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Night by Elie Wiesel

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Kurtis Mayes

Night by Elie Wiesel is a terrifying but powerful autobiography. Eliezer or Elie Wiesel was born in the town of Sighet in Transylvania. He was just a teenager when he was moved to the ghetto then sent away to the concentration camps. Many events in the world have been captured in history books but among the ones that we have heard about, the holocaust is the one that most of us remember.

A holocaust is a destruction or slaughter on a mass scale. The Jewish Holocaust was a controlled, state financed torture and killing of roughly six million Jews by the Nazi government led by Adolf Hitler. Apart from the Jews, other groups considered inferior or anti-establishment such as Romans and Gypsies were killed. Moshe the Beadle was the first character introduced in the book "Night". Moshe, some may say, served as a replacement for Elie Wiesel. Night can be read as an attack averse to silence. Many times in the book evil is preserved by a silent lack of resistance. In this case, the repeated disregarding of Moshe's warning about what danger lies ahead for the Jewish people. The Nazis most definitely treated the Jewish people as less than human. The Nazis doctors experimented on the Jewish people in an attempt to create a superior race of man. The Nazis also crammed the Jewish people in to cattle cars to transport them from place to place, or they forced marched them. If one of the people fell or went to the ground, they were killed. In the first chapter, Elie describes his father as a 'rather unsentimental man' and told us of how 'He is more concerned with others than with his own family'. Right away you see that Elie and his father were not that close. Elie's father was one of the leading men in the community and did not approve of Elie reading the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah is the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible, which formed a barrier of separation between Elie and his father. The first bond that Elie had with his father is when they reach the concentration camp know as Auschwitz. The first orders yelled at them is 'Men to the left!' 'Women to the right!'. At this point, Elie did not know he was to be separated from his mother and three sisters forever. It is now that Elie and his father start the terrifying and miserable journey of life in the camps together. Later in the book Elie's mother and three sisters die at Auschwitz but Elie and his father were reinstated at Buchenwald. When Elie arrived at Auschwitz, he saw the mistreatment of killed Jews being burned in mass graves. The book states that Elie witnessed an old man getting beat with a revolver that a SS soldier owned. He knew at that point that this journey had to go through was not going to be easy and it wasn't going to be stress free. Men, women, and children's bodies were tossed into huge piles of bodies and burned. For the Jews, meal times were the most important event of each day. After morning roll call, the Jewish people would be given their morning 'meal' which was an imitation coffee or herbal 'tea'. For lunch prisoners may have been given watery soup. If they were lucky, they might get a very small piece of a turnip or a potato peel. In the evening prisoners may have been given a small piece of black bread; they may also have received a tiny piece of sausage, or some marmalade or cheese. Marmalade was generally a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. The bread was supposed to last the prisoners for the morning also, so prisoners would try to hide it with them while the slept so that no one would steal their food and so that they can eat small bits at a time without getting yelled at or beaten. Hunger was one of the greatest problems. The deficient rations were merely intended to keep the prisoners alive. The Nazis did not provide prisoners with sufficient nutrition to carry out heavy manual work. Many thousands died from starvation or illnesses brought on by lack of nutrition.

The Nazis crammed the Jews in very poorly made barracks to sleep. The Nazis spit on the Jews and they treated them worse than the Blacks were treated in the USA during the early years of building America. One of Wiesel's strengths in Night is to show the full terror of dehumanization, the Jews had to go through.

It is something that the Nazis perpetrated against the people they imprisoned. The tattooing of numbers on the prisoners, something that Elie notes, is important. "A- 7713" is by definition an example of dehumanization because it steals the human out of the word humanity. The brutality that the Nazis committed on their prisoners is another example of dehumanization. The public beatings, the hanging of prisoners and making others walk past them, as well as the selection process are all examples of dehumanization. When Elie had to run at full speed to avoid being noticed during one of the selection processes, it is a reminder, it shows just how large dehumanization played a role in the Holocaust. Even in actions that the Nazis took towards Jewish people before the extermination, dehumanization was present. Being forced to wear the Yellow Star and the dramatic and almost immediate forced movements into the ghettos are all examples of dehumanization that the Nazis executed. Wiesel shows the true horror of dehumanization to impact the relationships between Jewish people. Wiesel makes the claim that the terror of the Holocaust existed in how everyone dehumanized one another. Moshe the Beadle one of the first characters that get brought up in this book. His Role was not just a little boy in a book that got banished for telling myths. Moshe the Beadle is a symbol of dehumanization. During the first few chapters he is dehumanized by the people of Sighet. When he comes back to tell them what he experienced, he is dehumanized in the way that he is discredited and banished. Moshe the Beadle represents barbarize within Germany by the treatment he receives. This process continues in the train when the men on the train beat up Madame Schächter. When she exclaims that she sees fire, she is not "heard". Rather, she is told to "shut up" and then forcibly beaten into silence. Once again, dehumanization is evident in how victims of evil treat one another. Throughout the camps, examples of children abandoning parents, people betraying one another, and aloneness dominating human actions until survival is all that remains are examples of dehumanization in the book. These examples show that the Holocaust happened because individuals dehumanized one another. In seeing, human beings as less than human beings, individuals were able to treat one another with a lack of dignity and voice. Elie struggled with his faith is a conflict in the book. In the beginning, His faith in god was undoubtedly pure. His belief in an almighty, benevolent God is unconditional, and he cannot imagine living without faith in a supreme higher power. During the Holocaust, His faith was definitely shaken up by the events that he had to endure. Elie's belief in the divine and that God is good, his studies taught him, God is everywhere in the world, therefore the world must therefore be good. Elie's faith in the good will of the world is irreversibly shaken, however, by the cruelty and evil he endured during the Holocaust. He imagines that the concentration camps' are unbelievable, disgusting cruelty could possibly reflect divinity. He thinks that if the world is so disgusting and cruel, then God either must be disgusting and cruel or must not exist at all. In one of Night's most famous passages, Eliezer states, "Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live." It is the idea of God's silence that he finds most troubling, as this description of an event at Buna reveals: as the Gestapo hangs a young boy, a man asks, "Where is God?" yet the only response is "total silence throughout the camp."

After reading this book, I noticed that Wiesel's work indicates that anytime voice is silenced, dehumanization is the result. This becomes its own end that must be stopped at all costs. Elie has a powerful way to explain what he had to go through to become a free person again. It just makes you wonder what pushes someone to mass murder a group of people or to turn a whole nation against one group or kind of people just because they are different.


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