Night by Elie Wiesel
I wrote a book review on this for my survey of world views class. If you have not read this book go get it and read it… It will be tough to get through at times but it is well worth it.
Night chronicles the life of Elie Wiesel as he was persecuted as a Jew during the time of the Jewish Concentration camps. Unbelievable events lead Wiesel on an incredible journey testing his endurance, faith, and love for God. The worldview of naturalism was evident among his captors, which causes Wiesel to think those thoughts.
The story begins with a young Elie training in the Jewish customs of the day. The Germans established a presence among the Jewish communities and over time began the oppression of the Jewish people. The German troops began to relocate the Jewish people in communities called ghettos. It was not until the eight days of Passover that the “race towards death had begun.” The German’s first rule was that people were not allowed to leave their homes for three days and if broken was punishable by death. The troops wanted to establish control early so they began to confiscate valuables.
Elie and his family were transported to the second ghetto, the last stop before being transported to the concentration camps. The day arrived for Elie and his family to leave. They were instructed to head to the synagogue which acted like a train station. Eighty Jews were escorted in cattle cars, which would deliver them to the camps. They spent two days travelling, not able to lie down and in the stifling heat. The trip in itself was bad enough, but then Mrs. Schachter began to lose her mind. She was having visions of a fire off in the night sky. This went on for hours until she was beat and gagged to keep her quiet. A few hours later, they saw the flames rising in the sky that Mrs. Schachter envisioned. The smell of burning flesh was in the air as they left the car leaving their belongings behind.
In Birkenau they were sorted according to gender: “Men to the left! Women to the right!” This is the last time Eli saw his mother and sister. Elie and his father remained together, were told what ages they were and instructed to walk towards the crematorium. Two steps away from certain death; they were instructed to turn left to the barracks. The grueling process of sorting continued. They were shaved, beaten, disinfected, and prison garb were thrown at them.
Elie and his father were transferred to many camps throughout their journey. The camps were similar in operation. Elie witnessed his father being beaten many times but felt no emotion. January 28, 1945, Elie spent his last night with his father, but he could not find the tears to cry. Elie was relieved to be free of the burden his father had become. In April of that year, the detainees received word that they were going to be set free. On April 10, Elie was a free man.
The worldview of naturalism was evident among Elie’s captors. The guards had no respect for humanity. They threatened the Jews with death and suffering. The German’s who were capable of this violence had no place for God in their hearts.
One act of inhumanity towards the Jews was sealing them in a cattle car. The Germans wanted to strip everything away from the Jews. Families were torn apart and dignity was not left for anyone. One officer said, “If anyone goes missing, you will all be shot like dogs.” The Jews were reduced to animals.
The Germans succeeded in making the Jews feel unwanted, unloved, not deserving of God. Elie said, “ We were incapable of thinking. Our senses were numbed, everything was fading into a fog. We no longer clung to anything. The instincts of self-preservation, of self-defense, of pride had all deserted us. In one terrifying moment of lucidity, I thought of us as damned souls wandering through the void, souls condemned to wander through space until end of time, seeking redemption, seeking oblivion, without any hope of finding either.” A man who believes in God would not say these things under normal conditions.
The worse act of inhumanity by the German’s was the hanging of a child while everyone was forced to watch. This forced people to ask, “Where is God?” These acts that were facilitated by humans were forcing people to question their belief in God. Elie questioned God himself, “Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because he caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves?” The violent acts committed by a human that Elie witnessed caused him to think these thoughts.
As Elie was having a conversation about his father to his commander, the commander told him that it is every man for himself; and in this place there is no such thing as a father, son, or friend. He said, “Each of us lives and dies alone.” He also told him to stop helping his father by feeding him. These comments made by the commander were void of God and with no concern for humanity. A Christian does not live alone and die alone. The commander does not see value in a relationship with God and helping humanity.
Elie’s journey diminished his faith as his soul and self diminished from the oppression of the Germans through their violence and lack of decency for humanity.