The book Night opens in the town of Signet where Elie Wiesel, the author ,was born . He lived his child hood in the Signet, Transylvania . He had threesisters Hilda, Bea, and Tzipora. His father was an honored member of the Jewishcommunity. He was a cultured man concerned about his community yet, he was notan emotional man. His parents were owners of a shop and his two oldest sistersworked for his parents. Elie was a school boy and interested in studying theZohar the cabbalistic books, the secrets of Jewish mysticism(Wiesel 3). Histeacher was a foreigner, Moshe the Beadle, a poor barefoot of Signet(Wiesel 3).
He was Elie’s teacher until he was forced to leave Signet by the Hungariansbecause he was a foreign Jew.
After several months Elie saw Moshe the Beadle once again. Moshe the Beadletold his story about his journey that the Jews were forced to get out and diggrave which would become final resting places for prisoners who were killed.
Luckily, Moshe the Beadle was able to escape. He pretended that he was dead inorder to escape being killed. Not only did Moshe tell his story to Elie, hewanted to warn the Jews of Signet of what could happen to them. However, theyonly thought it was a vivid imagination speaking from his lips. No one wanted tobelieve his story and people lived life as usual.
It was not until German troops would enter Hungarian territory that lifewould change for the Jews of Signet. At first the German soldiers did not seemlike a threat. During the week of Passover things seemed to be going well.
People were celebrating yet, it was not a complete celebration. On the seventhday of the Passover Jewish leaders of the community were arrested. After thatrules were set by the Germans. Jews were confined to their homes for three daysand they could no longer keep valuables such as gold, jewelry and other objects.
The Germans took it all. Elie’s father managed to bury the family’s savings inthe cellar. After the three days Jews had to wear a yellow star. After this morerules were set. Jews could not go to restaurants, travel on railways, go tosynagogues, or go out after six o’clock.
As if the rules and restrictions were not enough. Soon Jews would be placedin Ghettos. There were two gettos set up in Signet. These ghettos were fenced inwith barbed wire and the windows of the houses facing the street were boarded up.
The Jewish people of Signet tried to look at it positively and saw it as Alittle Jewish Republic(Wiesel 9). People tried to live as normal and felt theywould remain in the ghetto until the end of the war. However this would not bethe case. Elie’s father brought news to his family that they would be deportedand the ghetto was to be destroyed. They did not know where they were going ,only that they would be leaving in the morning and could only take a fewpersonal belongings.
Fortunately for the Wiesel family their journey was postponed for a coupleof days. When they heard the words All Jews outside!( Wiesel 16) they knew itwas time to leave everything behind. The beginning of their journey was short.
they stopped in another ghetto where they stayed for two days until theirjourney would begin once again. After another stop they were then put on cattlewagons filled with eighty people to a car. It was uncomfortable, there wasbarely any air, there was nothing to drink or eat, it was hot, and people had totake turns sitting down. When they arrived in the town of Kaschau they heard thewords From this moment you come under the authority of the German army(Wiesel21). At this point they knew they were never going home. They traveled some moreand soon they would arrive at Birkenau the reception center of Auschwitz. Whenthey arrived they could see flames and smell burning flesh (Wiesel 26).
People were being separated Men to the left! Women to the right!(Wiesel27). This was when Elie and his father were separated from his mother andsisters. It would be the last time he would ever see them again. Elie and hisfather would now have to stick together and rely on one another. They had to lieabout their ages in order to stay alive and together. As Elie passed throughAuschwitz during the first few hours he learned of the crematories and what heneeded to do to survive. He also began to question his beliefs in God . He said Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the universe…What had I tothank him for?(Wiesel 31).
When they arrived at their barracks they were forced to strip and given newclothing. They also saw a barber and had their heads shaved. They were reunitedwith others from their old community of Signet. It made them happy for themoment but they knew that the only thing they must concern themselves with issurviving for themselves. The next day Elie and his father were moved to newbarracks where they were soaked in petrol. This was known as disinfection and itwas done whenever anyone entered a new barracks. After soaking in petrol theythen took a hot shower and were given new clothes. At this point their pride andhope was practically non-existent. They were no longer themselves.
They were informed that they were in Auschwitz and that it was aconcentration camp and that they had to work or else they would be sent to thefurnace. However, the furnace was not a threat to them they had been through somuch already that the idea of death really had no meaning.
A few days later they were to leave Birkenau. They marched away from thatcamp to another destination. They reached another camp with a sign to theentrance reading Work is Liberty!(Wiesel 38) they were now in Auschwitz. Theythought this camp was much better than Birkenau. The buildings were concrete notwooden. They had to go through another disinfection upon entrance. When theyarrived at another barracks they met a prisoner who was in charge, he wasPolish, he told them they had already gotten through the selection and therewas hard work ahead of them. They had to have the strength to live and hopefullyone day have liberation. They were assigned to Block 17 and told to go to sleepfor the evening. The words of the Pole did boost moral and there were hopes thatthe war was almost over.
The next day they would be given their identification numbers which wouldbe tattooed on their arms. This number became their name. They stayed atAuschwitz for three weeks. The day they were to leave they were given rations ofbread, counted, and they left, walking, to their next destination. Their walklasted four hours and they arrived at the next camp, Buna.
At Buna they went through disinfection and then assigned to their laborunits. They were quarantined for three days during that time they would gothrough a medical examination and then they would work. During the medical examthey were asked if they were in good health and of course they had to say yes.
They also saw a dentist. The dentist was not checking for bad teeth but for goldteeth. Anyone with gold in his mouth was written down on a list. Elie,unfortunately, had a golden crown. He was later called back to the dentist forextraction of his tooth. Elie was not going to give up his tooth and told thedentist he was sick. This went on a few more times until eventually the dentistwas transferred to another camp and the tooth was forgotten. He did not want togive up his tooth because it was all he had and could one day prove to bevaluable. One day along the line he would have to give up his tooth. It was whena foreman named Franek noticed the gold tooth in Elie’s mouth. He used Elie’sfeelings toward his father to get it. He saw that Elie’s father could not marchand tormented Elie’s father . Elie tried to teach his father how to march but itdid not work. Eventually they had to give into Franek and give him the tooth.
During their time at Buna they were placed in a warehouse for electricalequipment which was a good unit according to other civilians. The work was nothard but they did have a harsh Kapo. His name was Idek, he had a bad temper andit was a good idea not to get in his way. One example of his bad temper was whenElie witnessed him with a young polish girl. Elie was whipped twenty-five timesfor witnessing this event. Idek’s explanation for this was for his curiosity(Wiesel 56).
Another event that occurred during their stay at Buna was an air raid. TheAmericans bombed the camp. The raid only lasted a little over an hour. Thebombing made the prisoners happy they did not fear death. It also made Eliehappy that the warehouse he worked in was not bombed. A week after the bombing,the prisoners were forced to watch a hanging of a man who stole during the raid.
The Germans claimed Let this be a warning and example to all prisoners(Wiesel59.) It was only another attempt at inflicting terror in the prisoners minds.
After the hanging they were forced to walk past the dead man before they ate.
The idea of the crematory no longer bothered Elie but this event bothered him.
On the evening of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Elie once againquestioned God. He could no longer listen to the prayers and he felt betrayed.
The Jewish were supposed to observe Yom Kipper by fasting. Many questionedwhether or not they should fast. If they did fast it might make them weaker andpossibly lead to their death. Elie did not fast.
Elie was separated from his father. They were placed on separate units. Therumor of selection was passing around the camp. Elie was afraid his father wasto weak to make the selection. The head of Elie’s block gave the prisoners tipsto get through the selection. He told them to run, not to walk slowly, and notto look at the SS. He also told them not to be afraid. Both Elie and his fatherpassed the selection.
A few more months went by, it was January, and Elie was suffering of aswollen foot from the cold. He had it examined and the doctor told him he needto have an operation or he would lose his leg. During his stay in the hospital,he enjoyed not having to work or be ordered around. Although he was enjoyingthis time off he had to get out of the hospital or else he might be selected.
Elie had his operation and was supposed to stay in the hospital until hi foothealed. When he heard that the camp was to be evacuated all except the patientsin the hospital he realized he better get well quick. He left to find his fatherand they made the decision to evacuate from the camp with the other prisoners.
Elie and his father, along with other prisoners, left the camp on a darksnowy night. They were forced to run to their next destination. They could notthink all they could do was run. When they were finally able to rest, it was inthe snow. Elie’s father did not want him to sleep to long especially in the coldbecause he may not wake up. When the journey began once again, people weretrampling over others and dropping to the ground not able to go any further.
Elie no longer felt his wounded foot all he could do was run. They only had hopeto reach the next destination as quickly as possible. They stayed at a campcalled Gleiwitz for three days with no food or water. Their next stop would beto a train.
On the train everyone was packed in and trying to keep warm. There weredead people on the floors and they had to make stops to dump the dead people.
People took the clothing of the dead. They had to eat snow to keep from gettingdehydrated and they were not given food. Elie saw the savage instinct in peoplewho would kill their own family for food.
Their next stop was Buchenwald. Upon arrival they were counted and pointedto the assembly place. They then headed to the showers. At this point Elie’sfather could barely hold on , he was near death. He was weak and had no desireto live. Elie stayed with him during the last moments of his life. On January 28,1945 Elie went to sleep and his father was still alive. When he woke up the nextday his father was gone(Wiesel 106).
On April 11,1945 Elie was free. The Americans moved in on Buchenwald andtook over the camp. The first thing the free men wanted was food. They could notthink of revenge or their families Nothing but bread(Wiesel 109). Elie wassick from food poisoning after the liberation, he almost died. However, when hewas finally able to get up and look in the mirror after so many years he did noteven recognize himself. All he could see was a corpse staring back at him.
Elie Wiesel now lives in the United Stated under the name of Andrew Mellon.
He is the Professor of Humanities at Boston University. He is also Chairman ofthe Holocaust Memorial Council. This organization is a nonpolitical organizationthat was formed to educate people of the crimes put forth on the Jewish peopleduring the Holocaust (Chaimberlin 14).
Works CitedChamberlin, Brewster, and Marcia Feldman eds. The Liberation of the NaziConcentration Camps 1945. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C, 1987.
Wiesel, Elie. Night . Bantam Books: New York, 1989 . Category: English