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Elie Wiesel’s Night

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Essay title: Elie Wiesel’s Night

Elie Wiesel’s Night

Eliezer Wiesel was one of the few Jews that escaped Hitler’s evil hand during World War II. There are only a handful of novels that accurately depict the fate of those persecuted, and Night should be at the top of this list. Regarded by many as the memoir of the terror to read, teachers spanning the globe have presented this book to their students. The systematic extermination of the Jewish people all over Europe was unknown until after the war, and even then the horror could only be expressed through pictures and bits of accounts by prisoners. For over thirty years the general public was privy to few facts about the dreadfulness, until Night was published in 1982. It changed the way many people thought about the Holocaust, finally presenting a historically accurate account of the mass homicide of the Jewish people.

In Sighet, Transylvania, a fourteen-year-old boy began studying Jewish theology as World War II began. Eliezer Wiesel began his lessons against his father’s advice; his father thought that he was too young. The Jews in his small town believed that they were beyond the reach of Adolph Hitler and the Facists, but they were mistaken. After the non-Hungarians were deported and taken to a concentration camp, one of the townspeople escaped, immediately returning to Sighet to warn the residents. He described the horrific violence that he had seen, but the people refused to believe him. They thought that he just wanted attention, or perhaps insane.

Until 1943, they continued on with their lives, living normally. Even after the Fascists come to power, the townspeople remained optimistic. Germany invaded Hungary in 1944 and the German army arrived in Sighet. Elie’s father refused to take his family and attempt an escape from

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the country. The persecution of the Jews began on Passover that year. For three days they were forbidden from leaving their homes; after they were allowed they were forced to wear a yellow star on their clothes. The Jews were ushered into two ghettos, but people still lived normal lives, remaining hopeful. Summoned to a Jewish Council meeting, Elie’s father hears terrible news: all the Jews would be deported. Elie ran to awaken his neighbors and all began to pack for the journey.

His family was scheduled to leave in the last convey and they were moved into a smaller ghetto. An old family servant, Martha, offered to hide them in the country, but they refused to be separated. The remaining townspeople were herded into the synagogue; the next day the prisoners were forced to crowd into cattle wagons. The cars on the train were so packed that people had to take turns sitting down. A woman on the train begins to lose her mind, screaming about a furnace engulfed by flames in the distance. She frightens the other occupants and they try to silence by gagging and beating. After the train arrived at Aushwitz/Brikenau, the prisoners saw the flaming furnace that she had prophesized.

Elie’s family was separated, but he managed to stay close to his father. They marched past Dr. Mengele, an SS officer, who selected those that would live and those that would go to the crematorium. Elie’s group was told that they were to die, and every step was filled with dread. At the last moment, the line of men turned from the flaming chimney. While the veteran prisoners and SS guards pummeled them, they were forced to strip, run, bathe and redress. They were then marched to Auschwitz.

The prisoners were given rations-a plate of soup- and then told to sleep. For several weeks they followed a tight schedule of roll-call, sleep, and meals. They were then transferred to Buna,

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where Elie is placed in the musician’s work block, a good unit. They began to receive smaller rations, and when the air-raid siren went off, two cauldrons of soup were left out and one man, starving, died with his face in the soup. They were locked down when the sirens

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