Elie Wiesel’s well-known book “La nuit” is based on personal sad experience. The book is autobiographic and written in French. Like most of his further books this one is intended for a wide range of readers. It reminds the reading public about all horrors of Nazi catastrophe. His honest narrative became one of the most famous books of this kind, as it is based on real facts, not just a research paper. Elie Wiesel himself was a victim of Auschwitz, and spent certain period in prisoner-of-war camp at the very end of the war. In his autobiographic work Wiesel mentions that in 1945 his foot was operated and he was ordered to have a rest for 2 weeks or so. Russians were supposed to release the prisoners soon and hospital patients had to choose whether to stay in the camp, be evacuated or released by Russians. Wiesel has chosen evacuation. Later he mentioned that his book had a special aim. He admitted that he was not only a writer, but a teacher. In this way he wanted students to understand human values and rights. He wanted people to feel the pain of his own experience and to prevent suffering of other people in future. Present youth should be given chance to protect the rights of unfairly accused or innocent people. However “Night” may seem to be a hard book, as it reveals a lot of painful events from Wiesel’s life.
The book is too realistic in comparison with usual historic books. It refers to the events of the World War II when were oppressed. Wiesel describes events which he personally overcame. The reader meets Elie Wiesel in his early years. His narrative makes everybody feel pity and a bit depressed. They were taken into that concentration camp like cattle and met brute attitude and inhuman life conditions. Thinking of all those pains and sufferings some readers may not wish to read it. Some people interested in horror of Holocaust would watch documental video or read certain books on this topic. However most of them are exaggerated. In this way Elie Wiesel differs from his literary companions. Unlike them, his books create an image of realistic stories. That is why I consider it important to get acquainted with this book instead of other mass media information. Horror scenes and sufferings would touch the soul of everyone reading it. It reveals the most obscure moments of Jewish history. The book entails a feeling of disgust to inhumanity which led to such horror.
The book starts from the events of 1941. At this time the narrator is only 12 years old. His childhood represents him as a seriously religious child, loving his big family of parents and 3 sisters. Once a Jew from Elie’s native town warns about danger. But no one seems to take his words seriously. In the course of time he appeared to be right but in was too late. By 1944 there already were ghettos for Jews in that town. The transportation into camps starts. The conditions were terrifying. All those cattle-like trains, full of about 80 people each. Gradually the things are going worse and worse. Elie is soon detached from his family. He remains with his father however. The very first upheaval was probably the strongest one as he couldn’t even imagine anything like this. There was a smell of flesh burning. Not far from the camp they saw sort of a gutter where little babies were burning. It was a horrific nightmare impossible to forget. It’s hard to believe that people could be so savage. It exceeds my power to imagine such cruelty of humans with respect to other humans.
In the camp itself Elie and his father themselves have to endure pain and horror. They suffered from constant whippings from the side of supervisors, so-called KAPOS. Once Elie got 25 whippings for coming to the Kapo while the latter was with the girl. Everybody in the camp is extremely overworked and exhausted. There were moments when Elie and other prisoners lost religion and faith in God.
When someone cried out where God could be now, Wiesel answered: ‘He’s hanging here on this gallows…’ [Chapter 4, p.62]. Elie seems to get sick and tired being forced to struggle constantly for life. He had to think over ways out or ways of possible existence in such conditions. The time when prisoners had to be relocated from the came was especially dreadful. That winter was winter of death. Elie and his father however managed to overcome it somehow. During the marsh of Russian army Elie becomes an involuntary eye-witness of extreme cruelty. A boy murders his dad for a slice of bread. It is quite understandable that prisoners there suffered from constant famine. Many of them were starved to death. But murder of parents for personal saturation is too cruel. Nevertheless there was great number of such incidents. Elie was terrified. But he and his father managed to endure everything. Despite the survival Elie’s dad caught an illness and eventually died. His father’s death affects his state of health and mood greatly. He didn’t feel good anyway, but after father’s death nothing seemed to bother him any more. Soon everything finished. American tanks finally got to the destination. The first thing that former prisoners did was search for food. Nothing bothered them as much as their starving fake bodies. Even families seemed to be of secondary importance. Bread was in the primary position.
There is much general information about all the atrocities of ghetto in the book. It creates a complete image of those times, as if it was supplemented by some other documentaries or films. However reading a book differs from watching a film, as every reader creates his own images of what happened. That makes it unique and indispensable.
On the whole the book may seem extremely upsetting and depressing. But that is quite natural emotions after such readings. The book may arouse inner protest, pity or even lack of faith in God. It’s hard to imagine how it could all possibly happen. But still the only thing we may do is to prevent such cruelty in future, keeping in mind the blunders of the past.
Elie’s book is a horror realistic summary of hard experience, revealing heartlessness of humans. Reading of this book presumes deep understanding of the problem, enough strength to imagine all those terrifying things. Elie’s book shows how important it is to understand the value of all human beings.
1. Elie Wiesel, Night — Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 2006
2. David Duke, Jewish question — New York Times Press, 2000