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Feb. 1, 2023, 4:37 a.m. by Karuwaki Speaks ( 134 views)

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Book Review:-

( Translated from French by Marion Wiesel, Published by Penguin, 120 pgs)

Some dates remain perpetually etched in our brains and consciousness. We don’t forget them. These can be personal highlights/milestones like birthdays of family and friends, various anniversaries,  one’s first job and salary, retirement, etc. Or it can be days of national importance like Jan 26th, August 15th, and October 2nd for us Indians.

For me, among a plethora of such dates, Jan 27th remains branded on my heart. It was on this day in 1945 that the Auschwitz camp, which was a major site of the Nazis' final solution to the Jewish question was liberated. Since 2005, this date is solemnly remembered and named by the UN as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, or the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one-third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities between 1933 and 1945 by Nazi Germany.

 The horrific and systematic killing of six million Jews, two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population, and millions of others by the Nazi regime and its collaborators are one of the darkest periods of human history.

At a very young age, I read my elder sister’s copy of ‘Mila 18’ by Leon Uris. A brilliant book on the Warsaw uprising, it sparked a deep and abiding interest in the Holocaust. The word ‘holocaust’ comes from ancient Greek and means ‘burnt offering’. Even before the Second World War, the word was sometimes used to describe the death of a large group of people, but since 1945, it has become almost synonymous with the murder of European Jews during the Second World War. Jews also refer to it with the word ‘Shoah’, which is Hebrew for 'catastrophe'.

Fascinated, in a very numbing and heartbroken way, I went on to read many other books on it and watched many movies that gave me various insights into the holocaust. The novel that is being reviewed is widely considered to be one of the greatest pieces of Holocaust fiction. Eliezer Wiesel, a Romanian-born US author ( Sept. 30, 1928, - July 2, 2016), belongs to and lives in a small Hasidic community in Sighet, Romania.  In 1944, Wiesel and his family were deported to Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald. For the better part of  1945, Wiesel would witness unthinkable, barbaric acts repeatedly: his mother and baby sister were taken away to the gas chambers, children burned in the crematoriums, and a young boy hanged while the entire camp was forced to watch. He would watch his father weaken during their forced labor, a death march through the snow, a bout of dysentery, and a beating by SS officers. Eventually, his father was taken to the crematorium. Three months later, the Allies liberated Wiesel’s camp

‘NIGHT’ is all about the above journey by a teenage boy, Eliezer Wiesel. The main idea of the novel involves Eliezer pondering God's existence and nature in the face of the untold brutality of the Holocaust. The night is used throughout the book to symbolize death, the darkness of the soul, and the loss of faith. As an image, it comes up repeatedly. God's first act is to create light and dispel this darkness. Darkness and night, therefore, symbolize a world without God's presence. In Night, Wiesel exploits this allusion. Night always occurs when suffering is worst, and its presence reflects Eliezer's belief that he lives in a world without God. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed...Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”


 The novel opens with the main character, Eliezer, living in Sighet, a town in Hungarian Transylvania. Being Jewish, he spends his time studying the Torah. That is, until his teacher, Moishe the Beadle, disappears. He returns several months later, acting in a way that the villagers deem insane. He’s ranting about the Gestapo, the German secret police, who murdered men, women, and children after leading them into the woods. Everyone thinks he’s lost his mind. Soon, unfortunately, Moishe’s tale becomes more real. The Jews in Eliezer’s town are forced into ghettos in Sighet and then later into cattle cars that take them to the Birkenau, known as the gateway to Auschwitz.  Suffocatingly packed together in the cars. they have no idea what’s happening to them. By the time they arrive, they’re terrified and starving. Eliezer and his father are separated from the rest of the family when they get to Birkenau. He never sees his mother and sister again. This is the first selection that determines whether they’re going to be put to work or immediately killed. One of the most horrific sights that Eliezer describes is Nazis burning the bodies of babies in a pit. Everyone who was on the train, except for those who have singled out to go straight to the crematorium, is stripped. Their possessions are taken from them, and their heads are shaved, and numbers tattooed on their forearm. From now on, they are only a number… making them lose their identity. They march to Auschwitz and then to Buna, a work camp. There, Eliezer works in an electrical factory. The selections continue to occur, and the Nazis continue to be brutal through the slave-labor conditions that they force the Jews to work in. They’re often subject to beatings and humiliation. At one point, Eliezer’s gold tooth is pried out of his mouth with a spoon. There are also executions of supposed rebels, including a young child. Throughout this portion of the novel, the various characters express a loss of faith in God, and there is a repetition of the theme of sons harming or abandoning their fathers. In a particularly scary moment, Elie’s father is culled from the group and selected for execution. But, he passes a second medical exam and is allowed to stay alive. Eliezer eventually has to undergo surgery for his foot, and it is at this time that the Nazis abandon the camp due to the advancing Russian army. The prisoners are forced to walk more than fifty miles through the snow… the death march during which numerous die. After reaching another camp called Gleiwitz, the prisoners are put back on cattle cars once more and start a journey to Buchenwald. There, the very few remaining Jews, twelve out of one hundred in their car, are taken into the camp. There, Eliezer survives, but his father dies of physical abuse and dysentery. He describes falling into a delirious sleep for a period of time. Waking up on January 29, 1945, he finds his father’s body gone. Elie expresses a concern that his father was taken to the crematorium while he was still alive. Eliezer escapes from the camp when it is liberated by the Red Army in April of 1945. When Eliezer looks at himself in the mirror, he sees the reflection of a corpse.


The New York Times calls this “ A slim book of terrifying power”. The un-sentimental and bare words make the imagery and message of the book unrelentingly hard-hitting. The reader, like the protagonist, will keep questioning him/herself as to how could such atrocities take place? It was the 20th century, not the Middle Ages! How could the world remain silent? Thus, Wiesel says  ‘ and that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. We must take sides”

Rated: 5 *  A very important book that should stay with us and remind us constantly that WE SHOULD TAKE SIDES.

Wiesel at Buchenwald. He's in the second row, seventh to the left.

NB: Surviving the concentration camp and its brutality, Wiesel‘s books ( he wrote  57 books), illuminated the terrors of the concentration camps so that others would understand what he and other prisoners experienced. The Nobel Peace Prize 1986 was awarded to Elie Wiesel "for being a messenger to mankind: his message is one of peace, atonement and dignity’’

Book Review by SunheriSufi

Comments (6)

AnonymousUser 1 month, 3 weeks ago
Auschwitz horrors....we should never forget!
AnonymousUser 1 month, 3 weeks ago
Those in power tend to behave savage ! Human history is full of sh*t ! The book review generated curiosity to read more . A nice piece of penmanship!
AnonymousUser 1 month, 3 weeks ago
genocide of European Jews during World War II.Lest we forget!
AnonymousUser 1 month, 3 weeks ago
Interesting article!
AnonymousUser 1 month, 3 weeks ago
True!One should never stay silent against atrocities.
AnonymousUser 3 weeks, 2 days ago
Nice article.