Night by Elie Wiesel

In Night, Elie Wiesel recounts his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald from 1944-45.  He was a young teenager living in a Jewish Ghetto, Sighet in Transylvania and in the early years of the war the Jewish community were left to live in relative peace.  In the opening chapter of the book, Moche, the synagogue caretaker, escapes a mass execution by the Nazis after being deported from Hungary.  He returns to Sighet to warn the remaining Jews of the Nazi threat but no one pays him any heed, thinking that such cruelty is unconscionable.

He told his story and that of his companions.  The train full of deportees had crossed the Hungarian frontier and on Polish territory had been taken in charge by the Gestapo.  There it had stopped.  The Jews had to get out and climb into lorries.   The lorries drove toward a forest.  The Jews were made to get out.  They were made to dig huge graves.  And when they had finished their work, the Gestapo began theirs.

I did not believe him myself.  I  would often sit with him in the evening after the service, listening to his stories and trying my hardest to understand his grief.  I felt only pity for him.

Eventually, they do believe Moche but it is too late and Elie and his family are sent to the death camps where survival becomes the ultimate prize at any cost even if it means ignoring the needs of the weak and forgetting about family loyalties.  Elie, who had once been a devout Orthodox Jew, finds it difficult to see God in the midst of such barbarity,

My eyes were open and I was alone – terribly alone in a world without God and without man.

Without melodrama, without oversentimentality, stating what happened in a straightforward narrative, Elie conveys the full horror of these events.   This novella deserves to be ranked among the must-reads in Holocaust Literature alongside Primo Levi’s work and The Diary of Anne Frank.

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  1. JoAnn says:

    “This novella deserves to be ranked among the must-reads in Holocaust Literature alongside Primo Levi’s work and The Diary of Anne Frank.”

    I absolutely agree! In fact, it is now being taught in many US high school English classes. My 17 year old twins have both read it this year.

  2. admin says:

    That’s great to hear, JoAnn. I believe John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is being taught to young teens in Irish schools now. Good to know that the younger generation are made aware of the sins of the past.

  3. I will be reading this book next – I have heard it is a difficult read but an important one. Thank you for your review.

  4. admin says:

    Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Colleen, yes it is an important book and written in a way accessible to all.

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