Night is Elie Wiesel’s memoir about his experiences during the Holocaust. It is shocking and sad, but worth reading because of the power of Wiesel’s witnessing one of humanity’s darkest chapters and his confession on how it changed him.
In the new introduction to the ebook version I read, Wiesel talked about the difficulty he had putting words to his experience. “Convinced that this period in history would be judged one day, I knew that I must bear witness. I also knew that, while I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them.” pg. 7, introduction
The original version of Night was written in Yiddish. I wish I knew enough Yiddish to read it. There’s something powerful about reading books in their original form.
Wiesel closes his introduction with his reasons for writing this book:“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” pg 12, introduction.
Even though a member of his community warned Wiesel’s village about the horrors that awaited them, they didn’t believe him. After they were placed in a ghetto, the Jewish population of Sighet thought that the worst was behind them. “Most people thought that we would remain in the ghetto until the end of the war, until the arrival of the Red Army. Afterward everything would be as before. The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion.” pg 26, ebook.
If I had been in their place, I don’t think that I would have acted any differently. How could one possibly imagine the horrors that they were going to face?
Wiesel is starved, overworked and beaten in the concentration camps. He loses more than his family and faith: “One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.”pgs 110-111 ebook.
Another Holocaust survivor’s memoir that I highly recommend isMan’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Never forget.
Thank you for reading.