Night is the story of a young Jew named Elie Wiesel, who lived in Sighat, a small town in Transylvania. The story begins by explaining how Elie became an acquaintance of Moche the Beadle, near the end of 1941. Elie, a boy of twelve, lived with his parents and two sisters. His father was a very well respected man in the community, and along with his wife and Elie’s two older sisters, they ran a shop. A profound believer, Elie prays often, studies the Talmud, and desires someone to make him a master of the caballa. Elie’s father refuses to help his son, because he is too young. So Elie takes matters into his own hands and seeks Moche the Beadle to “reveal the revelations and mysteries of the caballa” (p.3). Moche was extremely poor, yet the people of Sighat were not bothered by his presence. Moche and Elie study the caballa in the evening until one day Moche, along with all of the other foreign Jews, were expelled from Sighat.
Moche and the other foreign Jews had been rounded up by the Hungarian police, crammed into cattle trains. After reaching Polish territory, the Jews were put in the Gestapo. The Gestapo then forced the Jews to dismount the train and begin to dig huge graves. Upon finishing the Gestapo forced the Jews into the graves and began to slaughter them with relentless machine gun fire. During the massacre, Moche, only wounded in the leg, is taken for dead and left. Consumed by his desire to spread word of the massacre, Moche returns to Sighat to tell the story of all the Jews that were murdered in the forest and warn all other Jews of similar acts that could occur in the future. Despite his warnings, the Jews of Sighat ignore him, for they believe Moche is either using his imagination for attention, or has gone mad. The Jews of Sighat should have heeded Moche the Beadle’s warnings for it was foreshadowing of what was to come.
In the spring of 1944, Germans troops, with the government’s permission had entered Hungarian territory. German troops soon became visible in Sighat, yet they were polite and even lived in the homes of some Jews. The Jews of Sighat were allowed to continue to go about their everyday lives normally and continue to practice their religion. Despite their initial appearance, the Germans slowly began to take over. Jews could no longer hold anything of value and were forced to wear a yellow star on their arms. Two ghettos were set up in Sighat and the Jews were forced to live inside them. Despite being forced to live in an area, the Jews were free to move around as they pleased and were not guarded. Finally the Jews began to be organized and deported.
Awaiting deportation the groups of Jews were moved to the synagogue where they spent their last moments in Sighat. Although the Jews were able to bring along some of their possessions, they was still not sufficient food and water. After staying in the synagogue for a short period of time, the Jews were placed on a train in cattle cars with eighty people per car. Crammed into the cars, the Jews faced an unbearable heat. The conditions of the cattle cars were harsh. With lying down impossible, the Jews had to take turns sitting down to rest. In addition to these tough conditions, Elie was forced to listen to Madame Schachter’s outcries. Madame Schachter continued to scream about flames that she saw. While the rest of the Jews think Madame Schachter has gone mad, her forewarnings will soon become a harsh reality.
As the Jews crawled off of the transports, they had no idea what to expect. The Jews were forced to leave behind the possessions they brought and were then divided into groups of males and females. Elie, who is able to remain with his father, soon learns of their faith:
Haven’t you realized it yet? You dumb basterds, don’t you understand anything? You are going to be burned. Frizzled away. Turned into ashes. (p.28)
Upon this harsh realization, the Jews begin to think of revolting, yet they do not act. Older Jews tell their children to not lose faith and remember “the teaching of our sages” (p.29). Deciding not to revolt, the Jews realize they must spread the word of Auschwitz, so other Jews can escape while they are still able. Older The Jews are then judged by the infamous Dr. Mengele, who splits them into two separate groups. Elie and his father’s group approach the crematory, but at the last moment enter a different building. After being stripped and receiving haircuts, Elie and his father finally make it to a barrack.
Concentration camp life had greatly affected Elie, his father and all of the other Jewish prisoners. The Jewish prisoners were viewed as swine, brutalized and starved, by the German officers. Elie, a boy who once desired to become a master of the caballa, no longer kept faith. After questioning how God could allow such atrocities that occurred in the concentration camp, Elie no longer prayed. When first in the concentration camp, Elie and other prisoners would say the Jewish death prayer for those who passed, but after spending time in the camp, the prayer was no longer said. In addition to losing faith, Elie personal wellbeing became his chief concern. Instead of observing religious holidays, Elie would not fast but rather eat to keep his strength. Several times Elie visions the death of his father. Elie occasionally believes that his father his holding him down and that he would be better off if he was no longer with his father. Elie is not the only prisoner who holds this belief. One night in the barracks Elie is crushed by others who are trying to sleep. Not able to breathe, Elie must scratch and claw for oxygen. In addition to this instance, Elie also witnesses a son fight his father for a piece of bread. While being transported in a cattle car, a few pieces of bread are thrown in the car. There is a struggle for the bread and one son ends up fighting his father, who is willing to share, for the small scrap of bread. At this point in time, Elie realizes that “he had wanted to get rid of his father” (p.87). Life in the concentration camp has scared the prisoners for life. The prisoners no longer have feelings for others, only a desire to keep themselves alive.
As the war neared its end, the allied troops closed in on the position of Elie, his father, and all the other Jews that were held prisoners. In an attempt to keep the Jews from gaining freedom, the Germans began to transport the prisoners further behind the German lines. Elie had injured his foot and was in the hospital when rumors began to speculate that the Russians were close and the war would soon be over. Believing that he would be killed, in an effort to prevent the liberation of the Jews, Elie decides that he would rather move to the next concentration camp with the rest of the prisoners. Had Elie remained in the hospital, he would have been liberated, but Elie chose to stay with his father and suffered a long hard journey to the next camp. The Jewish prisoners, with little to no provisions, marched at a grueling pace to their destination, Buchenwald. Upon their arrival, Elie’s father has become very ill. After being assigned to a barrack, Elie’s father begins to call Elie, but Elie does not respond. The next morning Elie’s father has died and is no longer in the barrack. Ellie must now live the rest of his life knowing he did not respond to his father’s last calling. Scared for the rest of his life by the experiences he has gone through, Elie is finally freed when allied forces liberated the Jewish prisoners in Buchenwald on April eleventh.
Labels: An Analysis of Night by Elie Wiesel