Why are spirits high among the Sighet Jews at the start of Elie Wiesel's Night?

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Despite outright warnings and omens of disaster, the Jews of Sighet, the Transylvanian town where Elie Wiesel grew up, refuse to acknowledge the imminent danger they face. In the first few pages of Wiesel's memoir he doesn't even mention the war. It intrudes abruptly when Moshe the Beadle is deported along with other foreign-born Jews. When Moshe miraculously returns, he reports on the atrocities he witnessed and the incredible cruelty of the Nazis. The townspeople don't believe Moshe and won't even listen to his warnings. Moshe's story is soon forgotten, and Elie says life went back to normal as news from the war was good and it seemed the Nazis were destined for defeat. Some said, "Hitler won't be able to do us any harm, even if he wants to." The Jews cannot fathom that the Germans could actually exterminate an entire race of people.

Although it seems the war may be drawing to a close, "disturbing news" about the Germans occupying Hungary reaches Sighet. Again people express disbelief that anything will happen. They say, "The Germans won't get as far as this." Elie says that "optimism" returned. Soon, however, Germans begin to filter into the town, but even then, at the height of "anxiety" and "anguish," the Jews remain in denial. Some claim the Germans are benign and there's even a report that they have given Madame Kahn "a box of chocolates." They say,

"Well, there you are, you see! What did we tell you? You wouldn't believe us. There are your Germans! What do you think of them? Where is their famous cruelty?"

Even after the Jews are forced to wear yellow stars and denied access to restaurants and travel, their spirits remain intact. The establishment of the ghettos actually raises optimism as the Jews consider the ghettos an improvement and their own insulated world. Elie writes,

The general opinion was that we were going to remain in the ghetto until the end of the war, until the arrival of the Red Army. Then everything would be as before.

Of course, nothing ever returns to normal for Elie and the other Jews, as shortly after the ghettos are set up the deportations begin. Amazingly, Elie's father refuses to believe in the impending catastrophe as he won't listen to his old servant Martha, who wants to hide the family in her village. Instead, the family is eventually deported to the concentration camps, and only Elie survives the ordeal.

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At the beginning, the spirits among the Jews of Sighet are relatively high because they have the mentality that they will be safe, nothing bad will happen to them personally. Even when the first soldiers arrive, the spirits are high. The soldiers are cordial in the homes they reside in with the Jews of the town, so the townspeople believe the rumors of violence to be false.

They are holding on to hope and are somewhat in denial of what is happening in neighboring areas. They excuse the accounts of brutality and murder given by Moshe the Beadle as cries for attention and insanity. If they were to accept these tales as true, they would have to accept the danger they were in and they would be forced to leave their comfort zones.

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Elie Wiesel's Night paints a harrowing picture of the Holocaust's effect on a young man. Yet at the beginning of the novel, all is well in Elie's life despite the war taking place all around him. He and the other Jewish residents of Sighet have high spirits at the beginning of the memoir.

The first reason has to do Sighet being located in Hungary. Until mid-1944, Hungarian Jews were not deported to German concentration camps. Elie and his family, listening to foreign radio stations, feel overjoyed at the progress the U.S. and U.S.S.R. are making against Nazi Germany. They are hopeful that the war will be over before Hitler can do anything to them.

The second reason is that Elie, along with the majority of Jewish people in Sighet, do not believe the rumors of the Holocaust. Even the horrific story told by Moishe the Beadle doesn't change their minds. They brush off his ramblings as madness. For them, it is impossible that such a genocide could occur in the 20th century.


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The Hungarian Jews, those whose families were natives of Hungary, felt they were safe and protected from the threat represented by the rising power and actions of the Gestapo and the Nazis. Even when the foreign Jews living in Sighet were arrested and transported away, those who remained behind maintained their optimism about the future of those who had been transported: "it was rumored that they were in Glaicia, working, and even that they were content with their fate."

When Moishe returned to Sighet, the stories he told of what had actually happened to those deported from the village were too terrifying to be believed. The Hungarian Jews

not only refused to believe his tales, they refused to listen. Some even insinuated that he only wanted their pity, that he was imagining things. Others flatly said that he had gone mad.

They continued to tell themselves that they were safe, that there was no real danger or threat, and so life could contine as it always had, dealing with day-to-day activities of family and business, discussing "strategy, diplomacy, politics, and Zionism- but not...their own fate."

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