Rating: 5 Stars
Synopsis: Elie Wiesel describes his experiences as a Jew during World War II, particularly his experiences in a concentration camp. A terrifying, heartbreaking memoir of the final year of World War II.
Reflection: Night is an intense memoir of the Holocaust as Elie Wiesel experienced it. Despite the book’s short length, it provides an eye opening look into the horrors of the Holocaust.
Two things struck me while reading this book, which I read in basically one sitting. First, the author’s loss of faith and second, the honesty of his descriptions. From the opening moments of the book, Wiesel shows his reader everything. He doesn’t overwrite; he doesn’t philosophize; he doesn’t create metaphorical images for the reader to unravel; he doesn’t make himself extra likeable or a hero. He writes exactly what he saw with precise language and horrific simplicity. The most gruesome scenes in the book occurred during his movements to and between camps. Despite knowing every camp meant more death, he and the others always seemed to have some hope that relocation meant something better. This hope, though vague and limited, made each arrival all the worse. The thick black smoke, the mass graves, the hanging bodies, and the burning children are so clearly remembered by Wiesel. He gives them to the reader to carry and remember – to share the burden he carries.
Wiesel’s loss of faith happens gradually during the war and in the camps. The first time it seemed clear to me is when he loses faith in his father. He is constantly worried about his father, and admits to wishing to no longer having that burden. Wiesel shows that during the time in the camps, people lost so much outside of themselves that losing themselves became nearly inevitable. The prisoners could only follow their instinct to survive. With this he doubts his faith and questions God. Despite his constant questioning, in nearly every moment of pain and stress he thought would break him and send him to the sky in the black clouds of smoke, he prayed. Although the entire time in a concentration camp could easily be considered a breaking moment, Wiesel defines these moments and the occur less than one might imagine, but more than anyone should have to endure.
Night should be read by everyone. It may not shed light onto the cause of the terrors Wiesel and some many others experience, but it demonstrates with clarity what can happen if power is left unchecked. It serves to remind the world that these horrors happened; they must not be forgotten and we must work tirelessly to ensure nothing like that is repeated.