On April 30th, 2004, Americans were shocked, horrified, and embarrassed when it came to light that American soldiers were horribly abusing Iraqi prisoners of war. These soldiers were supposedly decent, humane people, yet they were torturing fellow human beings. Atrocities and cruel treatment can make even the most caring person turn hard and cold and even commit horrible acts. Elie Wiesel conveys this tragic theme in his book Night. Although Wiesel is a good person, he has been in such horrible situations that not even he can escape this fate.
Wiesel and his father have a close, loving relationship however as Wiesel spends more time in the concentration camps, he begins to grow cold toward his father. “I watched the whole scene without moving. I kept quiet. In fact I was thinking how to get farther away so that I would not be hit myself. What is more, any anger I felt at that moment was directed not against the Kapo, but against my father. I was angry with him for not knowing how to avoid Idek’s outbreak. That is what concentration camp life had made of me” (52). Here we can see that even though Wiesel’s own father is being beaten he is not angry at the man beating his father but at his father. If Wiesel had not yet witnessed all of the horrible things that happen at the concentration camps and been a part of them himself, he probably would have tried to help his father and it would have been very upsetting for him. Another example of how he has turned cold to his father is seen here when he says, “But at the same moment this thought came into my mind: ‘Don’t let me find him! If only I could get rid of this dead weight, so that I could use my strength to struggle for my own survival, and only worry about myself’” (101). From this a reader can infer that Wiesel thinks of his dad as extra baggage who is holding him back. Even though Wiesel may still care about his father he cannot help but think that it may be better if his dad did die so he would only have to worry about himself.
Wiesel has also turned hardened and cold against his God who he once worshipped so much. Here he says, “’What are You, my God,’ I thought angrily, ‘compared to this conflicted crowd proclaiming to You their faith, their anger, their revolt? What does Your greatness mean, Lord of the universe, in the face of all this weakness, this decomposition, and this decay? Why do You still trouble their sick minds, their crippled bodies’” (63)? From this we see that he no longer praises God but condemns him and is angry with him. He also says, “I did not fast, mainly to please my father, who had forbidden me to do so. But further there was no longer any reason why I should fast. I no longer accepted God’s silence. As I swallowed my soup I saw in the gesture an act of rebellion and protest against Him” (66). We see here that he has put away the tradition that he has been used to for his whole life because he is angry with God. His religion used to be one of the most important things to him but now he has become angry with God.
Wiesel has also become indifferent to human suffering when he sees innocent people being hanged and beaten. When he sees a man get hanged for the first time he later says, “I remember that I found the soup excellent that evening” (60). We can infer from this that he was not grieving about the man being hung, but only thinking about his food. Most people who have not seen such horrible things as Wiesel has would probably not even have an appetite after this. When one of his friends knows that he is going to go to the crematory soon, he asks Wiesel for one favor and that is to recite the Kaddish after he is gone. Wiesel says, “These were terrible days. We received more blows than food; we were crushed with work. And three days after he had gone we forgot to say the Kaddish” (73). We can see that Wiesel had been going through a hard time and he forgot to do the one favor that his friend asked of him before he died. He does not think about other people’s suffering as much anymore.
In conclusion, Wiesel has not escaped the fate of becoming unresponsive to human pain even though he is a decent, kind person. When people see such horrible sights as these they can change into a different person. The American soldiers in Iraq were probably not cruel people before they went to war but that is who they became after seeing such atrocities in a war.