In his autobiography, Elie Wiesel describes the destructive influence of the Holocaust on a person’s inner world and his/her attitudes toward others. One of the central themes that the author explores is the relationship between a father and a son under the circumstances when people cannot easily retain their humanity. On the whole, one can argue that life in the concentration tests Eliezer’s attachment to his father, Shlomo and eventually strengthens these ties. In fact, the main character can survive only because he cares for Shlomo.
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At the very beginning of the story, Elie takes for granted his relationship with his father. It does not even occur to him his loyalty to Shlomo can be shattered by some external force. Moreover, the main character believes his father will always do his best to take care of him. Nevertheless, the imprisonment in the concentration camp shakes many of his beliefs. Numerous hardships decline Shlomo’s will to live and he becomes almost alienated from his son.
At some moments, Elie begins to regard his father as a burden. In order to illustrate his experiences, one should look at the following quote, “If only I didn’t find him! If only I were relieved of this responsibility, I could use all my strength to fight for my own survival, to take care only of myself” (Wiesel 106). Yet, this thought immediately scares the main character and he becomes ashamed of himself. Even the very idea of leaving Shlomo is abhorrent to him.
The attachment to his father helps the protagonist retain his humanity. Elie sees that some people treated their parents in a very cruel way. For example, one of the prisoners simply beats his father (Wiesel 63). This behavior appalls Elie, and he tries to do his best to preserve his love or at least respect for Shlomo because he does not want to resemble other people who begin to display their worst qualities. It should be noted that the behavior described by the narrator was not unusual. Nazi officials attempted to reduce the prisoners of the concentration camps to the status of animals. Their only concern had to be the need for survival (Wachsmann 63). Under such circumstances, it was difficult for a person to retain his/her love or respect for other people (Niewyk 106). This issue is important for understanding the experiences of prisoners.
Nevertheless, despite these hardships, Elie manages to strengthen the bond that links his father and him. He understands that his father is probably the only reason why he retains his will to live. This is why he says, “I had no right to let myself die. What would he do without me?” (Wiesel 88). This quote is vital for understanding the transformation of Elie’s values. He can see that his love for his father is not a mere obligation imposed by the tradition. More likely, this is one of the things that can empower him. This idea is critical for describing the impacts of the Holocaust on many of the survivors.
On the whole, these examples indicate that the life in the concentration camps could dramatically transform the values and worldviews of an individual. The main character of this book understands that his father is probably the only reason why he is still willing to survive. Even though Elie witnesses many events which shatter some of his convictions, he can retain his loyalty to his father.
Niewyk, Donald. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Print.
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Wachsmann, Nicolaus. Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany: The New Histories. Boston: Routledge, 2009. Print.
Wiesel, Elie. Night, New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.