A terrifying moment in history: The Holocaust. A single voice could speak for all those who couldn’t. A young, ordinary jewish boy, Eliezer Wiesel, is taken from his home of Sighet, Romania. He is forced to survive in multiple concentration camps throughout World War ॥. Bit by bit, starvation and sorrow became etched in the disturbed mind of a once carefree boy. Similar to the social injustice toward African Americans today, in Wiesel’s, Night, the brutality of the Holocaust compels Elie to question his existence as well as the culture he once so adored. Because Night is a personal memoir, there are very few main characters in the book.
Eliezer Wiesel and his father, Shlomo Wiesel are the most significant characters. Elie started out as a boy with strong jewish beliefs and morals. When he is forced to leave everything behind in Romania and adapt in a concentration camp, he begins to lose his desire to live. Wiesel has become a beloved figure in our society simply because he has proved what humanity consists of. Yes, he lost his faith, hope, and innocence but he never lost his core values and morals. His beliefs gave him the strength to continue. Many people throughout history, including the present, become senseless and emotionless when faced with the possibility of death, much like Eliezer Wiesel.
In the book, we learn that Eliezer was not the only one slowly losing a sense of humanity and religion. His father had grown very weak throughout the course of their captivity: “ My father had huddled near me, draped in his blanket, shoulders laden with snow. And what if he were dead, as well? I called out to him. No response. I would have screamed if I could have. He was not moving.. . .” (98). Shlomo, Elie’s father could not even bear to stand and his very own son had to act as a support system for his freezing father to lean on. Imagine having to witness your strong, goal-oriented father fall to pieces. Imagine the doctor refusing to help. The war had diminished yet another father-son relationship. Wiesel was no longer sensitive and responsive to the troubles he faced: “I shall not describe my life during that period. It no longer mattered. After my father’s death, nothing mattered to me anymore” (113).
It was then that Shlomo’s death took a toll on Elie. Elie refused to look at humanity the same way. He had grown into a man without emotion nor the will to live much like the people who are thrown into jail for no valid reason in today’s society. This novel often depicted a synonymous theme. Although the loss of humanity and innocence jeopardized his survival, he still kept his beliefs and principles in the back of his mind. This had only been the beginning of a young boy’s dark journey. According to the history channel, the 1940s were a time when mercy was a very questionable subject. Specifically, for the Jewish community. In today’s world, the omission of someone’s civil rights can be defined as a merciless community as well. Nazi Germany murdered some six million European Jews, roughly two thirds of the Jewish population. It was safe to say they were exiled from society for good.
In the book, Night, the author, Elie Wiesel, addresses his torment and near death experience during the Holocaust. The young boy is stripped from his home in Romania and forced to give up his innocence and beliefs to the evil doings of man. It is customary to think that in times of chaos (whether the 1940s or the present), we are faced with the true presence of God and faith is stronger than ever. In Elie’s case, that is utterly wrong. As he faces more and more treacherous encounters with the enemy, he no longer believes in the idea of religion: “The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. . .” (37).
Wiesel explains that his faith and childhood “died” in the span of a single night at the concentration camp. He was aware that his views on humanity were rapidly changing. When placed in such terrible accommodations, any person’s mind would experience slight to severe forms of insanity, a loss of personality, and even suicidal thoughts. The feeling of desperation and misery Elie felt plays a part in everyday society in different ways. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he implemented the rights to socially oppress the Jewish people, correspondingly the social injustices towards African Americans. This obviously placed the Germans at the top of the social structure; they were “superior.” The lives of the minority were inhumane and those reading this can probably agree: “Not far from us, prisoners were at work. Some were digging holes, others were carrying sand. None as much as glanced at us. We were withered trees in the heart of the desert. . . Perhaps because the thick smoke that poisoned the air and stung the throat.” (Wiesel, 37 and 40)
Those at the bottom of the social structure were doomed. It is critical to understand what these prisoners experienced in order to understand the marxist criticism. The political hostility in Wiesel’s time and today practically brings an end to every jew’s last bit of innocence and faith. Imagine forgetting your first bike ride, the excitement of opening your favorite candy, or even losing your family. What is left? A life without emotion and desire. Elie was fascinated with Judaism as a child. Before Elie Wiesel was stripped from his little town in Romania, he befriended a rabbi by the name of Moishe the Beadle. Moishe taught twelve-year old Elie the works of the Talmud and Jewish mysticism, the stable truths of both ancient and modern Jewish culture. It seemed as if Elie’s faith in God was more present than ever. When Moishe came back from the ghetto, Elie was shocked to see how he changed: “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. . .” (7).
Not only does this explain how important religion was in Jewish people’s lives, Wiesel also uses foreshadowing. As readers, we understand the importance of (deeply religious) Moishe losing his faith because Elie would soon follow. He acknowledged that those who strongly valued their beliefs were going to lose them. However, a belief is never lost in a piece of text much like the civil rights in the Declaration of Independence today. The Torah states that a jew must keep their human dignity. A jew values their religion and will go above and beyond for their faiths. Although Elie was slowly losing himself, he found the courage to look for hope in any possible way that he could. When Elie was about to have an operation on his wounded foot he felt terrified yet found something to look forward to: “ My doctor was there. That reassured me. I felt that in his presence, nothing serious could happen to me. . .” (79).
In Elie’s mind, the operation could go wrong in a number of ways, one of which being death. He still managed to feel hopeful and find dignity to get through the questionable process. Like today’s society, Elie Wiesel had a goal:to survive. He lost his faith, and character along the way but he was driven to achieve continuity. Our society has not experienced the oppression Elie faced, but we do share the ideology of reaching greater heights. A writer for Quora, Jie Wen Lim, mentioned, “ If you don’t constantly work to improve yourself (or your craft), you’d get left behind. And those at the bottom of the food chain don’t live very good lives.” Though Americans today and the Jews in the Holocaust strived for something different, our societies have both lost and regained hope through perseverance. The Holocaust was an abhorrent period in Nazi Germany where oppression took a whole new level, killing millions of innocent people. Although today there is no mass genocide, we can all agree that social injustice takes place.
According to Cracked.com, unarmed black citizens around the U.S. are shot by policemen very often. Black teenagers are 21% more likely to get shot than a white teenager. Why? Because our minds are simply programmed to be more afraid of black people. We as a society have to make connections with like-minded people and create movements that will genuinely change the social injustices towards black people. Whether it’s the 14th century or the 50th century, we all make an impact on each other’s lives, wonderful or dreadful. Elie Wiesel was the wonderful voice that spoke for all those who couldn’t.