Night by Elie Wiesel

January 18, 2012
The novel Night is a chilling autobiography of Eliezer Wiesel’s experience as a Jew during World War II. The story begins with Eliezer, 13, living with his family in Sighet, Transylvania, just before the German Army arrives. With the soldiers stationed in Sighet, the ghettos came quickly. All the Jews were sealed off into two ghettos, away from the rest of the population, before being transported to the camps. Once at Birkenau, Eliezer and his father are separated from his mother and sister, not knowing they would never be together again. Eliezer endured Auschwitz, his life transforming into an eternal night. He was only 15. Eliezer and his father endured the horrors that waited at each camp for the next few years: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buna, and Buchenwald. On April 11th 1945, Eliezer Wiesel was freed from Buchenwald concentration camp; his father died less than 3 months before they were liberated.


Night is an amazing work of literary genius with its dynamic characters, chilling imagery, and enthralling plotline. I found it strangely easy to connect with Eliezer, despite the vast differences in our teenage lives. Eliezer lived through something so horrible that none of us can even begin to understand the experience of the physical and emotional pain this young boy bore. However, through this book, Wiesel gives us a firsthand look into the mind of a teenage boy thrust into manhood as he copes with Nazi cruelty and his loss of faith. Through this brutal coming-of-age tale, we hear more than merely the cold, unfeeling facts of the Holocaust, numbers and statistics with no meaning. Night allows the reader to appreciate what it was really like to be in a concentration camp, to understand the emotions people felt. Wiesel gives us a look at the Holocaust through the eyes of a Jew who had what it takes to survive.
Through his eyes, Wiesel tells every single feature of the camps in stark detail. From his depiction of the smoke rising from the crematorium, to the vile soup the Jews were fed, Wiesel spares nothing from his intricate descriptions. While reading the novel, it is quite easy to become lost in the elaborate imagery and forget that everything actually happened. The characters were not creations of someone’s imagination, but real live people. Upon realizing this, my entire perception of the novel was altered. It was then that I fully appreciated how real everything was. I understood that the descriptions weren’t merely imagery, but Eliezer’s actual feelings, experiences, and memories of that time. Everything seems real because it truly is.
One thing to keep in mind about Night is that it is not for everyone. This book is most definitely not The Diary of Anne Frank. Wiesel’s story is an emotional depiction of his life in the midst of Nazi oppression. He spares no details of the Kommandos’ (Nazis who ran the camps) cruelty, the countless people who were either worked and starved to death, or slaughtered and burned in the crematorium. Eliezer’s transition from a bright young boy to a hardened adult version of his former self is not pretty. In the course of one year, he loses his mother, his sister, his father, his God…and his hope. Eliezer was 15 when he was deported from his village, my age, and in one year he experienced more loss and pain than most have in their entire lives. Night is neither a factual, nonfiction novel nor a romanticized, all-ages version. This book is dreadfully graphic and horribly depressing thus why I recommend it with caution. While Night is a fantastic novel, the reader must be prepared for what they will encounter.
I must commend Elie Wiesel on his remarkable novel. Night contains everything one could ask for in a book and more. It is a nonfiction novel, however, it captivates the reader as if it were fiction. Wiesel’s use of imagery vividly depicts the hopeless aura of the concentration camps and their inmates. While the book seems small at only 90 pages, but it tells a monumental story. Night is a firsthand account of a significant event in history. Everyone learns about World War II and the Holocaust in school, but this book opens our eyes to what actually happened inside the walls of the camps. Night is not only a literary gem, but a wealth of historical knowledge as well, and I highly recommend it for all teen and adult readers.





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