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A New Translation From The French By Marion Wiesel
Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man.
Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Series:||Oprah's Book Club Series|
|Edition description:||Second Edition, Revised|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)|
|Lexile:||570L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:September 30, 1928
Place of Birth:Sighet, Romania
Read an Excerpt
THEY CALLED HIM Moishe the Beadle, as if his entire life he had never had a surname. He was the jack-of-all-trades in a Hasidic house of prayer, a shtibl. The Jews of Sighetthe little town in Transylvania where I spent my childhoodwere fond of him. He was poor and lived in utter penury. As a rule, our townspeople, while they did help the needy, did not particularly like them. Moishe the Beadle was the exception. He stayed out of people's way. His presence bothered no one. He had mastered the art of rendering himself insignificant, invisible.
Physically, he was as awkward as a clown. His waiflike shyness made people smile. As for me, I liked his wide, dreamy eyes, gazing off into the distance. He spoke little. He sang, or rather he chanted, and the few snatches I caught here and there spoke of divine suffering, of the Shekhinah in Exile, where, according to Kabbalah, it awaits its redemption linked to that of man.
I met him in 1941. I was almost thirteen and deeply observant. By day I studied Talmud and by night I would run to the synagogue to weep over the destruction of the Temple.
One day I asked my father to find me a master who could guide me in my studies of Kabbalah."You are too young for that. Maimonides tells us that one must be thirty before venturing into the world of mysticism, a world fraught with peril. First you must study the basic subjects, those you are able to comprehend."
My father was a cultured man, rather unsentimental. He rarely displayed his feelings, not even within his family, and was more involved with the welfare of others than with that of his own kin. The Jewish community of Sighet held him in highest esteem; his advice on public and even private matters was frequently sought. There were four of us children. Hilda, the eldest; then Bea; I was the third and the only son; Tzipora was the youngest.
My parents ran a store. Hilda and Bea helped with the work. As for me, my place was in the house of study, or so they said.
"There are no Kabbalists in Sighet," my father would often tell me.
He wanted to drive the idea of studying Kabbalah from my mind. In vain. I succeeded on my own in finding a master for myself in the person of Moishe the Beadle.
He had watched me one day as I prayed at dusk.
"Why do you cry when you pray?" he asked, as though he knew me well.
"I don't know," I answered, troubled.
I had never asked myself that question. I cried because ... because something inside me felt the need to cry. That was all I knew.
"Why do you pray?" he asked after a moment.
Why did I pray? Strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?
"I don't know," I told him, even more troubled and ill at ease. "I don't know."
From that day on, I saw him often. He explained to me, withgreat emphasis, that every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer ...
Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks Him, he liked to say. Therein lies true dialogue. Man asks and God replies. But we don't understand His replies. We cannot understand them. Because they dwell in the depths of our souls and remain there until we die. The real answers, Eliezer, you will find only within yourself.
"And why do you pray, Moishe?" I asked him.
"I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions."
We spoke that way almost every evening, remaining in the synagogue long after all the faithful had gone, sitting in the semidarkness where only a few half-burnt candles provided a flickering light.
One evening, I told him how unhappy I was not to be able to find in Sighet a master to teach me the Zohar, the Kabbalistic works, the secrets of Jewish mysticism. He smiled indulgently. After a long silence, he said, "There are a thousand and one gates allowing entry into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. He must not err and wish to enter the orchard through a gate other than his own. That would present a danger not only for the one entering but also for those who are already inside."
And Moishe the Beadle, the poorest of the poor of Sighet, spoke to me for hours on end about the Kabbalah's revelations and its mysteries. Thus began my initiation. Together we would read, over and over again, the same page of the Zohar. Not to learn it by heart but to discover within the very essence of divinity.
And in the course of those evenings I became convinced that Moishe the Beadle would help me enter eternity, into that time when question and answer would become ONE.
AND THEN, one day all foreign Jews were expelled from Sighet. And Moishe the Beadle was a foreigner.
Crammed into cattle cars by the Hungarian police, they cried silently. Standing on the station platform, we too were crying. The train disappeared over the horizon; all that was left was thick, dirty smoke.
Behind me, someone said, sighing, "What do you expect? That's war ..."
The deportees were quickly forgotten. A few days after they left, it was rumored that they were in Galicia, working, and even that they were content with their fate.
Days went by. Then weeks and months. Life was normal again. A calm, reassuring wind blew through our homes. The shopkeepers were doing good business, the students lived among their books, and the children played in the streets.
One day, as I was about to enter the synagogue, I saw Moishe the Beadle sitting on a bench near the entrance.
He told me what had happened to him and his companions. The train with the deportees had crossed the Hungarian border and, once in Polish territory, had been taken over by the Gestapo. The train had stopped. The Jews were ordered to get off and onto waiting trucks. The trucks headed toward a forest. There everybody was ordered to get out. They were forced to dig huge trenches. When they had finished their work, the men from the Gestapo began theirs. Without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who were forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks. Infants were tossed into the air and used as targets for the machine guns. This took place in the Galician forest, near Kolo-may. How had he, Moishe the Beadle, been able to escape? By a miracle. He was wounded in the leg and left for dead ...
Day after day, night after night, he went from one Jewish house to the next, telling his story and that of Malka, the young girl who lay dying for three days, and that of Tobie, the tailor who begged to die before his sons were killed.
Moishe was not the same. The joy in his eyes was gone. He no longer sang. He no longer mentioned either God or Kabbalah. He spoke only of what he had seen. But people 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.
As for Moishe, he wept and pleaded:
"Jews, listen to me! That's all I ask of you. No money. No pity. Just listen to me!" he kept shouting in synagogue, between the prayer at dusk and the evening prayer.
Even I did not believe him. I often sat with him, after services, and listened to his tales, trying to understand his grief. But all I felt was pity.
"They think I'm mad," he whispered, and tears, like drops of wax, flowed from his eyes.
Once, I asked him the question: "Why do you want people to believe you so much? In your place I would not care whether they believed me or not ..."
He closed his eyes, as if to escape time.
"You don't understand," he said in despair. "You cannot understand. I was saved miraculously. I succeeded in coming back. Where did I get my strength? I wanted to return to Sighet to describe to you my death so that you might ready yourselves while there is still time. Life? I no longer care to live. I am alone. But I wanted to come back to warn you. Only no one is listening to me ..."
This was toward the end of 1942.
Thereafter, life seemed normal once again. London radio, which we listened to every evening, announced encouragingnews: the daily bombings of Germany and Stalingrad, the preparation of the Second Front. And so we, the Jews of Sighet, waited for better days that surely were soon to come.
I continued to devote myself to my studies, Talmud during the day and Kabbalah at night. My father took care of his business and the community. My grandfather came to spend Rosh Hashanah with us so as to attend the services of the celebrated Rebbe of Borsche. My mother was beginning to think it was high time to find an appropriate match for Hilda.
Thus passed the year 1943.
SPRING 1944. Splendid news from the Russian Front. There could no longer be any doubt: Germany would be defeated. It was only a matter of time, months or weeks, perhaps.
The trees were in bloom. It was a year like so many others, with its spring, its engagements, its weddings, and its births.
The people were saying,"The Red Army is advancing with giant strides ... Hitler will not be able to harm us, even if he wants to ..."
Yes, we even doubted his resolve to exterminate us.
Annihilate an entire people? Wipe out a population dispersed throughout so many nations? So many millions of people! By what means? In the middle of the twentieth century!
And thus my elders concerned themselves with all manner of thingsstrategy, diplomacy, politics, and Zionismbut not with their own fate.
Even Moishe the Beadle had fallen silent. He was weary of talking. He would drift through synagogue or through the streets, hunched over, eyes cast down, avoiding people's gaze.
In those days it was still possible to buy emigration certificatesto Palestine. I had asked my father to sell everything, to liquidate everything, and to leave.
"I am too old, my son," he answered. "Too old to start a new life. Too old to start from scratch in some distant land ..."
Budapest radio announced that the Fascist party had seized power. The regent Miklós Horthy was forced to ask a leader of the pro-Nazi Nyilas party to form a new government.
Yet we still were not worried. Of course we had heard of the Fascists, but it was all in the abstract. It meant nothing more to us than a change of ministry.
The next day brought really disquieting news: German troops had penetrated Hungarian territory with the government's approval.
Finally, people began to worry in earnest. One of my friends, Moishe Chaim Berkowitz, returned from the capital for Passover and told us, "The Jews of Budapest live in an atmosphere of fear and terror. Anti-Semitic acts take place every day, in the streets, on the trains. The Fascists attack Jewish stores, synagogues. The situation is becoming very serious ..."
The news spread through Sighet like wildfire. Soon that was all people talked about. But not for long. Optimism soon revived: The Germans will not come this far. They will stay in Budapest. For strategic reasons, for political reasons ...
In less than three days, German Army vehicles made their appearance on our streets.
ANGUISH. German soldierswith their steel helmets and their death's-head emblem. Still, our first impressions of the Germans were rather reassuring. The officers were billeted in private homes, even in Jewish homes. Their attitude toward their hosts was distant but polite. They never demanded the impossible,made no offensive remarks, and sometimes even smiled at the lady of the house. A German officer lodged in the Kahns' house across the street from us. We were told he was a charming man, calm, likable, and polite. Three days after he moved in, he brought Mrs. Kahn a box of chocolates. The optimists were jubilant: "Well? What did we tell you? You wouldn't believe us. There they are, your Germans. What do you say now? Where is their famous cruelty?"
The Germans were already in our town, the Fascists were already in power, the verdict was already outand the Jews of Sighet were still smiling.
THE EIGHT DAYS of Passover.
The weather was sublime. My mother was busy in the kitchen. The synagogues were no longer open. People gathered in private homes: no need to provoke the Germans.
Almost every rabbi's home became a house of prayer.
We drank, we ate, we sang. The Bible commands us to rejoice during the eight days of celebration, but our hearts were not in it. We wished the holiday would end so as not to have to pretend.
On the seventh day of Passover, the curtain finally rose: the Germans arrested the leaders of the Jewish community.
From that moment on, everything happened very quickly. The race toward death had begun.
First edict: Jews were prohibited from leaving their residences for three days, under penalty of death.
Moishe the Beadle came running to our house.
"I warned you," he shouted. And left without waiting for a response.
The same day, the Hungarian police burst into every Jewish home in town: a Jew was henceforth forbidden to own gold, jewelry,or any valuables. Everything had to be handed over to the authorities, under penalty of death. My father went down to the cellar and buried our savings.
As for my mother, she went on tending to the many chores in the house. Sometimes she would stop and gaze at us in silence.
Three days later, a new decree: every Jew had to wear the yellow star.
Some prominent members of the community came to consult with my father, who had connections at the upper levels of the Hungarian police; they wanted to know what he thought of the situation. My father's view was that it was not all bleak, or perhaps he just did not want to discourage the others, to throw salt on their wounds:
"The yellow star? So what? It's not lethal ..."
(Poor Father! Of what then did you die?)
But new edicts were already being issued. We no longer had the right to frequent restaurants or cafés, to travel by rail, to attend synagogue, to be on the streets after six o'clock in the evening.
Then came the ghettos.
TWO GHETTOS were created in Sighet. A large one in the center of town occupied four streets, and another smaller one extended over several alleyways on the outskirts of town. The street we lived on, Serpent Street, was in the first ghetto. We therefore could remain in our house. But, as it occupied a corner, the windows facing the street outside the ghetto had to be sealed. We gave some of our rooms to relatives who had been driven out of their homes.
Little by little life returned to "normal." The barbed wire that encircled us like a wall did not fill us with real fear. In fact, we felt this was not a bad thing; we were entirely among ourselves. Asmall Jewish republic ... A Jewish Council was appointed, as well as a Jewish police force, a welfare agency, a labor committee, a health agencya whole governmental apparatus.
People thought this was a good thing. We would no longer have to look at all those hostile faces, endure those hate-filled stares. No more fear. No more anguish. We would live among Jews, among brothers ...
Of course, there still were unpleasant moments. Every day, the Germans came looking for men to load coal into the military trains. Volunteers for this kind of work were few. But apart from that, the atmosphere was oddly peaceful and reassuring.
Most people thought that we would remain in the ghetto until the end of the war, until the arrival of the Red Army. Afterward everything would be as before. The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion.
SOME TWO WEEKS before Shavuot. A sunny spring day, people strolled seemingly carefree through the crowded streets. They exchanged cheerful greetings. Children played games, rolling hazelnuts on the sidewalks. Some schoolmates and I were in Ezra Malik's garden studying a Talmudic treatise.
Night fell. Some twenty people had gathered in our courtyard. My father was sharing some anecdotes and holding forth on his opinion of the situation. He was a good storyteller.
Suddenly, the gate opened, and Stern, a former shopkeeper who now was a policeman, entered and took my father aside. Despite the growing darkness, I could see my father turn pale.
"What's wrong?" we asked.
"I don't know. I have been summoned to a special meeting of the Council. Something must have happened."
The story he had interrupted would remain unfinished.
"I'm going right now," he said. "I'll return as soon as possible. I'll tell you everything. Wait for me."
We were ready to wait as long as necessary. The courtyard turned into something like an antechamber to an operating room. We stood, waiting for the door to open. Neighbors, hearing the rumors, had joined us. We stared at our watches. Time had slowed down. What was the meaning of such a long session?
"I have a bad feeling," said my mother. "This afternoon I saw new faces in the ghetto. Two German officers, I believe they were Gestapo. Since we've been here, we have not seen a single officer ..."
It was close to midnight. Nobody felt like going to sleep, though some people briefly went to check on their homes. Others left but asked to be called as soon as my father returned.
At last, the door opened and he appeared. His face was drained of color. He was quickly surrounded.
"Tell us. Tell us what's happening! Say something ..."
At that moment, we were so anxious to hear something encouraging, a few words telling us that there was nothing to worry about, that the meeting had been routine, just a review of welfare and health problems ... But one glance at my father's face left no doubt.
"The news is terrible," he said at last. And then one word: "Transports."
The ghetto was to be liquidated entirely. Departures were to take place street by street, starting the next day.
We wanted to know everything, every detail. We were stunned, yet we wanted to fully absorb the bitter news.
"Where will they take us?"
That was a secret. A secret for all, except one: the president of the Jewish Council. But he would not tell, or could not tell. The Gestapo had threatened to shoot him if he talked.
"There are rumors," my father said, his voice breaking, "that we are being taken somewhere in Hungary to work in the brick factories. It seems that here, we are too close to the front ..."
After a moment's silence, he added:
"Each of us will be allowed to bring his personal belongings. A backpack, some food, a few items of clothing. Nothing else."
Again, heavy silence.
"Go and wake the neighbors," said my father. "They must get ready ..."
The shadows around me roused themselves as if from a deep sleep and left silently in every direction.
FOR A MOMENT, we remained alone. Suddenly Batia Reich, a relative who lived with us, entered the room: "Someone is knocking at the sealed window, the one that faces outside!"
It was only after the war that I found out who had knocked that night. It was an inspector of the Hungarian police, a friend of my father's. Before we entered the ghetto, he had told us, "Don't worry. I'll warn you if there is danger." Had he been able to speak to us that night, we might still have been able to flee ... But by the time we succeeded in opening the window, it was too late. There was nobody outside.
THE GHETTO was awake. One after the other, the lights were going on behind the windows.
I went into the house of one of my father's friends. I woke the head of the household, a man with a gray beard and the gaze of a dreamer. His back was hunched over from untold nights spent studying.
"Get up, sir, get up! You must ready yourself for the journey. Tomorrow you will be expelled, you and your family, you and all the other Jews. Where to? Please don't ask me, sir, don't ask questions. God alone could answer you. For heaven's sake, get up ..."
He had no idea what I was talking about. He probably thought I had lost my mind.
"What are you saying? Get ready for the journey? What journey? Why? What is happening? Have you gone mad?"
Half asleep, he was staring at me, his eyes filled with terror, as though he expected me to burst out laughing and tell him to go back to bed. To sleep. To dream. That nothing had happened. It was all in jest ...
My throat was dry and the words were choking me, paralyzing my lips. There was nothing else to say.
At last he understood. He got out of bed and began to dress, automatically. Then he went over to the bed where his wife lay sleeping and with infinite tenderness touched her forehead. She opened her eyes and it seemed to me that a smile crossed her lips. Then he went to wake his two children. They woke with a start, torn from their dreams. I fled.
Time went by quickly. It was already four o'clock in the morning. My father was running right and left, exhausted, consoling friends, checking with the Jewish Council just in case the order had been rescinded. To the last moment, people clung to hope.
The women were boiling eggs, roasting meat, preparing cakes, sewing backpacks. The children were wandering about aimlessly, not knowing what to do with themselves to stay out of the way of the grown-ups.
Our backyard looked like a marketplace. Valuable objects, precious rugs, silver candlesticks, Bibles and other ritual objects were strewn over the dusty groundspitiful relics that seemed never to have had a home. All this under a magnificent blue sky.
By eight o'clock in the morning, weariness had settled into our veins, our limbs, our brains, like molten lead. I was in the midst of prayer when suddenly there was shouting in the streets. I quickly unwound my phylacteries and ran to the window. Hungarian police had entered the ghetto and were yelling in the street nearby.
"All Jews, outside! Hurry!"
They were followed by Jewish police, who, their voices breaking, told us:
"The time has come ... you must leave all this ..."
The Hungarian police used their rifle butts, their clubs to indiscriminately strike old men and women, children and cripples.
One by one, the houses emptied and the streets filled with people carrying bundles. By ten o'clock, everyone was outside. The police were taking roll calls, once, twice, twenty times. The heat was oppressive. Sweat streamed from people's faces and bodies.
Children were crying for water.
Water! There was water close by inside the houses, the backyards, but it was forbidden to break rank.
"Water, Mother, I am thirsty!"
Some of the Jewish police surreptitiously went to fill a few jugs. My sisters and I were still allowed to move about, as we were destined for the last convoy, and so we helped as best we could.
AT LAST, at one o'clock in the afternoon came the signal to leave.
There was joy, yes, joy. People must have thought there could be no greater torment in God's hell than that of being stranded here, on the sidewalk, among the bundles, in the middle of the street under a blazing sun. Anything seemed preferable to that. They began to walk without another glance at the abandoned streets, the dead, empty houses, the gardens, the tombstones ...On everyone's back, there was a sack. In everyone's eyes, tears and distress. Slowly, heavily, the procession advanced toward the gate of the ghetto.
And there I was, on the sidewalk, watching them file past, unable to move. Here came the Chief Rabbi, hunched over, his face strange looking without a beard, a bundle on his back. His very presence in the procession was enough to make the scene seem surreal. It was like a page torn from a book, a historical novel, perhaps, dealing with the captivity in Babylon or the Spanish Inquisition.
They passed me by, one after the other, my teachers, my friends, the others, some of whom I had once feared, some of whom I had found ridiculous, all those whose lives I had shared for years. There they went, defeated, their bundles, their lives in tow, having left behind their homes, their childhood.
They passed me by, like beaten dogs, with never a glance in my direction. They must have envied me.
The procession disappeared around the corner. A few steps more and they were beyond the ghetto walls.
The street resembled fairgrounds deserted in haste. There was a little of everything: suitcases, briefcases, bags, knives, dishes, banknotes, papers, faded portraits. All the things one planned to take along and finally left behind. They had ceased to matter.
Open rooms everywhere. Gaping doors and windows looked out into the void. It all belonged to everyone since it no longer belonged to anyone. It was there for the taking. An open tomb.
A summer sun.
WE HAD SPENT the day without food. But we were not really hungry. We were exhausted.
My father had accompanied the deportees as far as the ghetto's gate. They first had been herded through the main synagogue, where they were thoroughly searched to make sure they were not carrying away gold, silver, or any other valuables. There had been incidents of hysteria and harsh blows.
"When will it be our turn?" I asked my father.
"The day after tomorrow. Unless ... things work out. A miracle, perhaps ..."
Where were the people being taken? Did anyone know yet? No, the secret was well kept.
Night had fallen. That evening, we went to bed early. My father said:
"Sleep peacefully, children. Nothing will happen until the day after tomorrow, Tuesday."
Monday went by like a small summer cloud, like a dream in the first hours of dawn.
Intent on preparing our backpacks, on baking breads and cakes, we no longer thought about anything. The verdict had been delivered.
That evening, our mother made us go to bed early. To conserve our strength, she said.
It was to be the last night spent in our house.
I was up at dawn. I wanted to have time to pray before leaving.
My father had risen before all of us, to seek information in town. He returned around eight o'clock. Good news: we were not leaving town today; we were only moving to the small ghetto. That is where we were to wait for the last transport. We would be the last to leave.
At nine o'clock, the previous Sunday's scenes were repeated. Policemen wielding clubs were shouting:
"All Jews outside!"
We were ready. I went out first. I did not want to look at my parents' faces. I did not want to break into tears. We remained sitting in the middle of the street, like the others two days earlier. The same hellish sun. The same thirst. Only there was no one left to bring us water.
I looked at my house in which I had spent years seeking my God, fasting to hasten the coming of the Messiah, imagining what my life would be like later. Yet I felt little sadness. My mind was empty.
"Get up! Roll call!"
We stood. We were counted. We sat down. We got up again. Over and over. We waited impatiently to be taken away. What were they waiting for? Finally, the order came:
My father was crying. It was the first time I saw him cry. I had never thought it possible. As for my mother, she was walking, her face a mask, without a word, deep in thought. I looked at my little sister, Tzipora, her blond hair neatly combed, her red coat over her arm: a little girl of seven. On her back a bag too heavy for her. She was clenching her teeth; she already knew it was useless to complain. Here and there, the police were lashing out with their clubs: "Faster!" I had no strength left. The journey had just begun and I already felt so weak ...
"Faster! Faster! Move, you lazy good-for-nothings!" the Hungarian police were screaming.
That was when I began to hate them, and my hatred remains our only link today. They were our first oppressors. They were the first faces of hell and death.
They ordered us to run. We began to run. Who would have thought that we were so strong? From behind their windows, from behind their shutters, our fellow citizens watched as we passed.
We finally arrived at our destination. Throwing down our bundles, we dropped to the ground:
"Oh God, Master of the Universe, in your infinite compassion, have mercy on us ..."
THE SMALL GHETTO. Only three days ago, people were living here. People who owned the things we were using now. They had been expelled. And we had already forgotten all about them.
The chaos was even greater here than in the large ghetto. Its inhabitants evidently had been caught by surprise. I visited the rooms that had been occupied by my Uncle Mendel's family. On the table, a half-finished bowl of soup. A platter of dough waiting to be baked. Everywhere on the floor there were books. Had my uncle meant to take them along?
We settled in. (What a word!) I went looking for wood, my sisters lit a fire. Despite her fatigue, my mother began to prepare a meal.
We cannot give up, we cannot give up, she kept repeating.
People's morale was not so bad: we were beginning to get used to the situation. There were those who even voiced optimism. The Germans were running out of time to expel us, they argued ... Tragically for those who had already been deported, it would be too late. As for us, chances were that we would be allowed to go on with our miserable little lives until the end of the war.
The ghetto was not guarded. One could enter and leave as one pleased. Maria, our former maid, came to see us. Sobbing, she begged us to come with her to her village where she had prepared a safe shelter.
My father wouldn't hear of it. He told me and my big sisters,"If you wish, go there. I shall stay here with your mother and the little one ..."
Naturally, we refused to be separated.
NIGHT. No one was praying for the night to pass quickly. The stars were but sparks of the immense conflagration that was consuming us. Were this conflagration to be extinguished one day, nothing would be left in the sky but extinct stars and unseeing eyes.
There was nothing else to do but to go to bed, in the beds of those who had moved on. We needed to rest, to gather our strength.
At daybreak, the gloom had lifted. The mood was more confident. There were those who said:
"Who knows, they may be sending us away for our own good. The front is getting closer, we shall soon hear the guns. And then surely the civilian population will be evacuated ..."
"They worry lest we join the partisans ..."
"As far as I'm concerned, this whole business of deportation is nothing but a big farce. Don't laugh. They just want to steal our valuables and jewelry. They know that it has all been buried and that they will have to dig to find it; so much easier to do when the owners are on vacation ..."
This kind of talk that nobody believed helped pass the time. The few days we spent here went by pleasantly enough, in relative calm. People rather got along. There no longer was any distinction between rich and poor, notables and the others; we were all people condemned to the same fatestill unknown.
SATURDAY, the day of rest, was the day chosen for our expulsion.
The night before, we had sat down to the traditional Friday night meal. We had said the customary blessings over the breadand the wine and swallowed the food in silence. We sensed that we were gathered around the familial table for the last time. I spent that night going over memories and ideas and was unable to fall asleep.
At dawn, we were in the street, ready to leave. This time, there were no Hungarian police. It had been agreed that the Jewish Council would handle everything by itself.
Our convoy headed toward the main synagogue. The town seemed deserted. But behind the shutters, our friends of yesterday were probably waiting for the moment when they could loot our homes.
The synagogue resembled a large railroad station: baggage and tears. The altar was shattered, the wall coverings shredded, the walls themselves bare. There were so many of us, we could hardly breathe. The twenty-four hours we spent there were horrendous. The men were downstairs, the women upstairs. It was Saturdaythe Sabbathand it was as though we were there to attend services. Forbidden to go outside, people relieved themselves in a corner.
The next morning, we walked toward the station, where a convoy of cattle cars was waiting. The Hungarian police made us climb into the cars, eighty persons in each one. They handed us some bread, a few pails of water. They checked the bars on the windows to make sure they would not come loose. The cars were sealed. One person was placed in charge of every car: if someone managed to escape, that person would be shot.
Two Gestapo officers strolled down the length of the platform. They were all smiles; all things considered, it had gone very smoothly.
A prolonged whistle pierced the air. The wheels began to grind. We were on our way.
Copyright © 1972, 1985 by Elie Wiesel
Reading Group Guide
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Elie Wiesel's Night. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore this poignant and fiercely honest remembrance of the Holocaust.
Questions for Discussion
1. Compare Wiesel's preface to the memoir itself. Has his perspective shifted in any way over the years?
2. In his Nobel lecture, presented in 1986, Wiesel writes of the power of memory, including the notion that the memory of death can serve as a shield against death. He mentions several sources of injustice that reached a boiling point in the 1980s, such as Apartheid and the suppression of Lech Walesa, as well as fears that are still with us, such as terrorism and the threat of nuclear war. Will twenty-first-century society be marked by remembrance, or by forgetting?
3. How does the author characterize himself in Night? What does young Eliezer tell us about the town, community, and home that defined his childhood? How would you describe his storytelling tone?
4. Why doesn't anyone believe Moishe the Beadle? In what way did other citizens around the world share in Sighet's naïveté? Would you have heeded Moishe's warnings, or would his stories have seemed too atrocious to be true? Has modern journalism solved the problem of complacency, or are Cassandras more prevalent than ever?
5. As Eliezer's family and neighbors are confined to a large ghetto and then expelled to a smaller, ghostlier one whose residents have already been deported, what do you learn about the process by which Hitler implemented doom? How are you affected by the uncertainty endured by Sighet's Jews on their prolonged journey to the concentration camps?
6. With the words "Women to the right!" Eliezer has a final glimpse of his mother and of his sister, Tzipora. His father later wonders whether he should have presented his son as a younger boy, so that Eliezer could have joined the women. What turning point is represented by that moment, when their family is split and the gravity of every choice is made clear?
7. At Birkenau, Eliezer considers ending his life by running into the electric fence. His father tells him to remember Mrs. Schächter, who had become delusional on the train. What might account for the fact that Eliezer and his father were able to keep their wits about them while others slipped into madness?
8. Eliezer observes the now-infamous inscription above the entrance to Auschwitz, equating work with liberty. How does that inscription come to embody the deceit and bitter irony of the Nazi camps? What was the "work" of the prisoners? Were any of the Auschwitz survivors ever liberated emotionally?
9. Eliezer's gold crown makes him a target for spurious bargaining, concluding in a lavatory with Franek, the foreman, and a dentist from Warsaw. Discuss the hierarchies in place at Auschwitz. How was a prisoner's value determined? Which pris- oners were chosen for supervisory roles? Which ones were more likely to face bullying, or execution?
10. Eliezer expresses sympathy for Job, the biblical figure who experienced horrendous loss and illness as Satan and God engaged in a debate over Job's faithfulness. After watching the lynching and slow death of a young boy, Eliezer tells himself that God is hanging from the gallows as well. In his Nobel lecture, Wiesel describes the Holocaust as "a universe where God, betrayed by His creatures, covered His face in order not to see." How does Wiesel's understanding of God change throughout the book? How did the prisoners in Night, including rabbis, reconcile their agony with their faith?
11. After the surgery on Eliezer's foot, he and his father must face being marched to a more remote camp or staying behind to face possible eleventh-hour execution amid rumors of approaching Red Army troops. Observing that Hitler's deadliness is the only reliable aspect of their lives, Wiesel's father decides that he and his son should leave the camp. The memoir is filled with such crossroads, the painful outcomes of which can be known only in retrospect. How does Wiesel respond to such outcomes? Do you believe these outcomes are driven by destiny, or do they simply reflect the reality of decision-making?
12. In his final scenes with his father, Eliezer must switch roles with him, becoming the provider and comforter, despite advice from others to abandon the dying man. What accounts for the tender, unbreakable bond between Eliezer and his father long after other men in their camp begin fending for themselves? How does their bond compare to those in your family?
13. What is the significance of the book's final image, Wiesel's face, reflected in a mirror? He writes that a corpse gazed back at him, with a look that has never left him. What aspects of him died during his ordeal? What aspects were born in their place? What do you make of his observation that among the men liberated with him, not one sought revenge?
14. Wiesel faced constant rejection when he first tried to publish Night; numerous major publishing houses in France and the United States closed their doors to him. His memoir is now a classic that has inspired many other historians and Holocaust survivors to write important contributions to this genre of remembrance. What is unique about Wiesel's story? How does his approach compare to that of other memoirists whose work you have read?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
NIGHT by Elie Wiesel is a piercing account of the horrors of concentration camp, which impressed an incredible toll both internally and externally on his being. As a young adolescent, he is ripped from his home, plummeted to the depths of suffering, and driven to the edge of his own humanity. Mr. Wiesel openly shares with readers the tremendous weight of these experiences etched within his soul. His courage in doing so should be lauded. From Mr. Wiesel we can learn that regardless of the burden from the sins of others imposed upon us and our own sins, it is possible to endure - and even to help others do so. In that vein, I would recommend another memoir to readers of NIGHT - called A BEAUTIFUL WORLD, written by Gregg Milligan. It is a book you will not be able to put down - a deeply moving account of the indomitable human spirit as seen in the heart of a young child subjected to severe physical, mental and sexual abuse. In the author's own words, he shares his story to help others 'buckle down and bear the ride' through their own hell - and know that they are not alone. A BEAUTIFUL WORLD is an incredible testament to the perseverance of hope. Exquisitely written and heart wrenching, it is an unforgettable story. Both A BEAUTIFUL WORLD and NIGHT offer readers a chance to adjust their own perspective on suffering through the examples of both authors. Though they have suffered greatly and will never leave this experience behind, they will not allow it to end them either. Further, both authors possess the incredible courage to reach out and share their stories, giving of themselves for the benefit of others. The astounding resiliency shown in that act alone speaks volumes of them as human beings -- and the words they press to paper will ever live on in the hearts of those that read them.
I'm amazed by what humans are capable of doing to one another and this book shows how devastating the cruelty can be for some. Night is the story of Elie Weisel, who spent his life during the Holocaust and knew how people were treated in the concentration camps.I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how people were during the Holocaust.
The book Night is a terrifyingly honest retelling of a holocausts survivor's story. Elie Wiesel, who was a teen when he and his whole town were forced into the camps, shows what really happened. He spoke of how everyone reacted, and showed how desperate everyone truly got when they realized how much trouble they were in. It offered a look inside the mind of one of the victims, and showed the constant battle they fought with themselves. Also, it put in his own experiences, showing how he felt during it. To start with, Night really captured the nature of humans perfectly. Some of the Nazis were cruel, while a few were simply there because they had to be. Some prisoners were helpful and nice, some were aggressive and selfish. He showed all sides of the people, that they're not all the same. Plus, the book also shows how his beliefs changed over time. As he was forced onto the cattle cars, he called himself religious. After years of starvation, abuse, and harsh conditions, he began to lose faith. By the time he escaped, he believed in only one person, himself. He let readers in on all he was thinking, not just what he was witnessing. Also, the novel is just well written. The flow is impeccable, with each even flowing seamlessly into the next one. The details Elie poured into this story really shine through. All of the sentences have a meaning, and aren't just some made up stuff to make the story seem more interesting. He turned his life story into a beautiful piece of literature. In addition, he talked about his father and about how hard he tried to help him. Plus, he even admitted to sort of feeling a wave of relief when his father passed away. He loved his father, but after constantly helping him as they both grew weaker and weaker, as well as doing hard labor to survive, it's no wonder he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders after his father's passing. To sum it all up, Night is a painful, but beautiful story. It somehow managed to capture the essence of desperation, and showed this off with ease. It also showed his own battles with faith. Elie remained truthful throughout; contributing to what makes this novel so breathtaking. He didn't shy away from the things he felt, he showed them to the world. Additionally, the book is just a magnificent piece of literature. Night is definitely a book worth reading.
When I first was told that I had to go out and buy this book for my high school class I was flustered. It was another book that we were going to pick apart during English class and that would ruin yet another book that could have been enjoyable. Well I am in a Pre-AP English class, so I thought it would be better if I read it before we started reading it in class. So I bought it last night and decided to begin reading it while we put up our Christmas tree and figured I'd get a chapter or two finished, but no, I started reading and couldn't find a good spot to put it down. Elie Wiesel's story is incredible and the fact that it is actually true makes it even more real in my mind. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Holocaust! It is 50/50 on research, because it depends on how you get your information, but from a survivor's point of view it is incredible! I loved it and found it extraordinary and I'm actually looking forward to annotating it during class in the upcoming weeks. GREAT READ! VERY INTERESTING! CAN'T PUT IT DOWN!
Wiesel discovered that, "God is there in the suffering." His explanation is anything but trite. Instead, it grapples candidly with the confusion that life can and does bring. Fortunately Wiesel's candor leads to hope--the confidence that behind the evils in this life there resides a good God working out plans in a mysterious, yet glorious, way. The inner depths and black darkness of "Night" call us not to squeamish forgetting but to stark remembering. For only in remembering will we insist, "Never again!" When you read this book...it is literally like you personally, were shipped off to a German Concentration camp. I recall feeling a deep sympathy for the unexpecting Jews. Noone should be treated as these people were...and we take the Freedom that we have as a given. But, what happened in "Night" just goes to show, that we can not take this free life that we live for granted. God can test your faith just as he did these Jews...but the challenge is on you...to see if you will with hold on your FAITH. Wiesel's popular witness his experiences as a Jewish teen swept up by the Nazi killing machine. Themes included in the book include Faith in God, Evil & the Ability of Human Beings to Inflict Harm on Others, Responsibility to Family, How Suffering & the Drive to Survive Changes People, The Power of Hope, A great book for introducing young people to the realities of the Holocaust so that its horror and scope will never be forgotten nor repeated. Further, it is a great resource for young people exploring their own faith because it prompts many questions in the readers mind about God, suffering, sin, faith, and evil.
The book Night touches the reader's heart. The story about Elie inspires the reader to take action against inhumane treatment. I like how all the descriptive words are used to describe all the hardships and troubles Elie and the other Jews faced. I didn't like how the book ended. It could've showed where Elie went after the camp was liberated. Overall a great book!
Elie Wiesel's Night is a very intriguing memoir that includes mystery, questioning, and suspense. I really enjoyed reading this book. The suspense kept adding up, to make it almost impossible stop. Every time I said to myself "After this page I have to go to sleep," a page later I'd continue on. The reason why I chose to read Night in the first place was because I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. this past summer. Once I read the back cover of Night, it instantly reminded me of The Holocaust Museum. Some other books I was on the verge of choosing were interesting also, but my trip to Washington D.C. inspired me to read Night. Now that I've read it, I know I made the right choice. My favorite part of the memoir was the same scene that I did my oral interpretation on: the father is called by some prominent members of the community to discuss the plans for the transport starting the next day. This scene is really suspenseful and intense in a way that I can barely put into words. Imagine your whole life disappearing in a day. Elie Wiesel goes through this very tough time in his life where he has to leave his life, childhood, and memories in Sighet, Transylvania. In this scene, his father's horrific news flips his whole life instantly around. The main reasons why I enjoyed Night are because it added to my knowledge about the Holocaust, and helped me realize who I am. Before reading it, all I knew from the Holocaust was what I read from The Diary of Anne Frank, which didn't give as much background information as Night did. It made me, once again, realize how big of an impact this genocide was and the people it affected. Also, Night gave me a better understanding of our recent past, and reminded me how fortunate and lucky I am to be me.
Night by Elie Wiesel Reviewed by Nenny and Kolan Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” (ISBN number 9780374500016) is a documentative embodiment the horrors of the Holocaust. As a first hand witness, Elie Wiesel in 1958 captures both his experiences and those of all who suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany in this enticing novel. This book features bone chillingly accurate descriptions of the atrocities committed within the concentration and death camps scattered throughout the Eastern European region during Hitler’s reign. It is not one to disappoint the reader. In 1944 Elie Wiesel was taken from his home, captured, and forced to survive in a Nazi death camp with only his father to accompany him as they fight their way through to the end of the war. Starved, beaten, and his spirit broken, Elie survives to tell his tale to the world of what he went through during the terrible years of the Holocaust. “Night” proves to be a document written to express the importance of remembering our past and how inhumane people can be. By Elie’s account of the savage conditions and brutal actions he and his fellow prisoners were subject to, he continually reminds the reader of the events that nobody should ever experience. This is a volume dedicated to making sure the same atrocities never happen again in our history. The Holocaust was a time of misfortune and misery with lots of individuals who suffered throughout its intolerable existence in history. This “slim volume of terrifying power” as quoted by the New York Times, is popular throughout the world. “Night” can be found online and in most stores around the country for just under 10 dollars. This, combined with the incredibly interesting and easily read report of the experience in which the author was forced to survive make the book more than worthwhile. In short, “Night” summarizes the experiences of both survivors and the less fortunate during the Holocaust. Every turn of the page brings on a new sense of anxiety and excitement for the victims-you will never want to put it down.
I read this book for school this year at school and i was not excited about it but i ended up LOVING IT. It was great. Must read book!!!
I have always been very interested in the History of Aushwitz and other various concentration camp "horror" stories. I heard about this book first after watching Oprah when she had Elie Weisel on her show. After hearing his inspirational yet terrifying life story I knew I had to read this book. The descriptive words that Weisel uses within the pages paints a picture and makes you feel like you are there watching the things that were done to these innocent people. There were some chapters that were very hard to read because of the disturbing things that were done. But after reading the book I have a greater respect and sorrow for the people that went to through the horrible events within the concentration camps. After reading this book it will make you want to treat others with the respect that they deserve. This book was an amazing read and an incredibly inspirational story.
Book Review Night Makayla Cordell & Becca Coil Night is a book written by Elie Wiesel. The copyright date is 1958. Night is a really sad book but it is also a very good book. It is kind of like a chick flick. It is sad throughout the story but there is somewhat of a happy ending when Elie and everyone else who survived are let free. A paperback copy of Night cost $8.96. If you decide to get a copy the ISBN is 978-0-374-50001-6. Night is an easy read but you just have to think about what you are reading while you are reading it. The purpose for which Elie Wiesel wrote this book was to keep history from repeating itself. He states his own horrific personal experiences that he can never bring himself to forget. Wiesel explains the torture and death his family and others had to witness while going through the holocaust. He’s targeting all ages to read and hear the real story from his point of view. Night is all about Wiesel’s life during the Holocaust. It is also about how him and others survived during this time. Wiesel struggled through the Holocaust because of starvation, beating, thirst deprived and more. Even though he was struggling he still helped other including his father. By him helping others and himself he managed to survive. At times he wished he could just die but he never wanted to leave his father because he knew his father would not be able to survive if he was gone. Wiesel wrote this book because he wanted people to know what happened to the Jewish people when Adolf Hitler was the dictator in Germany. He also did not want history to repeat itself. The Jewish people were treated very poorly just because of the religion. Now we have Buddhist, Jews, Catholics, Christians, and so many more. All of the people who are from these religions are treated the same. They are all welcomed to any place. Wiesel uses irony, foreshadowing metaphors and similes. There are many twists in the book that bring grief and sadness to the readers. Flashbacks are used to explain many of Weisel experiences and memories that have happened. For example, at points throughout the story all he wanted to do was die and go to a better place. He refers to a lot of memories and foreshadows to what may happen next. Wiesel has received many rewards in his lifetime. They range from the Nobel Peace Prize to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also has received the National Jewish Book Award for Modern Jewish Thought & Experience. Night is the first book out of his trilogy. The books that follow are Dawn and Day, which are heart-wrenching stories that attack readers to keep reading. Elie Wiesel has a reputation of getting his audience involved. His books really open the eyes to all readers and their concerns of the holocaust. Night is one of the best books to read. It teaches readers about someone’s life during the Holocaust, how he survived, what he had to go through in order to survive, and things he had to see. The content of Wiesel’s book is very detailed but it is good. Wiesel and all of the other Jews had to go through the unthinkable. Wiesel’s story is extremely touching and a book that is recommended to all.
I've read this book twice in a lapse of 10 years and every time I read it it's almost as if I've read it for the first time. Its such a powerful book. A def must read!
this book refers many times about Wiesel and other inmates questioning there faith. i think its an outstanding book to give kids. especailly young adults who are being engulfed in the black and whites of religion. i will never forget the rabi's speech on god. maybe there is no god. Elie is a brave soul who should be looked up too. all the schools should read this. so many people today have forgotten the horrors of this event in history. one of the best biography's i have ever read. and possibly the most influencial messages. it certainly made me tear up a few times.
Inspiring, captivating, emotional, terror, are only some of the adjectives that remotely begin to describe the journey this will take you. A real life story of survival under the most horrific circumstances. Well told, unassuming, with vivid descriptions. The pace of the narration is also pitch perfect and does not betray what's coming next. Excellent gift to give for the traveler in your family or circle of friends.
This book will change your complete outlook on the harsh reality of the Holocaust. Weisel takes you into an indepth look of his experience in the concentration camps of Germany. Each line of Night leaves you speechless over the cruelty of what man is unfortunately capable of. Weisel is taken from a warm and comforting home with his Jewish family (who has the fear of God within them)to the utmost worst conditions a human being or any living thing can experience. His "once found" faith is tested within himself, and he begins to question, is there such a God whom would allow this? Does the faith he has left carry him through, or do the enemies of his hopes and dreams conquer over him? Weisel's Night is the closest and most initmate journey of the Holocaust you can experience. (Review- 4.5 stars!)
Night is the hesitantly told story of Elie Wiesel and his family and their experiences in the German concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Wiesel suffered his teenage years as a prisoner in both prison camps and vowed never to speak of his experiences there. In Wiesel's own words, "To be silent is impossible, to speak forbidden." Because of his lost spiritualism and faith in mankind he kept his word for ten years but was persuaded by French novelist Francois Mauriac to complete it for the world. Night exposes Wiesel's struggles during and after the Holocaust and it is brilliantly written and emotionally charged. This true documentary will upset your sensibilities but the spirit of the man who endured it will most certainly lift yours. Though not as well-known as The Diary of Anne Frank Elie Wiesel's Night is just as compelling and heartbreaking and should be on your essential WWII "To Read" list. 5 stars out of 5 The Alternative Southeastern Wisconsin http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com/
"Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."The book Night was a the most shocking book I have ever read. This is the best autobiography I have ever read. It was shocking because he wrote this book from when he was in the concentration camps during World War 2. He is very descriptive as to everything the SS officers made him do and what they did to the other Jews around him. The most shocking thing was that toward the end they made him, his father and the rest of the Jews in the camp run fifty miles to another camp to get away from the Soviet army. Also, that they beat his father even though he was old and dying. All of this shows how much people could hate others just because they aren't like them and think they are an inferior race.
I hate this book so much because its so dang good.
This book is an "I can't put it down!" read. Tragic story, well told. It is indescribable the torturous conditions Mr. Wiesel went through, he is very lucky to be alive. Don't read this book expecting it to be light-hearted, because it isn't.
Great book had to read it for la 2
This is agreat book even though i am not the whole way through it i love it. Definitly not a book for anyone under 6th grade.
this was another summer reading book. [PHEW!] anouther one finnished. Yes, Night was a fantasticly written book about a Jewish boys' journey through the consentration camps. When I was reading the book I felt like i was feeling the boy's happieness, pain, suffering.... Such an amazing book. I definatly suggest it. (:
This book is about Elie Weisel and his survival during the holocaust. Elie wrote this book so that history may not repeat itself. Throughout the holocaust, humans were committing genocide in probably the cruelest ways possible.In this novel, Elie tells of his life when he had to live in concentration camps. Luckily, he was able to stay with his father. This is probably the only good thing that happened in this novel. Almost every page is filled with graphics so crucial that words can hardly explain it, but this is reality. Night is also filled with instances in which people are treated like animals. For example, one part in the book, the guards threw bread on the ground for the Jews to eat. Because they were so starved, the Jews literally killed each other for the bread. Unlike most books, Elie wrote the book exactly as he remembered it, and used many similes. This book is very inspirational. It reminds people to not give up when life gets you down.I really enjoyed this book even though some parts were hard to read. I would recommend this book to mature teens and adults because of some graphics told in the book. This novel tells the truth and people should know what really happened so that it won't happen again.
Night is a story about the harsh reality of the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel tells the story of his traumatic childhood he faced in the concentration camps. This story lets the reader know of all the cruel terrible things that people are capable of doing. Throughout the novel Elie is faced with many different challenges where he only has his own faith to turn to for help. Elie Wisel has written more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction. He has been awarded with many different awards for his talent for writing. Night opened my eyes to what millions of people faced during the Holocaust. Night is about a teenage boy (Elie Wiesel) who was taken from his home and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. While there he gets separated from all of his family except his father. Through all the obstacles that they encounter they stay by one another's side. Elie realizes that the only thing that he can truly trust is his own faith. This experience tests the faith he has within himself. Wiesel gets his point across very well about the reality of the Holocaust. He tells each event that occurs in very graphic detail. Elie Wiesel's story might be heartbreaking but it is beautifully told. Night is an inspirational story that teaches you to never give up on your own faith. Wiesel has many encounters along his journey in that camps that make him want to give up, but he never does. Elie Wiesel's positive attitude and his desire to keep his life is what makes him one of the survivors of the Holocaust. Overall I'm thankful that I read Night, although parts of the novel were very heartbreaking to read. I think that this book should be required reading for everyone at some time in their life. It was an inspirational story.
As a 13-year old boy who grew up in the Bronx, I'm one into sports, comedy, and action. I never really knew much about the Holocaust. The book "Night" taught me so much about it. It's super intense, emotional, and informative. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a poignant and breath-taking kind of book.