No surname – no true identity, recognition as a man
“jack of all trades” (master of none): he knew a lot about many things, but no true religious education, uneducated- Eliezer goes to him for education
Why was he the exception to the rule regarding how the poor were treated by the majority of the Jewish community?
Repetition of a word, or phrase, for emphasis
List of what he did that gave him acceptance from the adult community.
“He stayed out of people’s way”. “His presence bothered no one”. “He had mastered the art of rendering himself insignificant, invisible”.
This is what the Nazi’s are counting on to destroy the Jewish people.
IRONY: Later when Moishe returns.
Eliezer’s view of Moishe
Softness in his tone. Childlike images
Simile: “awkward as a clown” – circus
“his waiflike shyness” – child who needs protection; orphan; sweet; no conflict.
“wide, dreamy eyes, gazing off into the distance” – childlike imagination (this will later influence Eliezer as to the credibility of Moishe’s claims)
“He spoke little. He sang, or rather he chanted”
Religious themes – Shekhinah in Exile; Kabbalah
Eleiser – 13 years old; deeply observant; bar mitzvah age. Influential age
Following all the rules and laws of his faith.
Influence to begin independent thoughts; mysticism of the Kabbalah.
His father wants him to be more educated. Protective father.
“You are too young for that. Maimonides tells us that one must be thirty before venturing into the world of mysticism, a world fraught with peril. First you must study the basic subjects, those you are able to comprehend.” “There are no Kabbalists in Sighet.” “He wanted to drive the idea of studying Kabbalah from my mind.”
A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Important to know the basics before developing an intellectual understanding of religious practices and beliefs that may be flawed. Prevents confusion – or at least is a step in the right direction.
(grandmother) (father – bird)
Father well respected by the community; however, no father/son discussion when questioned. Eliezer then goes on his own quest of his faith through Moishe. Parents often make this mistake. “I am your father/mother, trust what I say without question.” This oftentimes causes rebellion. – good/bad.
Maimonides –Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon – first to write a code of Jewish law all must follow. Mishneh Torah
Page 4 & 5
Begins to ask questions. Why? Why? Why?
It is always good to ask questions. From that, we attain knowledge; critical thinking skills; ability to differentiate between what is truth and fallacy.
Is challenged by Moishe. Why? Why? Why?
“Why do you cry when you pray?” Challenges his faith. Does he do it out of rote? – mechanical repetition, without real understanding of its meaning or significance.
Repetition of “Why did I pray? Why did I live? Why did I breathe?”
Eliezer accepts his ignorance. Hard thing to do for anyone. We don’t like to admit that we are wrong. Then, we must admit that we are NOT PERFECT!
Moishe knows why he prays: “I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions.”
“Moishe the Beadle was a foreigner.”
“Crammed into cattle cars.”
Influence of Germany over Hungary so far
“cried silently” - try to be insignificant; invisible, don’t fight back….accept…accept.
Not happening to us..just the foreigners…value?
“What do you expect? That’s war..” too accepting
USA – Japanese
For their safety
While anti-Jewish legislation was a common phenomenon in Hungary, the Holocaust itself did not reach Hungary until 1944.
In March of 1944, however, the German army occupied Hungary, installing a puppet government (a regime that depends not on the support of its citizenry but on the support of a foreign government) under Nazi control.
Adolf Eichmann, the executioner of the Final Solution, came to Hungary to oversee personally the destruction of Hungary’s Jews. The Nazis operated with remarkable speed: in the spring of 1944, the Hungarian Jewish community, the only remaining large
Jewish community in continental Europe, was deported to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. Eventually, the Nazis murdered 560,000 Hungarian Jews, the overwhelming majority of the prewar Jewish population in Hungary.
Time gives way to forgetting what happened.
Rumors – Galicia, working, content..yes. Went to Galicia…BUT….
Weather is pleasant; back to normal
Tells them the truth
“forced to dig huge trenches…..took place in Galicia.”
Simile; candle melting; moving from the light into the darkness of Hell to come
Christ-figure: Anaphora: “I was saved….I…I…I…only no one is listening to me…” Light of the World – warning of the evils of Satan. Do we listen? They refuse to see the light of truth. They ostracize him; reject him totally as a member of their community.
Eyes cast down; avoiding people’s gaze
Page 8- 1944
False hope: Germany would be defeated; only a matter of time.
Anaphora: “The trees were in bloom. It was a year like so many others, with its spring, its engagements, its weddings, and its births.” – A sense of normalcy. Trying to convince themselves that all is ok.
“The Red Army….Hitler will not be able to harm us….” They refuse to see the truth. What about all the millions who have already died?
“so many millions of people….in the middle of the 20th century?” Not possible….difficult to accept the possibility of something so evil….do we then doubt Satan’s existence?
Fascist party takes over Hungary
They did not understand what that meant.
Begin to hear stories. Worried…for a moment. “the Jews of Budapest live in an atmosphere of fear and terror. Anti-Semitic acts take place every day…”
Simile – “news spread like wildfire”
Flames fast and furious…but unlike most wildfires, this one burns out quickly..Rationalize…
No worry..won’t come to us…too far…again with rationalizations…not us…therefore, no concern..
Jewish people refuse to see the signs:
German soldiers enter their town.
Officers stayed in Jewish homes.
Attitude distant but polite…wolf in sheep’s clothing….Satan hides well…keep those rose-colored glasses on as long as possible…then, it is too late…
“death helmets” – bringing death to all Jews
Death’s-head emblem on German helmet- SS guards
Germans are waiting for the right moment. Keep the Jewish people calm and unsuspecting. “Three days after he moved in, he brought Mrs. Kahn a box of chocolates…..There they are, your Germans. What do you say now? Where is their famous cruelty?” Refuse to see the reality of what is going to happen.
“The Germans were already in our town…the Fascists…the verdict - (DEATH)…the Jews were still smiling.”
Passover – 8-day celebration
The Jews celebrated their Passover Feast in remembrance of God's deliverance from death during the time of Moses. Origination of Passover
Moses had been instructed to lead God's people out of Egypt and save them from the evil and ungodly Pharaoh. Because of Pharaoh's disbelief in the power of the One True God, Yahweh sent a series of ten plagues upon the Egyptians: the Nile turned to blood and at various times the land was filled with frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and darkness. In one awesome act of God's ultimate authority, He sent one final devastating plague: every firstborn of every household would be annihilated.
In His mercy towards His people, God would shield the Israelites from such unmerciful judgment if they would follow the instructions He gave to Moses and Aaron. The specific instructions are outlined in Exodus 12:1-11. In sum, each family was to take a lamb and all households were to slaughter their lambs at the same time at twilight after a certain number of days. Then they were commanded to paint the sides and top of their doorways with some of this blood. Once this was done and all the meat of the lamb was eaten in accordance with God's instructions, God would spare the Israelites from death.
Weather perfect – however, synagogues closed. Acceptance? Don’t want to cause conflict…don’t complain. Maybe they will go away.
Celebrate during this time; but they are pretending. Deep down they are concerned, but they don’t want to admit it. Want the celebrations to be over so they have no reason to celebrate.
7th day – “the curtain finally rose”
The play is about to begin…HORROR is behind the curtain.
Arrested the leaders of the Jewish community
Gold and all valuables taken; forbidden – help from the Hungarian police.
Metaphor – “The race toward death had begun”
Nazis want this done ASAP!
Moishe confronts them…
Mom – tries to keep things together; job as mom. Suffer in silence. Nurturer; worry about her children.
Yellow star – BRANDED LIKE CATTLE
Reaction – no big deal; it’s just a patch; “it’s not lethal.” IRONY – they have been marked for slaughter.
Nazis are slowly killing the Jewish people’s “being”. 1st step has been easy – to accept the painless things being done to them. Baby steps.
Ghetto – enclosed within barbed wire. Cattle.
Comfort zone. Away from the Germans. Safe…not really…but let’s pretend… “in fact, we felt this was not a bad thing.”
Anaphora: “We would no longer have to look at all those hostile faces, endue those hate-filled states…No more fear….No more anguish…We would live among Jews, among brothers.” NO..NO..NO…this cannot be our reality.
Euphemism: Nice way of saying something uncomfortable, bad, etc… “Of course, there still were unpleasant moments.” JEWS BEING TAKEN AWAY.
Personification: “The ghetto was ruled by….delusion.”
German Officers – different mood; mother feels the change
News: Transports; “The ghetto was to be liquidated entirely.” Irony –The Final Solution: Liquidate the Jewish people
Now they are worried and want to know everything. Secret on threat of death.
Irony “Our backyard looked like a marketplace….All this under a magnificent blue sky.” Irony – total chaos – blue(peace and tranquility)
Pain of waiting… “there was joy, yes, joy.” Irony…they think that this was hell..they have no idea of the hell they are entering.
Imagery: juxtaposition of Blazing sunny day vs dead, empty houses (personification) = darkness within the hearts of the people- fear-despair
Walk – “like molten lead”; “slowly, heavily, the procession advanced toward the gate of the ghetto.
“There they went, defeated, their bundles…They passed me by, like beaten dogs.”
“gaping doors and windows looked out into the void.”
Simile – surreal image “…like a small summer cloud, like a dream in the first hours of dawn.”
“The verdict had been delivered”….death..
“My mind was empty.”
“I felt little sadness.”
Father – emotion now
Mother- strong, no emotion
Hatred remains to this day
Ignore the reality- hide their guilt for doing nothing
Refuse to fight for their neighbors – condone ?
Page 20 - 21
Move to small ghetto
Still have faith
“Oh god, Master of the Universe, in your infinite compassion, have mercy on us..”
Still have hope
“..we were beginning to get used to the situation…miserable little lives until the end of the war.”
“…a big farce…just want to steal our valuables…easier to do when the owners are on vacation…”
Free will taken away
“…we were all people condemned to the same fate-still unknown.”
Change of control – irony – worse
“It had been agreed that the Jewish Council would handle everything by itself.”
Jews have been conditioned to go along with the program. Comfort zone to have friends organize the march toward death.
Again – no one stands up for humanity
“..behind the shutters, our friends of yesterday were probably waiting for the moment when they could loot our homes.”
Plan has been successful
“…cattle cars were waiting…cars were sealed…one person...in charge...someone escapes…person shot.”
“Two Gestapo officers…all smiles; all things considered, it had gone very smoothly.”
Juxtaposition of beauty vs evil
“The lucky ones … could watch the blooming countryside flit by.”
Loss of sense of modesty, humanity
“Freed of normal constraints….let go of their inhibitions…caressed one another.”
Human contact…love…necessary for survival of humanity.
“Our eyes opened. Too late.”
Reality of their delusions of safety. No escape from Hell.
Inhumanity to humanity
“…shot like dogs.”
“The world had become a hermetically sealed cattle car.”
Seal off the “contamination” of the Jews
No one from the outside can help
Page 25 - 28
Irony of sanity vs insanity
Insane – sees the truth – prophetess
Sane – refuse to see the truth
“Fire! I see a fire! I see a fire!” – pity
Simile – “…she looked like a withered tree in a field of wheat.”
Fear – “…we felt the abyss opening beneath us.” (abyss- immeasurable chasm/void; total darkness)
Like Moishe, “Jews, listen to me!...” warning; rejection
Rationalization: “She is hallucinating…thirsty…flames devouring her…” (personification)
Cruelty breeds cruelty
“bound and gagged her”
“…received several blows to the head that could have been lethal.”
Approval of the rest to beat her
“Keep her quiet! Make that madwoman shut up. She’s not the only one here…”
“Jews, look! Look at the fire! Look at the flames!” And as the train stopped this time we saw flames rising from a tall chimney into a black sky.”
Fair and Balanced
It is important to understand that the majority of Germans were not Nazis.
Most of the concentration camps were not in Germany; this gave the Nazi government the ability to convince the German people that the camps that they did have were only work camps or training camps. The idea of the reality of what was happening is something so heinous, that the normal person could not comprehend the truth of what was happening to the Jewish people.
The camps in Germany were “work camps”. Why would anyone think differently?
March 22, 1933 - Nazis open Dachau concentration camp near Munich, to be followed by Buchenwald near Weimar in central Germany, Sachsenhausen near Berlin in northern Germany, and Ravensbrück for women. These were the “work camps.”
This era was not a time of television, internet, cable, 24-hour news. The people only had radio and newspaper. These two media have the ability to propagandize without question.
The most of the free world was ignorant as well.
Ex. We do not know what horrors may be happening 50 miles away from our own homes, except for internet, 24-hour cable, the ability to move about freely and quickly.
Death 1: (page 7) One day, Moshe the Beadle, who had been deported, comes back to Sighet to tell the story of the extermination of the Jews by the Gestapo. Although Moshe begs desperately to be heard, no one believes him. He tells Elie, "'I wanted to come back to Sighet to tell you the story of my death.'" Moshe the Beadle considers himself as already having gone through death. As someone who has experienced death and miraculously lives, he wants to save others from having to go through that same death.
Death 2: (pages 9- 17) Elie identifies the German soldiers by their steel helmets with the emblem, the death's head. It is the first impression Elie has of the German soldiers.
The Jews are not allowed to leave their houses for three days-on pain of death. The term, "on pain of death" is used several times in the narrative to emphasize the harsh reality of the German's threats.
As the Jews are forced to wear the yellow star, Elie's father replies, "'The yellow star? Oh well, what of it? You don't die of it....'" Elie responds, "Poor Father! Of what then did you die?" The yellow star symbolizes the mark of distinction that sends many Jews to their deaths. In retrospect, Wiesel feels that his father and the Jews of Sighet conceded to their deaths by submitting to every German decree. With each submission, they die a bit more.
As the ghettos are emptied by the deportation of the Jews, rooms that were once bustling with activity, lay open with the people's belongings still remaining. It is like an "open tomb" in that there is no longer any sign of life.
Death 3: (p. 33)The crematories serve as factories of death. The big, fiery furnace is where those who do not make the selection are sent. The threat of being sent to the crematory is likened to being sent to the grave.
As the prisoners witness the burning of babies, they begin to recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. It is a prayer that the living offer up on behalf of the dead. "Someone began to recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I do not know if it has ever happened before, in the long history of the Jews, that people have ever recited the prayer for the dead for themselves." The threat of death is so imminent that the Jews recite the prayer for their own souls.
Death 4: (p. 38)
The SS officer who introduces them to Auschwitz is described as having the odor of the Angel of Death. He tells the Jews that if they do not work, they will be sent to the crematory. The idea of being sent to the furnace becomes a firm reality.
Elie realizes, as he settles in during the first night of camp, that he has changed: the child in him is dead. It is the death of his old identity-the death of his innocence.
On the electric wires at Auschwitz, there is a sign with a caption: "Warning. Danger of death." Elie considers it a mockery because everywhere in the camp, there is constant danger of death.
Memory 1: Although the whole of Night is a series of memories, there are many cases where either "forgetting" or "remembering" plays a significant role in the narrative. In the first chapter, Moshe the Beadle and all the foreign Jews of Sighet are expelled by the Hungarian Police. The Jews of Sighet are troubled but soon after the deportation, the deportees are forgotten and town life returns to normal.
Moshe returns to Sighet and recounts the horror stories of the Gestapo's extermination of the Jews. He tries to recall from memory, the stories of the victims' deaths: "He went from one Jewish house to another, telling the story of Malka, the young girl who had taken three days to die, and of Tobias, the tailor, who had begged to be killed before his sons....“
The German army sets up two ghettos in Sighet. The Jews of the "little ghetto" are deported first and just three days later, even as they move into the previous occupants' homes, the Jews of the big ghetto forget about them.
Memory 2: During the train ride, the Jews try desperately to silence the maddening screams of Madame Schachter. They even go so far as to hit her. Just as the Jews are able to block Madame Schachter out of their minds, they see the flames of the furnace and smell the odor of burning flesh at Birkenau. There, they are reminded of Madame Schachter's visions. (P 28)
Memory 3: The first night of camp is forever etched into Elie's memory. Repeatedly, he uses the phrase "never shall I forget." Elie does not have to try to remember anything because even if he tries to forget, the memories are eternal, forever.
Upon arrival of Auschwitz, the SS officer in charge gives the new prisoners an introduction to the camp. He says, "'Remember it forever. Engrave it into your minds. You are at Auschwitz.'" (p38)
As the prisoners talk about God and wonder about their fate, Elie finds that only occasionally does he think about the fates of his mother and younger sister. The rigors of concentration camp life have dulled his sense of memory.
Wiesel's experiences during the holocaust, one of the darkest periods in human history, are like a journey into a night of total blackness. During his stay in the various concentration camps, Wiesel witnesses and endures the worst kind of man's inhumanity to his fellow men, as prisoners are beaten, tortured, starved, and murdered. Darkness and evil reigned.
When Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, he condemned the silence and apathy of those who did not cry out and condemn the criminal atrocities of Hitler and his dark forces.
As a symbol, night does not merely represent physical darkness; it also stands for the darkness of the soul. It was obvious that the Nazis were dark and evil; but Wiesel also felt that his heart was darkened by the evil around him. In the book, he says about himself, "There remained only a shape that looked like man. A dark flame had entered into my soul and devoured it.“
Throughout the holocaust, Wiesel was living through a long "night" of terror and torture, where he could see no light at the end of the tunnel, only perpetual darkness.
Night 1: Before the Germans arrive at Sighet, nighttime is for Elie a time of spiritual and physical renewal. It is a time of studying religious texts, of prayer, and of restful sleep. This comforting sense of night is forever lost as Elie experiences the horrible, dreadful nights of the concentration camps.
Night 2: Elie describes how in the ghetto, as his father was telling stories, "Night fell," foreshadowing the news of their deportation. The notion of "night" falling on the Jews becomes a running theme throughout the book. There are several instances where the phrase precedes some dreadful event. (p 12)
Night 3: Darkness characterizes the cattle train ride to Birkenau-Auschwitz. In the darkness, Madame Schachter goes out of her mind and yells incessantly about the fire, flames, and furnace. When she points and screams about the fire and flames, the other Jews see only darkness. Darkness is also a character of night that allows the young to flirt and people to relieve themselves without being seen. (p 27-28)
Night 4: The overwhelming sense of Elie's experiences during the first day of camp is that it is like a nightmare. As Elie and the other prisoners walk past the chimneys at Birkenau, they stand motionless, unable to comprehend the sights: "We stayed motionless, petrified. Surely it was all a nightmare? An unimaginable nightmare?" Elie thinks he's dreaming. After pinching his face, in disbelief he utters, "How could it be possible for them to burn people, children, and for the world to keep silent? No, none of this could be true. It was a nightmare...." (32-33)
That first night of camp is forever etched into Elie's mind. His entire narrative story seems like an account of one long, endless night: "So much had happened within such a few hours that I had lost all sense of time. When had we left our houses? And the ghetto? And the train? Was it only a week? One night-one single night?" (p 37)
“Never…” Page 35
Psalm 150 – final prayer; ecstatic celebration of God. Each line begins: “Hallelujah”, or “Praise God”. Wiesel gives an inverse version, with the repetition of “Never”- negative vs. affirmative.
Psalm 150 praises God; Never – questions His justice.
Faith and morality turned upside down.
Eliezer accuses God of being corrupt.
Eliezer claims that his faith is destroyed; yet refers to God in the last line.
Eliezer is struggling with his faith and his God.
Never able to forget the horror, he is never able to reject completely his heritage and religion.
Psychological Moral Tragedy
Death of faith in god
Death of faith in humankind
God fails to act justly and save the Jews from the Nazis
Nazis drive the Jews to cruelty to each other
Morality is upside down
Shaving of Head/Tatooing Page 35 & 42
Jewish law contains strict regulations about cutting one’s hair and facial hair. Razors are not permitted, and beards and earlocks are often considered sources of pride and commitment to tradition. Nazi used this as a means of humiliation and denigration of Jewish tradition.
Tatooing is a strict ban by Jewish law. Nazi’s did this to dehumanize, demoralize, and strip them of their religious traditions.
Angel of Death
A prominent character in Jewish folk tradition.
Fearsome angel who would stand at the bedside of the sick, and using his knife, take his/her life.
Change one’s name during extreme illness in an attempt to fool the angel; discard all water in the room after the death, because the angel supposedly washed his knife in the water.
Reality of the horror and no one is crying out to the world.
World does not care.
God does not care.
“Why should I sanctify His name? The Almighty, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for?”
“We continued our march….closer and closer to the pit.” (33)
Simile: “We were walking slowly, as one follows a hearse, our own funeral procession.”
Still faith, angry, but: “May His name be exalted and sanctified..”
“Never…” page 34
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
Gasoline – completely soaked in it
“fuel” – fire
Showers – get used to this for a purpose later
“The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames.”
“My soul had been invaded – and devoured – by a black flame.” (evil of Hell)
“We were withered trees in the heart of the desert.” (metaphor) (nothing lives) Living dead
“herded” – continual image of cattle
“Work or crematorium…the choice is yours.”
Gypsy – chance to be cruel to someone
Father beaten – son does nothing
Forgiven by father
“It was spring. The sun was shining.”
“Warning of Death”
“The fragrances of spring were in the air”
“Work makes you free.”
“These were the showers, a compulsory routine.”
Lied to protect relative from pain
Humanity does not get reward
“God is testing us.”
March to Buna
Gold tooth – trip to the dentist; pretends to be ill; dentist hanged
“you…you…you” choosing cattle at a marketplace
Juliek – violinist – beauty of music – illegal
SURVIVAL – p 52 = “a famished stomach” loss of humanity
Idek – Kapo; mad; cruel – p 54 his father = simile = angry at his father (upside down morality – break down of humanity )
Franek –Pole - greedy- Father is the way to the tooth.
Idek = publicly whips Elie into unconsiousness
“Two cauldrons of soup!”
Desire overcomes fear of death
Irony = shepherd – ss
Soup – lambs – wolves = inmates
Irony = inmate “snakelike”
Young boy from Warsaw
Stands in defiance
Lack of humanity
Appreciation for food
Page 63 – different
Metaphor – p. 64 “…three black ravens”
Pipel = hated; not this one; angelic
To hang a child was a problem (ironic)
Page 65 = “where is God?”
Food tastes like corpses
Loss of Faith through the hanging of the Pipel
God has been murdered
A just God must not exist in a world where a young child is hanged.
Lowest point of Elie’s faith
Death of his innocence with death of the child
Loses his faith, morals, values
Fear – lose connection with his father in order to survive (p.63)
Elie as the Accuser
P. 66 – 67
“What are You, my God?...
“the melody was stifled in his throat.” difficulty keeping the faith
Page 76-77: Akiba Drumer – lost his faith, will to fight, to live; no hope=total despair= death of the soul
Forgot to say Kaddish = loss of faith = betrayal of humankind
Theme of Faith
From the beginning, Elie Wiesel's work details the threshold of his adult awareness of Judaism, its history, and its significance to the devout.
His emotional response to stories of past persecution contributes to his faith, which he values as a belief system rich with tradition and unique in its philosophy.
A divisive issue between young Elie and Chlomo is the study of supernatural lore, a division of Judaic wisdom that lies outside the realm of Chlomo's common sense.
To Chlomo, the good Jew attends services, prays, rears a family according to biblical dictates, celebrates religious festivals, and reaches out to the needy, whatever their faith.
Theme of Faith
From age twelve onward, Elie deviates from his father's path by remaining in the synagogue after the others leave and conducting with Moshe the Beadle an intense questioning of the truths within a small segment of mystic lore.
The emotional gravity of Elie's study unites with the early adolescent desire for obsession, particularly of a topic as entrancing as the history of the Spanish Inquisition or the Babylonian Captivity.
It comes as no surprise that Elie's personal test jars his youthful faith with demands and temptations to doubt because he lacks experience with evil.
Theme of Faith
When Moshe returns from his own testing in the Galician forest, his story seems incredible to Sighet's Jews, including Elie.
Later, the test of faith that undermines Elie's belief in a merciful God is the first night at Birkenau and the immolation of infants in a fiery trench.
The internal battlefield of Elie's conscience gives him no peace as atrocities become commonplace, including hangings before breakfast.
The extreme realism of Elie's test of faith at Auschwitz portrays in miniature the widespread question of suffering that afflicts Europe's Jews during an era when no one is safe and no one can count on tomorrow.
Although Elie omits fasting and forgets to say Kaddish for Akiba Drumer, the fact that Elie incubates the book for a decade and writes an original text of 800 pages proves that the explanation of faith and undeserved suffering is a subject that a teenage boy is poorly equipped to tackle.
Must have surgery on his foot.
Trust in the Doctor? – German – Hyppocratic Oath
Red Army is advancing
All patients will remain in the hospital.
Inmates will be evacuated to another camp.
Metaphor: “beehive of activity”
“I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.”
No chance of survival
Bomb the camp
Kill all of us
Eliezer chooses to leave in pain
They were saved by the Red Army (page 82)
Leaving Buna page 83
“The last night…the last night…the last night…”
Hope still alive: Russians on their way…soon
Imagery: “Poor clowns…”
Death march: “…the bell…death knell…funeral…”
“..we were running…like automatons…like a machine.”
Wiesel’s faith: saw too much suffering to break from his past and reject his heritage. He kept his faith in God throughout.
Elie’s faith: struggled, but although he rejects God, he never totally rejected his faith.
Personification of Death
“just a few more meters…..a small red flame..a shot…Death enveloped me, it suffocated me….”
Love for his father keeps him alive and strong to continue. “I had no right to let myself die.”
Master vs God
“We were the masters of nature, the masters of the world….”
God is no longer the Master of the world…the prisoners are now the masters…godless worldview…survival is the only goal..morality is meaningless.
Personification of Death
“All around me…dance of death…something in me rebelled against that death…”
Rabbi Eliahu and his son – page 91
Elie and his father – page 91
Although angry with God, still prays…calls God “Master of the Universe.”
Death So Close
Juliek – violin “little corpse”
Imagery: eating snow off each other’s backs
100 men to a car…so skinny
“cemetery covered with snow”
Lack of humanity – strip dead bodies for clothes
“naked orphans without a tomb”
Animals in the Zoo
“dozens of starving men … worker watched with great interest…”
Modern society … coins tossed to the poor
“Beasts of prey….ready to kill for a crust of bread.”
Death personified through argument with father. Page 105
Guilt- page 106-107
Relief when father is gone
Shares his bread grudgingly
Father begins to die; dysentery
Page 112- January 28, 1945; father dies
“Free at last” – should he feel guilty?
Liquidation of inmates
Thousands marched out daily
American tank enters April 10, 1945
“From the depths of the mirror…the look inhis eyes…has never left me.”
Death 5: As Elie witnesses the hanging of the young pipel, he feels that it is his God who is hanging on the gallows. Elie identifies with the death of the young pipel because he undergoes a similar slow, painful, spiritual death.
Death 6: The selection process determines who will live and who will die. Dr. Mengele, the notorious SS officer, is the person who heads the selection. He moves his baton to the right or to the left, depending on the health of the prisoners. Dr. Mengele is like the Angel of Death. He is the messenger of death.
As the prisoners prepare for the evacuation of Buna, the bell rings. It signals the start of the winter march. The sight of the prisoners setting out in the winter is likened to a burial procession. The prisoners realize that many of them will not make in through the march alive.
Death 7: On the winter march, the prisoners who cannot keep up are either shot by the SS officers or trampled upon by the others. The winter march is a march to their deaths. As Elie sees his friend Zalman fall behind, he begins to think about his painful foot: "Death wrapped itself around me till I was stifled. It stuck to me. I felt I could touch it."The presence of his father is the only motivation that keeps him going.
Death 8: On the train ride, dead corpses are thrown overboard onto the snow. "Twenty bodies were thrown out of our wagon. Then the train resumed its journey, leaving behind it a few hundred naked dead, deprived of burial, in the deep snow of a field in Poland." By this time, Elie is indifferent to death.
As the Jews on the train feel that the end is near, they all begin to wail like animals that are about to die. The cries are a primal, instinctive, and reactionary response to death. Many die like animals, without the dignity accorded to human beings.
Death 9: At Buchenwald, Elie's father struggles with dysentery. Elie tries to revive his father's spirit, but it is of no use. Elie's father is taken away during the night. Elie feels guilty that he cannot find the tears to weep. Concentration camp existence has robbed him of the proper response to his father's death. Elie is emotionally dead.
Death 10: In his Holocaust experience, Elie undergoes near physical, spiritual, and emotional death. It is graphically reflected in the mirror as he sees the image of a corpse staring back at him.
From the time of his childhood, Elie was extremely interested in Judaism and studied the Talmud and the Kabbala. He regularly attended services at the synagogue, prayed to his God, and wept over the history of the Jews. His father was also very religious.
In the concentration camps, religion helps the prisoners to endure. They regularly pray to God for mercy and help. The Jews still fast during holy days, even though they are starving to death. It seems that nothing can shake their faith. Elie's faith, however, gets shaken to the core.
Sickened by the torture he must see and endure, Elie questions if God really exists. He refuses to pray on the eve of the Jewish New Year and will not fast during the time of atonement. Elie's faith, however, is not permanently shattered. When he sees a son robbing from his father, he prays to God that he may never desert his father. The prayer is answered, for even when his father becomes a burden, Elie stays by his side and cares for him.
Faith 1: Elie is a deeply religious boy whose favorite activities are studying the Talmud and spending time at the Temple with his spiritual mentor, Moshe the Beadle. At an early age, Elie has a naïve, yet strong faith in God.
Faith 2: Many of the prisoners try to cope with their situation by talking of God. Akiba Drumer, a devout Jew with a deep solemn voice, sings Hasidic melodies and talks about God testing the Jews. Elie, however, ceases pray. He identifies with the biblical character Job, who questions God when misfortunes come upon him. Similarly, Elie begins to doubt God's absolute justice.
Faith 3: As Elie witnesses the hanging of the young pipel, he feels that it is his God who is hanging on the gallows. Elie identifies with the death of the young pipel because he undergoes a similar slow, painful spiritual death. The death of the pipel is related to the death of his faith in God.
Faith 4: On the Jewish New Year, Elie feels a strong rebellion against God. He becomes the accuser and God the accused. But in his rebellion against his faith in God, he also feels alone and empty.
The Jews debate whether they should fast for Yom Kippur. As an act of obedience to his father and also as an act of rebellion against God, Elie swallows his food. In the camps, his physical needs become more important than his faith.
Faith 5: Even the most devout, religious Jews begin to lose faith. Akiba Drumer does not make the selection when "cracks" begin to form in his faith. A rabbi from Poland, who always recites the Talmud from memory, concludes that God is no longer with them. For some, losing their faith in God is akin to losing their will to live.
Faith 6: As Elie recuperates in the hospital after his foot surgery, a faceless neighbor tells him that he has more faith in Hitler than in anyone else because he's the only one who's kept his promises to the Jewish people. This is a direct attack on those who have clung to their faith in God. The ultimate insult is that even Hitler is an object worthier of faith than is God.
Faith 7: Recalling the actions of Rabbi Eliahou's son, Elie prays to the God he no longer believes in, that he have the strength to never do what the rabbi's son had done in abandoning his father. Rabbi Eliahou's search for his son rekindles in Elie a sense of hope and faith. Elie feels that at the very least, he should be faithful to his father to the end.
From an early age, Elie Wiesel has a tremendous love for religion, wanting to study the Cabbala and Talmud. When he is first imprisoned, it is his faith that helps him survive. Like most of the Jews, he prays regularly for an end to the persecution and strength to survive. His faith, however, is shaken when he sees the depth of the atrocities committed against his fellow Jews. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, he finds that he cannot even pray, questioning if God exists amongst such cruelty to mankind. In the end, his faith returns and helps him deal with his experiences.
Memory 4: At Buna, Elie is beaten by Idek the Kapo and a young French girl comes to his aid and tells him to keep his anger and hatred for another day. Years later, Elie Wiesel recalls running into her in Paris. They reminisce about the days in the concentration camp. Such memories are hard to forget.
Memory 5: After the prisoners go through the selection process, they forget about it until a few days later when the head of the barracks reads off the numbers of those selected. Although the prisoners forget, Dr. Mengele, the one who makes the selections, does not forget.
Akiba Drumer, sensing that his death is near, makes Elie and others promise to remember him when he is taken away by praying the Kaddish. Due to the harsh treatment they receive, after only three days since Akiba Drumer is taken away, Elie and the others forget to pray the Kaddish for him.
Memory 6: During the train ride in the dead of winter, the prisoners forget about everything-death, fatigue, and their physical needs. The unbearable sufferings that the prisoners undergo desensitize their senses-they are able to block everything from their minds.
Elie remembers that Rabbi Eliahou's son had tried to abandon his father during the winter march. That memory makes him pray to a God that he no longer believes in, to give him the strength not to do what the rabbi's son had done.
Memory 7: Elie cannot forget the smile his father shows him even in the midst of his suffering. "I shall always remember that smile. From which world did it come?" Elie asks. These seemingly minor, death-defying gestures are particularly memorable.
Memory 8: Elie finds it hard to forget the last concert Juliek gives to an audience of dying men. The memory of the last concert is heightened by the lasting images of Juliek's dead body and his smashed violin. And whenever Elie Wiesel hears Beethoven's concerto, he remembers the face of his friend, Juliek, and his last concert.
Memory 9: When he awakes from his sleep, Elie remembers that he has a father. Sleep and fatigue had gotten the better of him; the survival of his body overcomes him to the point of forgetting about his father.
At Elie's father's death, there are no prayers, no candles lit to his memory, no tears. In the depth of his memory, Elie admits feeling a sense of relief in not having to worry about his father anymore. He feels free from his father's physical presence, but not from the memory of his father, which remains with him forever.
Night 5: The impression of "last nights" anchors the timeframe of Elie's narrative. There are numerous instances of last nights: the last night at home; the last night in the ghetto; the last night on the train; the last night at Buna.
Night 6: "Night" carries with it the notion of uncertainty and fear. Short of representing death, night becomes an imagery of the unknown. As Elie and the other prisoners prepare to leave Buna, there is a greater fear of what is to come: "The gates of the camp opened. It seemed that an even darker night was waiting for us on the other side."
Night 7: One night, on the winter trek to Buchenwald, Elie is almost strangled to death by an unknown attacker. Elie does not know the reason for the attack. Night brings out the worst dangers.
The nights become bleaker as the narrative progresses. Thus, Elie detests the "long nights" of the winter: "We were all going to die here. All limits had been passed. No one had any strength left. And again the night would be long."
MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN
Deportations begin. The Jews are herded into cattle cars and sent to concentration camps, where they are forced to do hard labor, are beaten and tortured, are denied food and water, and are often killed by burning, hanging, shooting, starving, freezing, or beating. Even the babies and small children are thrown into pits of fire since they serve no purpose to the Nazis.
Because of the torture they must witness and endure, the prisoners become animalistic. When they are made to march, if a fellow prisoner falls, he is often trampled to death. When food is thrown at them, the prisoners kill each other to gain a bite of bread. In their search for survival, sons turn against their fathers; even Elie has fleeting thoughts of being rid of Mr. Wiesel.
Through most of the book, however, Elie tries to help his father, who is repeatedly tortured. He shows him how to march properly so he will not be persecuted by the Nazi guards; he nurses him after he is beaten by a guard; he saves him from being thrown off the train as a corpse; he gets him up and to Buchenwald after he falls amongst the corpses; and he takes care of him after his skull is cracked for pleading for water. In the end, Mr. Wiesel is taken to the crematorium and thrown into the fire, probably while he is still breathing.
MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN
The major theme of the book is the horror that results from extreme prejudice. Because Hitler hated Jewish people, he caused them to be imprisoned, tortured, and murdered.
The book records the horrendous experiences of Elie Wiesel, the Jewish author, during Hitler's reign of terror. He is arrested, imprisoned in a concentration camp, and tortured.
Although he escapes death, he is totally devastated by the things he must endure and witness during the holocaust.
Man’s Inhumanity to Man
The book is a recording of man's inhumanity to man at its worst.
The persecution begins when the Germans occupy Sighet. Soon Jews are made to wear yellow stars to identify themselves; in addition, Jewish shops are closed and Jewish homes are seized, forcing the families to live in the ghetto.
All Jewish temples have a light that is always on. It references the Eternal Flame that was kept burning in the First Temple. Represents the eternal watchfulness and providence of God over His people.
Night – flame and fire represent Nazi power and cruelty. Reflects Eliezer’s loss of faith. Symbolizes the evil in the world rather than God’s benevolence.
Test – 100 Points- RED BOOK
From the two themes below, discuss the importance of each to the telling of the story. In other words, why did the author, Elie Wiesel, focus on that particular theme. What was he attempting to say to us? Why?