Elie shall I forget that smoke. Never shall

Elie
Wiesel’s Night presents a portrait of
the harrowing realities of war as experienced by a young Jewish boy who’s hopes
of a peaceful and fulfilling life are shattered when Nazi’s invade his town and
send him and his family to Auschwitz, a concentration camp. Once in awe of
religion and the practices of religion, Eliezer finds himself tormented at the
thought of God. Eliezer even makes the accusation, that of all the deaths
caused in the Holocaust, the most painful to witness, was the death of God. The
harrowing realities of death and suffering linger around Eliezer as he attempts
to find a semblance of sanity and hope. Eliezer, in defeat, professes, “Never
shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life
into one long night, seven times cursed, and seven times sealed. Never shall I
forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children… Never
shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever… Never shall I
forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to
dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long
as God Himself. Never.” (20)

Eliezer
Wiesel, an innocent twelve-year-old boy lived in the small town of Sighet, once
Hungary but present-day Romania, and was the only son in a family of devout Orthodox
Jews. His father, a highly respected man in Sighet Jewish community. Eliezer
was a student of the Talmud, oral Jewish law, and Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, a
rather advanced subject for a child his age. Eliezer was a peculiar child,
especially in the eyes of his father. Eliezer goes under the wing of Moshe the
Beadle, the local pauper. Not long after, the Hungarian government exiles all
foreign-born Jews. Although briefly outraged, the community did not continue to
dwell on the anti-Semitism. Several months have passed and Moshe reappears and
tells the community that escaped captivity and that the trains holding the
deported people were now under Gestapo control, the secret German police, at
the border of Poland. He further reveals that Jews were digging their own
graves against their will and then slaughtered by the Gestapo. The community
disregards his seemingly foolish story and adamantly disregards his wild claims
and accusations.

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Three
years after these events take place, in 1944, Hungary’s government is taken
over by the Fascist regime, and soon German forces would occupy the country
moving from the capital and lastly to Sighet. Oppressively, German officers arrested
the community leaders, and confiscating valuables from the homes of Jews. In
order to recognize them, the Jews were mandated to pin yellow stars onto their
clothes. Eventually, Jews are sent to live in cramped and desolate ghettos
surrounded by high barbed-wire fences. From here on, Nazis begin the
deportation of Jews, and among those deported Eliezer’s family is one of the
last to be sent off. From their window, they see families pile into the streets
carrying only what they could in a small bag. A former servant of Eliezer’s
family visits and offers a place to hide them but they decline. Like cattle,
they are herded and ultimately, they are sent off to their demise.

In
this first section, Wiesel illustrates that often injustices happen right under
our noses by those with political power and we often let it happen. What is
most interesting is that this story is told through the eyes of a child. Us
readers can see what it is happening with these accounts, but at the time, the
people of Sighet seemed complacent. Although seemingly naïve, none of the Jews
could have really expected this to happen, the Fascists regime had been slowly
gaining power in the past few years. Painfully so, Wiesel recounts that his
family had the opportunity to go into hiding but refused. A decision that would
result in death. Wiesel uses this section to recount how the cruelty of humans
and how many let it happen to them. The Jewish community of Sighet was unable
to comprehend or reason with the atrocities that awaited them in the
concentration camps. Though there are some instances in which they are
suspicious, Hitler’s regime increasingly pushed the Jews slowly by making their
lives unbearable, yet they complied.

Shoved
into train cars, the Jews began their long journey of torment in inhumane
circumstances. Hot, cramped, fatigued, dehydrated, and with no sitting room,
the Jews began to go mad for days of travel. Upon arrival at the border of
Czechoslovakia, they realize that what is happening to them is beyond
relocation, but something worse. The train car doors are sealed shut so that no
one is able to escape. Eventually, the train stops signaling that they have
reach Auschwitz. Although to them, they have no idea where they are. After
gathering information from locals, they are told it is a labor camp and are
given false promises of fair treatment. Once again, the Jews, now prisoners,
are led to believe that everything will fine. The trains move beyond barbed
wire gates and are greeted by chimney’s and a rancid odor pumped into the
midnight sky. They would later discover that it was the smell of burnt human
flesh. They have made their arrival at a processing center for arriving Jews at
Auschwitz.

In Night, Wiesel reveals how far humans
will go to show their inhumanity by demoralizing others. Even so, the
psychological torture of the Holocaust was that the Nazi’s had killed God. They
drove their victims to such extremes that they lost everything that mattered to
them. When they lost God, they lost everything. They would give in and give up.
Accepting their fate, because why would their God allow this suffering to
happen?

When
selection begins, immediately those deemed weaker incapacitated are separated
to be sent to death. Eliezer and his father stay together but are separated
from his other family members. It was the last he’ll ever see his mother and
sister. Although glad to be with his father, there is a lot of uncertainty on
their fate. As the prisoners are transported to another location, they catch
the horrific sight of babies being burnt in a large pit and adjacent pit for
the bodies of adults. Shuddering in fear and in disbelief, Eliezer cannot believe
that humans are capable of committing and tolerating such atrocities. His
father then tells him that while they are in the world of crematoria, such humanity
does not exist. Then the Kaddish, a funerary prayer, is recited by Eliezer’s
father. Yet, Eliezer himself cannot seem to think of anything to thank God for.
Soon, the male prisoners are led to their barracks where they physically shed
their past lives. They strip their clothes, shave their heads, and then are
doused with gasoline to be disinfected. Once they are cleaned, they are handed
prisoner uniforms to signify their new status. They are coldly greeted, by a
Nazi officer who informs them that while in the camp, they have two options, to
either vigorously perform backbreaking labor or be sent to death at the
crematorium.

At
Auschwitz, Eliezer’s rejects faith in God. A once excited and devout student to
Jewish text and mysticism has been reduced to a skeptic. After seeing the pits
of burning bodies, his doubt begins to settle in. He often questions why he
should even bless the name of God. Other prisoners still hang on to somewhat of
their faith and Eliezer cannot understand why they still believe that
deliverance will come.

 “Where is God now?” And I heard a voice within
me answer him: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows…”
(35) In addition to doubting his faith, Eliezer starts to doubt his humanity.
Remembering when his father’s beating, he contemplates how much he has. A few
days before, he was sure that he would have spoken up or fought the Kapo, yet
now he feels hollow and the guilt of silence falls over him. Throughout Night, fear and silence have served as a
prominent figure. Silence despite oppression leads Wiesel to be that silence
breeds the survival of evil.