Holocause Literature Essay, Research Paper
Many of the survivors of the Holocaust went to writing literature as a way of telling what it was really like. Survivors used this way because it is extremely difficult to explain what happened by talking, so they use literature. Out of all of the Holocaust authors, Elie Wiesel is quite possibly the most well known Holocaust author of all time. Elie Wiesel, being a survivor of the Holocaust, uses his literature to tell his stories about what he went through. Elie Wiesel has written many novels on the Holocaust. Throughout his works he has used many of the same themes. In the novels Night, Dawn, and A Beggar in Jerusalem the same themes or ideas are repeated many times.
In the novel Night, the idea of loss of faith is used many times. Elie Wiesel used this theme because during the Holocaust, many of the victims lost faith in God. Confronting the Holocaust states, One of the contradictory ideas in Wiesel s Night is: there is no God, I hate him. After Auschwitz God s presence is most strongly felt through his absence. (57) The victims had every right to believe that God was absent at this time. Many times in Night the characters would just flat out say how they did not believe in God anymore. And in spite of myself, a prayer rose in my heart, to that God in whom I no longer believed. Wiesel used this example over and over in Night to emphasize how almost all Holocaust victims lost faith in their God. Behind me, I heard the same man asking: Where is God now? And I heard a voice within me answer him Where is He? He is- he is hanging here on this gallows. This shows how characters in the novel feel that their God has died right before them. Night had the most loss of faith because the novel takes place right in the heart of the Holocaust, so it is easy to see why Wiesel used loss of faith in this novel.
The idea of loss of faith also played a role in the novel Dawn. Dawn, being the follow-up to Night, also had a lot to do with faith in God. It was not just loss of faith in this novel but faith in God. Confronting the Holocaust stated, The voice defending the position that a humanist position solves nothing in Dawn is a vigorous one. The voice of God proclaims a harsh morality. (41) So Dawn was not necessarily just about loss of faith, but showing how God gave them a tough time. There are a few times in Dawn, that the characters lost their faith in God. Death loves to change the color of people s hair. Death has no hair; it has only eyes. God, on the other had has no eyes at all. The characters felt that God was not watching over them when this was going on. But as time went on in this novel the characters began to regain their faith in God. We were the first-or the last-men of creation; certainly we were alone. And God? He was present, somewhere. Perhaps He was incarnate in the liking with which John Dawson inspired me. The lack of hate between executioner and victim, perhaps this is God. In the end Dawn ended up being a little different than Night, because they regained their faith in God.
The idea of God played a different role in A Beggar in Jerusalem. Since this novel does not take place in the time of the heart, Auschwitz, this does not necessarily use the loss of faith theme. In Confronting the Holocaust, it says, At the very end of A Beggar In Jerusalem, Wiesel alludes to the famous photograph, collected as a souvenir by a German officer of a father and his son, in the middle of a human herd, moving toward the ditch where, a moment later, they will be shot. The father, his left hand on the boy s shoulder speaks to him gently with his right hand and points to the sky. This line is difficult to interpret. It seems as if the boy is pointing towards God right before he is going to die. In this novel there is not as much loss of faith in God. There are many times when the characters keep their faith in God. What you should fear is to inflict evil, to cause death. To die for God and His commandments is nothing: our ancestors, the saints and the martyrs, did just that. But to kill for God, to cause blood to flow in His name, is serious and difficult. (138) The characters kept their faith in God in this situation. They did not fear dying for God. In Elie Wiesel:Witness for Life it is stated that Hope cannot be located in God, at least not simply, for the double reason that God is question more than the answer. (74) It can be seen how Wiesel uses the idea of God and loss of faith differently in A Beggar in Jerusalem.
Another theme that Wiesel uses in his writings was love. A theme that is used because love and relationships played a huge role during the time of the Holocaust. Whether it was relationships surviving during the Holocaust or relationships ending during the Holocaust. In Night there is relationships surviving and relationships ending. One example of a relationship that ends is when; His son searched him, took the bread, and began to devour it. (96) The son had obviously lost the love for his father. As soon as his father dies, the only thing that he can do is take the food that he has left over on his dead body. While there are relationships ending in Night, there are also relationships that survive. For three years they had stuck together. Always near each other, for suffering, for blows, for the ration of bread, for prayer. Three years from camp to camp, from selection to selection. (86) Another example of a relationship staying together: The baton moved to the left. I took a half step forward. I wanted to see first where they were sending my father. If he went to the right, I would go after him. The baton once again pointed to the left for him too. A weight was lifted from my heart. (29) This shows that there were both relationships ending and relationships staying together during the time of the Holocaust.
Love and relationship played a role in Dawn also. One example of a relationship was a relationship between a man and a woman. First Catherine, I must tell you… No, no, no, she replied Don t tell me. Be quiet. Take me quickly, but don t talk. What I have to tell you is this, I insisted You ve won the game. I love you, Catherine…I love you. (53) Even though it was the time of the Holocaust, a young man still is able to love a girl. Another example is when one of the characters waits for a return. Good luck , said Gad as he shook hands with us before we went away. I ll wait here for your return. (28) A man has a relationship with these people, and he will be waiting for them when they return. There were times that people lost friends and they would be extremely saddened. I understood his bitterness; indeed I envied it. He was losing a friend, and it hurt. But when you lose a friend every day it doesn t hurt so much. And I d lost plenty of friends in my time; sometimes I thought of myself as a living graveyard. (32) There were many times that this character and lost a relationship in his lifetime. All throughout this book relationships helped people get through the tough times that they faced because of the Holocaust.
In A Beggar in Jerusalem, love played a big role also. Not only did the characters love; they also needed more love. In Confronting the Holocaust it states, In A Beggar in Jerusalem the waiting for love never ends. Love needs to provide a solution by embodying the best possible in the past and by bringing it to life by caring for the living. (69) The characters of this novel are going through a tough time and what they need is love to help them get through this tough time. To love-does not the very verb imply n exclusion of the outside world with its living and dead? But if one says no to love, is one not also guilty of the same denial? There lies the trap: the yes and the no carry the same weight, open or shut the same gates to the same redemption. (142) This is how one of the characters in A Beggar in Jerusalem feels about love. The same man says, I once knew a woman, I loved her and I saw her die. (147) This is how the novel A Beggar In Jerusalem uses the theme of love and relationships.
Another major theme that Wiesel uses in his literature is darkness. Darkness represents evil and hatred, two things that are directly linked with the Holocaust. Night can be easily related with this theme because with night comes darkness. Basically all of the evil was related with darkness. One example of this is, Never shall I forget that night, the first night in the camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. (32) The evil of the darkness is what this character remembers. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments, which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. (32) Most of the death and killing took place in the dark in Night. We looked at the flames in the darkness. There was an abominable odor floating in the air. (25) This relates to the Jews that were being burned in the crematoriums. This is how darkness is used in Night.
Dawn also uses darkness to represent evil. All throughout this book the nighttime and darkness are used to represent evil. But one of the characters in the book thought otherwise. You mustn t be afraid of the dark, Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and loving and dreaming. At night everything is more intense, more true. The echo of words that have been spoken during the day takes on a new and deeper meaning. (4) This character thought the complete opposite of nighttime. Instead of evil, this character thought of it as a time of thinking and loving. But the opinion on the night changes. The city was like a ghost ship, noiselessly swallowed up by the darkness. I looked out the window, where a shadowy face was taking shape out of the deep of the night. (5) This makes the mood of the story change to evil because of the darkness. The evil in this story also took place in the dark. The execution was to take place, as executions always do, at dawn. (5) The execution taking place and dawn represents the killing taking place as soon as the sun is starting to come up; right at the end of the nighttime. This execution, like many other evil atrocities, all took place at this time in this novel.
A Beggar in Jerusalem also uses the theme of darkness, and evil being related to darkness. You ll meet them soon. Right now? It is still too early. Nightfall will bring them. Then you will find them crouching in a semicircle, on the bare ground, not far from the Wall whose shadow is the shadow of men seeking refuge in its night. (6) This reference to night says that certain people only will be seen at night because it is the time of evil. When Wiesel describes Jerusalem he says, Jerusalem: the face visible yet hidden, the sap and the blood of all that makes us live or renounce life. The spark flashing in the darkness, the murmur rustling through shouts of happiness and joy. (11) Wiesel relates the evil that is going on in Jerusalem to the darkness. This is all how Wiesel uses darkness and evil in A Beggar in Jerusalem.
In the three novels Night, Dawn, A Beggar in Jerusalem many of the same themes are repeated. The main ones stated before are God and loss of faith, love and relationship, and darkness and evil. Throughout many of Wiesel s works theses themes were used. Wiesel used his literature to tell his stories about what he went through during the Holocaust. This is how many of the Holocaust survivors told their stories about surviving the Holocaust.