Author: Elie Wiesel
Translator: Marion Wiesel
Published in 2006 by Hill and Wang (originally published in 1958)
Rating: 10/10 – a must-read for everyone
Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel’s testimony to what happened in the camps and of his unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.
I feel really weird rating and reviewing a memoir/testimony, but I feel the need to talk about Night anyway. If you’re offended by my 5-star or 10/10 rating because you feel it’s inappropriate to rate books such as this one, please know that I simply do so to provide you all with my thoughts on the book. I want everyone to read this, and the rating is a reflection of that fact.
This is Elie Wiesel’s account of his deportation and life in Auschwitz-Birkenau during WWII. It’s only 120 pages long, but it will stun and paralyze you. I’ve always known about the horrific things that happened in the concentration camps during the second World War, but reading about it from a survivor’s standpoint was difficult and harrowing.
I honestly don’t know how to convince you all to read this if you haven’t done so already, but I have to try anyway. Elie Wiesel talks about the rise of the Nazi party and the rumors they heard in his town in Hungary. Sure, they’d heard about the Germans and their campaign against the Jewish people but never truly considered it a threat. After all, it was far away from their home and had nothing to do with them, right? That attitude, the feeling that everything will be okay and surely nothing will happen to you or your family, really struck me. Isn’t that what the majority of the world is still doing today? The recent rise of fascism isn’t being taken as seriously as it should be.
Yet we were still not worried. Of course we had heard of the Fascists, but it was all in the abstract. It meant nothing more to us than a change of ministry.
Reading about Elie Wiesel’s years in Auschwitz and Birkenau nearly made my cry my eyes out. It’s hard to imagine humans doing this to one another, especially considering it was only around 70 to 80 years ago. In modern times, surely we would not let this happen? But we did. And it’s important to recognize all the little steps that led to the mass murder in concentration camps because that’s the only way we’ll be able to stop this from happening again.
I could not believe that human beings were being burned in our times; the world would never tolerate such crimes…
I immediately annotated my copy of Night, because so many of Elie Wiesel’s words hit me like a brick. I’m sharing some of the sections I highlighted with you today.
Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.
This may be because the public knows that the number of survivors is shrinking daily, and is fascinated by the idea of sharing memories that will soon be lost. For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences. […] To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
His cold eyes stared at me. At last, he said warily: “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.”
Lastly, one of the most important parts of all (at least, to me)…
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.