Student Question

In Night by Elie Wiesel, what quote best shows the deterioration of Elie's faith in God?

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The opening pages of Elie Wiesel's Night, a memoir of the Nazi Holocaust, make it clear that before his internment in various concentration camps during World War II, he was a devout Jew who even hoped to study the mystical aspects of the "cabbala" (a study of the essence of God). In other words, Elie very much cherished God and his religion so much that he believed one day he would understand "eternity." At the gates of Auschwitz, however, Elie loses his faith in God as he sees the smokestacks of the Nazi ovens and witnesses children thrown into a pit of flames. He says,

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever . . . Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.

While this condemnation is certainly pivotal to Elie's loss of faith, it is later, in section five, when he gives a full-throated excoriation of God for abandoning the Jews to a barbaric fate at the hands of the Nazis. On Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), during the benediction which begins "Blessed be the Name of the Eternal," Elie questions not only the celebration, but also God:

Why, but why should I bless Him? In every fiber I rebelled. Because He had had thousands of children burned in his pits? Because he kept six crematories working night and day? Because in His great might he had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna and so many factories of death? How could I say to Him: "Blessed art Thou, Eternal, Master of the Universe, Who chose us from among the races to be tortured day and night, to see our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, end in the crematory? Praised be Thy Holy Name, Thou Who hast chosen us to be butchered on Thine altar"?

Not only has Elie's loss of faith deteriorated by this time, but he has become incensed at a God who had promised so much, only to lead his supposedly "chosen" people to the horrors of the death camps.

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