G-d. Some say,

God is testing us. He wants to see whether we are capable of overcoming our base instincts, of killing the Satan within ourselves. We have no right to despair. And if He punishes us mercilessly, it is a sign that He loves us that much more.

Another, “a rabbi, from a small town in Poland” who was old and bent, says that

“God is no longer with us.” He immediately regrets these words that show his questioning of the higher authority and says, “I know. No one has the right to say things like that. I know that very well. Man is too insignificant, too limited, to even try to comprehend God's mysterious ways.”

Given the horrors these prisoners endured in the camps, trying to hold on to any remnant of faith was often the only way to maintain the strength to keep going each day to try to survive.

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