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| 1982 Bantam Books edition, with the original|
1960 English translation and cover adapted from the 1958 French edition
|Translator||Stella Rodway for Hill & Wang, 1960|
Marion Wiesel for Hill & Wang/Oprah Book Club, 2006
|Publication date||1956: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (Yiddish), Buenos Aires: Central Union of Polish Jews in Argentina, 245 pages.|
|First translation||1958 (adapted from the above): La Nuit, Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 178 pages.|
|Published in English||1960: Night, New York: Hill & Wang; London: MacGibbon & Kee, 116 pages.|
|ISBN||0-8090-7350-1 (Stella Rodway translation, New York, Hill & Wang, 1960)|
ISBN 0-553-27253-5 (Stella Rodway translation, New York: Bantam Books, 1982)
ISBN 0-374-50001-0 (Marion Wiesel translation, New York: Hill & Wang/Oprah Book Club, 2006)
|LC Class||D811 W4823 1960 (Hill & Wang, 1960)|
|Followed by||Dawn (1961), Day (1962)|
Moshe the Beadle
The inmates spend two days and nights in Gleiwitz locked inside cramped barracks without food, water or heat, sleeping on top of one another, so that each morning the living wake with the dead underneath them. There is more marching to the train station and onto a cattle wagon with no roof. They travel for ten days and nights, with only the snow falling on them for water. Of the 100 in Eliezer's wagon, 12 survive the journey. The living make space by throwing the dead onto the tracks:
Writing and publishing
Move to France
1954: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign
1958: La Nuit
- 1960 in literature
- The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
- Rosenthal, Albert. "Memories of the Holocaust," part 1, part 2 (deportations from Sighet).
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In the spring of 1944, the Nazis occupy Hungary. Not long afterward, a series of increasingly repressive measures are passed, and the Jews of Eliezer’s town are forced into small ghettos within Sighet. Soon they are herded onto cattle cars, and a nightmarish journey ensues. After days and nights crammed into the car, exhausted and near starvation, the passengers arrive at Birkenau, the gateway to Auschwitz.
Upon his arrival in Birkenau, Eliezer and his father are separated from his mother and sisters, whom they never see again. In the first of many “selections” that Eliezer describes in the memoir, the Jews are evaluated to determine whether they should be killed immediately or put to work. Eliezer and his father seem to pass the evaluation, but before they are brought to the prisoners’ barracks, they stumble upon the open-pit furnaces where the Nazis are burning babies by the truckload.
The Jewish arrivals are stripped, shaved, disinfected, and treated with almost unimaginable cruelty. Eventually, their captors march them from Birkenau to the main camp, Auschwitz. They eventually arrive in Buna, a work camp, where Eliezer is put to work in an electrical-fittings factory. Under slave-labor conditions, severely malnourished and decimated by the frequent “selections,” the Jews take solace in caring for each other, in religion, and in Zionism, a movement favoring the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, considered the holy land. In the camp, the Jews are subject to beatings and repeated humiliations. A vicious foreman forces Eliezer to give him his gold tooth, which is pried out of his mouth with a rusty spoon.
The prisoners are forced to watch the hanging of fellow prisoners in the camp courtyard. On one occasion, the Gestapo even hang a small child who had been associated with some rebels within Buna. Because of the horrific conditions in the camps and the ever-present danger of death, many of the prisoners themselves begin to slide into cruelty, concerned only with personal survival. Sons begin to abandon and abuse their fathers. Eliezer himself begins to lose his humanity and his faith, both in God and in the people around him.
After months in the camp, Eliezer undergoes an operation for a foot injury. While he is in the infirmary, however, the Nazis decide to evacuate the camp because the Russians are advancing and are on the verge of liberating Buna. In the middle of a snowstorm, the prisoners begin a death march: they are forced to run for more than fifty miles to the Gleiwitz concentration camp. Many die of exposure to the harsh weather and exhaustion. At Gleiwitz, the prisoners are herded into cattle cars once again. They begin another deadly journey: one hundred Jews board the car, but only twelve remain alive when the train reaches the concentration camp Buchenwald. Throughout the ordeal, Eliezer and his father help each other to survive by means of mutual support and concern. In Buchenwald, however, Eliezer’s father dies of dysentery and physical abuse. Eliezer survives, an empty shell of a man until April 11, 1945, the day that the American army liberates the camp.
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Eliezer’s Struggle to Maintain Faith in a Benevolent God
Initially, Eliezer’s faith is a product of his studies in Jewish mysticism, which teach him that God is everywhere in the world, that nothing exists without God, that in fact everything in the physical world is an “emanation,” or reflection, of the divine world. In other words, Eliezer has grown up believing that everything on Earth reflects God’s holiness and power. His faith is grounded in the idea that God is everywhere, all the time, that his divinity touches every aspect of his daily life. Since God is good, his studies teach him, and God is everywhere in the world, the world must therefore be good.
Discussing his own experience, Wiesel once wrote, “My anger rises up within faith and not outside it.” Eliezer’s struggle reflects such a sentiment. Only in the lowest moments of his faith does he turn his back on God. Indeed, even when Eliezer says that he has given up on God completely, Wiesel’s constant use of religious metaphors undercuts what Eliezer says he believes. Eliezer even refers to biblical passages when he denies his faith. When he fears that he might abandon his father, he prays to God, and, after his father’s death, he expresses regret that there was no religious memorial. At the end of the book, even though he has been forever changed by his Holocaust experience, Eliezer emerges with his faith intact.
Inhumanity Toward Other Humans
Eliezer’s spiritual struggle owes to his shaken faith not only in God but in everything around him. After experiencing such cruelty, Eliezer can no longer make sense of his world. His disillusionment results from his painful experience with Nazi persecution, but also from the cruelty he sees fellow prisoners inflict on each other. Eliezer also becomes aware of the cruelty of which he himself is capable. Everything he experiences in the war shows him how horribly people can treat one another—a revelation that troubles him deeply.
The first insensible cruelty Eliezer experiences is that of the Nazis. Yet, when the Nazis first appear, they do not seem monstrous in any way. Eliezer recounts, “[O]ur first impressions of the Germans were most reassuring. . . . Their attitude toward their hosts was distant, but polite.” So many aspects of the Holocaust are incomprehensible, but perhaps the most difficult to understand is how human beings could so callously slaughter millions of innocent victims. Wiesel highlights this incomprehensible tragedy by pulling the Nazis into focus first as human beings, and then, as the memoir shifts to the concentration camps, showing the brutal atrocities that they committed.
The Importance of Father-Son Bonds
Eliezer’s descriptions of his behavior toward his father seem to invalidate his guilty feelings. He depends on his father for support, and his love for his father allows him to endure. During the long run to Gleiwitz, he says, “My father’s presence was the only thing that stopped me [from allowing myself to die]. . . . I had no right to let myself die. What would he do without me? I was his only support.” Their relationship demonstrates that Eliezer’s love and solidarity are stronger forces of survival than his instinct for self-preservation.