The memoir “Night” is just one of many memoirs written by Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust. Elie feels compelled to bear witness to the suffering that he experienced and observed in the concentration camps. In Night he narrates the experience of the deaths of his family members, the death of his adolescence, and the death in his naive belief in man’s innate goodness. The power of the genre of the memoir is that it captures experience and insists that forgetting about such crimes against humanity is not an option for Elie or for the reader. Through the radical changes he experiences in the concentration camps, Elie is forced to adapt. He shows his adaptations through various ways in his writing style and author’s craft. Elie Wiesel shows the reader how he personally changes, the true meaning of the word “night”, and Biblical allusions to describe the suffrage, inhumanity, and pain he experiences during the holocaust that affected his life forever.
One of the most painful situations and preoccupying thoughts that trouble young Elie involve the ways in which father-son relationships are torn under the concentration camps. He watches as sons deny care to their fathers, putting their own interests before family ties. Elie struggles with the same conflict when his father becomes ill, and when his father finally dies, Elie is profoundly sad though also proud that he never wholly compromised his own beliefs about family. The reason that Elie finds the deterioration of father-son relationships so painful is that the maintenance of this relationship seems to be the last barrier between a world that is semi-normal and one that has completely been turned upside down. Elie must continue to care for his ailing father because to do otherwise would mean that he had become as evil as the Germans. But, in reality the holocaust did bring their relationship closer and more affectionate. In the beginning, Elie was naïve and curious of Jewish mysticism. When he asked his father for a mentor he answered, “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” (4). This shows how their relationship begins, as a relationship based on respect and obedience like most orthodox Jewish families. But, as they came closer to the concentration camps, their relationship drastically changes. As they are about to be sent to the crematorium, Elie’s father starts to have emotional feelings for his son. “What a shame that you did not go with your mother… I saw many children your age go with their mothers…” (33). This shows how their relationship is based on love and emotion. He does not want to see his only son go up in flames and Elie knows this because it is the first time he has seen his father cry and is the first time he felt his father’s love for him. Throughout their suffrage in the holocaust their relationship grows stronger and it gives Elie a reason to never give up and to survive.
A person’s beliefs and values transform with death lingering at every waking moment. In Night, Elie estranges himself from his companions and morals to survive the Holocaust. It is expected that the Holocaust survivors would lose faith in God, their determination to go on living, and their reliance in others because of the horrific experiences that they faced day to day. It is understandable that a Holocaust survivor questions his faith in God when Jews are chanting the prayer of death for themselves. “Deep down, I was saying good-bye to my father, to the whole universe, and, against my will, I found myself whispering the words: … may his name be exalted and sanctified…” (34). A person would question living when he sees the death of loved ones and fellow Jews right before his eyes. When starting to give up on all hope of life and God, it would be expected that one would no longer trust others, especially when they are fighting each other for their own survival. Night illustrates the loss in human ties after the anguish of the reprehensible treatment that the Jews received every day. Elie’s harsh experiences cause him to question his companionship with God each day during the holocaust. Although it seems his God has abandoned him, he never loses faith completely. Elie asks questions to God throughout this memoir. “Why, but why would I bless him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because he caused thousands of children to burn in his mass graves? (67). Elie is angry, but at the same time this brings him closer to God. When Moishe was mentoring Elie he once said, “Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks him. Therein lies true dialogue. Man asks and God replies.” Ultimately, Elie’s experiences bring him closer to God than ever before because it is acceptable and praised to ask questions in his faith. But, how does God reply? As Moses freed the Jews from Egypt, maybe the Russians were the Jew’s Moses in the holocaust. Either way, Elie used biblical allusions in his memoir to vividly compare the holocaust to the bible, show his struggle with faith in God, and describe how God played a role in the Jews’ lives during this horrific time of suffering.
Elie’s memoir is simply titled “Night”. The literal time of night in the camps is not a period of rest or respite for the Jewish prisoners; instead, it is a continuation of the persistent anxiety and fear that are experienced throughout the day. At the same time, night does have some positive qualities, permitting the prisoners to talk with one another and attempt to hang onto the last vestiges of normal social interactions. “Freed from the barbers’ clutches, we began to wander about the crowd, finding friends, acquaintances. Every encounter filled us with joy¬-yes, joy: Thank God! You are still alive!”(35). This was the only freedom of their lives that still remained. The prisoners’ social life was the last thing they had left and Elie and many others tried to keep this by preserving their families which was very difficult. During this time, night was the only time of peace and rest. But, night also has a symbolic function. It is dark and obscure, a time when people with nefarious motives operate. To young Elie, the night feels never-ending, especially his first. “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 those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never” (34). During the night, this is what went through everyone’s minds. Why did this happen? How could this happen? What will become of me? Night is somewhat worse than the day. The only difference is physical pain and emotional torment. When Elie is finally liberated from the concentration camp, it is not clear whether the night has ended yet. Elie will have a long way to go to find his way to the light and the restoration of a somewhat normal life. It took several years for Elie Wiesel to finally find the light.
By just reading this inspiring memoir, readers’ lives are changed as well as Elie’s life was changed during the holocaust. Throughout this memoir I have discovered that the most important truths in life are that family is the greatest possession, faith should be strongest in the most difficult times, and freedom is the most powerful trait a human being has. All of these truths are expressed through Elie Wiesel’s memoir that touched each truth through the experiences in Auschwitz. Elie Wiesel shows the reader how he personally changes, the true meaning of the word “night”, and Biblical allusions to describe the suffrage, inhumanity, and pain he experiences during the holocaust that affected his life forever.