‘Night’ by Mr. Elie Wiesel, is a chronicle of his days spent in the Auschwitz concentration camp. This book gives us an autobiographical account of the horrors under the Nazi regime, through the eyes of young Eliezer.
‘Night’ occupied the top spot in the New York Times bestsellers list for 18 months straight in 2006 – ’07, in the paperback non-fiction genre. The original version of the book was written in ‘Yiddish’. Its title translates to ‘And the World Remained Silent’.
Adolf Hitler had entered politics and grew to the position of Chancellor, among other things, by feeding on anti-semitism that had gripped Germany, post the Great War. The Holocaust that was to follow in the due course of time was unprecedented. ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, recounts the atrocities witnessed during this time, through the eyes of young Eliezer (narrator of the book).
Mr. Elie Wiesel was born to a Jewish family in Sighet, Hungary, in the year 1928. He has survived through one of the most horrifying Nazi concentration camps, at Auschwitz, Poland. The book is a memoir of his days at the Auschwitz camp. He wrote the book 10 years after his ordeals. The original book was written in ‘Yiddish’, titled ‘Un di Velt Hot Geshvign’. It was written in 1954. Mr. François Mauriac, French Novelist, persuaded Mr. Wiesel to write for a larger audience. In 1968, Les Editions de Minuit published the French Edition of the book, titled ‘La Nuit’. Hill and Wang published the English version of the book, Night, in 1960.
The narration opens about the year 1941. Eliezer, the protagonist, is a young boy born into a Jewish family living in Sighet, Hungary. He lives with his father Shlomo, mother, and three sisters. Hilda is his eldest sister. Bea, his second sister, is older than him, While Tzipora is youngest of them.
Eliezer is interested in understanding Jewish customs and traditions. He is mentored by Moshe the Beadle. Moshe the Beadle is a Jew with foreign citizenship. He was expelled from Hungary when the Hungarian government started to expel non-Hungarian Jews in 1941. He is then deported to Nazi-occupied Poland. He successfully escapes and avoids being exterminated, and returns back to his village to warn the Jews about the Nazi regime, to which the villagers unfortunately turn a deaf ear.
In the following years, the villagers find that Moshes’ warnings were not insane, but it is too late by then. The Germans arrive in Hungary in 1944, and bring with them their anti-semitic policies. Soon, the Jews find themselves being transferred to a ghetto, and then to the concentration camps in Poland. It is here that he comes face to face with the raw Nazi brutality.
As soon as they enter the camp, he finds himself being separated from his mother and sisters. He later realizes that it was the last time that he was seeing them, as his youngest sister Tzipora, along with their mother, is gassed on the very first day at the Auschwitz camp. Later, when he is free from the camp, after Nazi Germany falls, he finds out that his other sisters are still alive.
Meanwhile, at the camp, he finds himself supporting his father. He sees a son abandoning his father. He himself feels the urge to go down the same path, and is instantly overcome by guilt. A guilt that stays with him till the death of his father in the concentration camp, and beyond.
The book is a summary of Eliezer’s days in the concentration camp, till the time resistance in the Auschwitz camp was successful in overpowering the Nazis, which was just a few hours before the Allied forces arrived at Auschwitz in April of 1944.
Though the book is an autobiographical account of Mr. Wiesel’s experiences, there are subtle differences between the protagonist and the author himself. The book speaks of loss of family; the changing dynamics of his relation with his father. It is also about seeing near and dear ones becoming a burden, and the guilty conscious that comes associated with it. It is all about the darkest side of human nature.
‘Night’ is the first book in a trilogy. The other books that followed are ‘Dawn’ and ‘Day’, in that order. This trilogy, together, explains the author’s journey from darkness to light. These books try to shed light on the mental state of the author during the Holocaust itself, and the time that follows. The book depicts the journey of the protagonist from having faith in God, that gradually decreases with time. Readers feel the same way by the time they are through with this book. It is one of the most important books in Holocaust literature, and has been translated into 30 languages.
Mr. Elie Wiesel is now an American resident and stays in New York. Having been in one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind, he has dedicated his time for humanitarian causes, and has won many many prestigious awards. These include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. In 1986, for speaking out against violence and oppression, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.