Publication date: 1956
Publisher: Penguin Books
Target audience: Mature readers
Summary: Born into a Jewish ghetto in Hungary, Elie Wiesel was sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald when he was just a child. This is his account of that atrocity: the ever-increasing horrors he endured, the loss of his family and his struggle to survive in a world that stripped him of humanity, dignity and faith. Describing in simple terms the tragic murder of a people from a survivor’s perspective, Night is among the most personal, intimate and poignant of all accounts of the Holocaust. A compelling consideration of the darkest side of human nature and the enduring power of hope, it remains one of the most important works of the twentieth century.
Review contains spoilers.
Night recalls Elie Wiesel’s horrific experiences in the concentration camps and tears the boundries of his will to live. It’s narrated by Elizer Wiesel, a Jewish teenager, who at the the beginning of the novel was dedicated to his religion. It follows him from his mundane life though the spring of 1944 where repressive measures were inflicted upon the Jewish community. From there, Eliezer and his family were evacuated and taken to Birkenau where he and his Father were separated from his mother and sisters during “selections.” He and his father were then marched to Auschwitz. When the novel comes to an end, it is the Spring of 1945.
I thought the way the story was told was incredibly effective; Eliezer’s narrative drew me in, and although it wasn’t overly descriptive I could still visualise it. Despite him not going into great detail of his emotions, I was able to feel the pain and anguish he endured. It was specific phrases that made me realise just how much he was hurting or how ashamed he felt. Though the story is told from Eliezer’s person point of view there are an array of other characters that he focuses on. In the beginning, there is a lot of focus on Beadle, the caretaker of his synagogue, because he knew what was coming when nobody believed him. Eliezer’s focus then became his father once they were in Auschwitz, because of this I felt more concern for the well-being of his father throughout the rest of the novel. I think this was Eliezer’s most relatable quality – his determination to not let anything happen to his father, the only family he had left.
The physical setting is very important and Wiesel deliberately select the most horrific scenes, the images of the camps that installed fear into Eliezer and thousands of others. For example, not long after being in Birkenau, Eliezer and his father come across a bonfire that babies were being thrown onto.
I couldn’t unravel my emotions to tell if the ending brought me happiness. I was extremely happy Wiesel survived to tell the story but the death of his father left me feeling despair. I hoped that when freedom came back – Eliezer wouldn’t be alone in the world but when the only reason Wiesel had to live, died (his father); he was left feeling numb and it leaves you feeling extremely dejected at the end. I felt that it ended where it should have because the last look in the mirror where he doesn’t recognize himself is powerful and emphasises just how changed he was over the year but also how lost he was now that he was free. However, I did want to know how Wiesel went on to rebuild his life.
Overall, I found myself captivated from beginning to end, needing to know where else he was taken and what other horrors he saw. I thought it was engaging despite the horrific content as it was fascinating and I couldn’t deny my hope for his freedom. Wiesel’s Night is a story everyone needs to know.
“Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
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 into ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God himself.