Night by Elie Wiesel is an account of the events that occurred during the holocaust. Wiesel recounts his personal interaction with these events through Eliezer the narrator in the book. Eliezer becomes the character representing Wiesel though with slight differences in the actual events. Night narrates the situation that faced Hungarian Jews who had not been affected by Hitler’s “final solution” to annihilate all Jews not until 1944 when Nazis sought to commit atrocities against them. The Nazis worked with much efficiency because of the pressure that was being mounted on them by the allied forces. 560,000 Jews from Hungary were killed and only an estimated 50 families out of 15,000 Jews from Sighet, Wiesel’s home town survived before the Nazis were defeated in 1945. Night revolves predominantly around Eliezer and his father with mentions of his mother and young sister and other Jews caught up in the Holocaust (SparkNotes Editors, n.Pag). Eliezer survives the concentration camps but because of the atrocities committed he begins to question his faith in God.
Eliezer is a young boy who is a strict follower of Jewish traditions. He is very interested in Jewish teachings and laws and this is expressed through his personal studies of the Talmud (Jewish Law). This goes further as he also studies the Cabbala which is not a normal occurrence for a young boy (SparkNotes Editors, n.Pag). This shows that Eliezer as an individual was much interested about religion and focused his faith in God but the events that followed sought to change his realities and eventually led him to a struggle with his religion and belief in God. It was until the Nazis took over Hungary that the situation began to change drastically. Punitive laws against Jews were implemented their families were concentrated in ghettos and eventually deported to concentration camps in Auschwitz.
It was on arrival to Auschwitz that Eliezer’s conflict with his faith manifested. This is after he encountered the burning of babies and adults considered not fit for work in furnaces by the Nazis. During this time Jews performed the prayer for the dead which involved giving thanks to God. Eliezer was unable to comprehend the situation and instead questioned why he should be thankful or why he should bless God’s name. This signifies the beginning of his waning faith in God. The Jews had to pass selection as required by the Nazis to determine if an individual is fit for work. Eliezer and his father passed the first selection but his mother and sister are condemned to the furnace. This forces Eliezer’s display of his waning faith in God as exemplified in the following passage quote:
“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. Never.” (Wiesel, 34).
Eliezer believed that the furnace and the burning of children and adults destroyed his belief in God.
“Some of the men spoke of God: His mysterious ways, the sins of the Jewish people, and the redemption to come. As for me, I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.” (Wiesel, 45)
This signifies the continued detachment of Eliezer from his previous beliefs and the struggle with his faith in a just God. This signified God’s failure in delivering justice to the innocent.
Eliezer’s faith took another blow when a young boy was hanged. The conditions for his sentence were unreasonable and the fact that everyone liked him in the camp did not make matters any better. The young boy died a slow and painful death and this led to Eliezer to completely lose faith in God as exemplified by his statement:
“Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“For God’s sake, where is God?”
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
“Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows …” (Wiesel, 65).
In conclusion, Eliezer understanding of God and his faith in him changes considerably and this is directly supported by the events that occurred. Eliezer believed that God is just but failed to deliver justice and end their misery at the hands of the Nazis. He is forced to struggle with his faith and although he still believes God is present at first his view changes after the young boy is hanged because he states that God died at the same gallows with the boy on that day.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Night.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 11 Jun. 2014.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. Print.