Introduction of the author
Eliezer Wiesel is an American-Jewish writer, the author of 57 books, and the Nobel Peace Prize, winner. The list of his accomplishments and achievements is long and his life is full of memorable events and experiences. The most horrible one is, without a doubt, the experience of being a prisoner of German concentration camps during World War II, and surviving the Holocaust. Eliezer Wiesel has written a novel, based on this period of his past. He acted as one of the living voices from the past, telling about the nightmares they have witnessed.
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There are many books and stories written by former prisoners of concentration camps all over Europe. One common trait all of these works possess is the atmosphere of mind-bending horror the reader experiences, while realizing that it is real events, and stories of real people being described. Novels like “Night” by Elie Wiesel make the readers re-evaluate their life, think of what they have been taking for granted, and be grateful for having what they have.
The meaning of the word “Holocaust”, according to Katz, Biderman and Greenberg, denotes a religious sacrifice, given to the fire (5). Millions of innocent Jews from all over Europe were murdered and burned, just like biblical lambs.
Difficulties Wiesel faced while writing the novel
In the introduction of his book, Wiesel talks about the difficulties he faced while writing it. He explains that there was not only a language barrier but also, the experiences he went through seemed indescribable: “I had many things to say, I did not have the words to say them” (Wiesel, 9). When Eliezer had just left the camp, he decided not to talk about what he saw there, he kept the horrifying memories to himself for years.
When the time came and the Holocaust began to be judged publically, Wiesel realized that he must speak. Although, the shocking memories, painful experiences, and shifted values of his life in concentration camps did not have a language. Hunger, pain, fear, freezing cold, and the smell of death are beyond human speech. This is why, in his book Wiesel so many times describes animal screams and moans people were bursting into, while dying, crying, beating each other to death over bread crumbles. All these things Wiesel witnessed while being a teenage boy. During the events, described in the book, Eliezer experiences drastic changes.
A good-natured religious Jewish boy becomes a starved, apathetic, devastated creature that looks like a walking dead body. Till the very end he keeps struggling with his animalistic selfish survival instincts, he leads an inner fight for correct morals, trying to be a good son for his father. He watches several other Jewish sons giving in to their selfishness, neglecting, abandoning, and even killing their parents, in order to keep their own lives.
Eliezer’s personal changes
When a person sees death, sufferings and pain so many times that this becomes a routine, it changes the person’s mind, and it shifts their perception of life, their way of thinking. With every shock young Eliezer experienced, with every death of a close person he was losing parts of himself. His faith in God died, his attempt to be a good son died slowly, as he watched his father getting weaker and weaker every day, his trust in people, friendship, compassion, love – everything died.
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Eliezer Wiesel has watched humans neglected so badly that they stopped being humans, losing themselves to the animal fear, hunger and desire to live. He lost everything too: his childhood, all his spiritual, non-material values were gone, the only thing he still had was his body, the empty body that gazed back at him from the mirror. He was no longer a boy; he became a man with a good understanding of the price for life, for death and for silence.
Katz, Steven T., G. Greenberg, and S. Biderman. Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological responses during and after the Holocaust, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Trans. Marion Wiesel. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2008. Print.