Jack Werber, a Holocaust survivor and author, stated, “Escape was not our goal since it was so unrealistic. What we wanted was to survive, to live long enough to tell the world what happened.” The idea of survival in concentration camps during the Holocaust is prolific in Elie Wiesel’s personal narrative, Night.
The novel focuses on Elie Wiesel’s memories of his family being seperated and the struggles he and his father faced as they were taken to concentration camps. Wiesel believes that survivors are obligated to share their experiences with the world and future generations in order to prevent the same horrors from happening again. In Night, Wiesel discusses Eliezer’s struggle to survive, the victimization of Jews, and the value of having faith.
Despite all the suffering and torture that Eliezer endured during his time in concentration camps, he is one of the few survivors of the Holocaust. Eliezer says, “We were stronger than cold and hunger, stronger than the desire to die.” If he is able to survive beatings, injuries, death marches, and multiple selections, he believes he will only come out the other side stronger than before. Eliezer’s survival is largely due to the company of his father in the camps. I wonder that if
Eliezer and his father had been separated, would his father have survived for as long as he did? Would Eliezer have survived at all without his father’s presence? At the start of the new year, Eliezer states, “I looked up at my father’s face, trying to glimpse a smile or something like it on his stricken face. But there was nothing.” Long syntax followed by short syntax exhibits the importance that Eliezer’s father was emotionless. It tells that his father is feeling defeated and that he is tired of fighting to survive. Eliezer and his father are there for each other throughout the novel and work to motivate one another to keep fighting to survive.
I like that through their ordeal they protect and look out for one another, even when they should be more focused on themselves and their own survival. Later, when Eliezer feels he has reached the point of exhaustion and feels he cannot run any longer, he thinks of his father. Eliezer says, “My father’s presence was the only thing that stopped me.” He sees that his father is fighting just as hard as he is to stay alive at this point and will not allow himself to give up and let himself die. I believe that the bond between father and son was imperative to the survival of both men because they relied heavily on each other for support in the face of mental and physical exhaustion.
Although Eliezer survived his ordeal, he is still considered to be a victim of the Holocaust. Eliezer’s experiences changed him, similarly to the way the events of the Holocaust fundamentally changed mankind. I wonder, at what point did Wiesel’s own experiences change his view of the world and make him realize that everyone must know what happened in the camps? Eliezer says, “ Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night.” Repetition of the words, “never shall i forget,” is used to show the enormous effect that the camps had on Eliezer.
Even on the first night, Eliezer realizes that he will never be able to unsee what he has witnessed. I think that it is unreal how one night in a concentration camp has the power to change someone’s entire view of the world.
Eliezer describes seeing, “children thrown into the flames,” when he first arrives at the camp and his father tells him, “The world is not interested in us.” I believe that Eliezer first seeing how Jews were being dehumanized by their German prosecutors represents when Wiesel realized that he had the responsibility of making sure that a horror of this magnitude would never occur again. Any remaining innocence Eliezer had before arriving at the camps was quickly taken from him and the experience forever changed his life and his faith.
Throughout the novel, Eliezer struggles with his devotion to religion and his faith in God. Eliezer’s arrival at the concentration camp marks the first time he questions God and His silence. Eliezer later claims, “I had ceased to pray,” and, “I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.” He is upset that God has allowed for so much suffering when the Jews have done nothing wrong and wants Him to make things right.
I am surprised that during the hardest time in Eliezer’s life, instead of turning to his faith for guidance, he instead questions it. Eliezer shows he has lost his faith completely when he says, “Man is stronger, greater than God.” He believes that God can do nothing to help the Jews and they are all on their own in the camps. I believe that Eliezer needs someone to blame and get angry at for all that has happened in Europe and God becomes his scapegoat. Eliezer lost his faith after having witnessed the horrors of the concentration camps and believed that God was no longer there for him.