Night Jewish Tradition Essay, Research Paper
There is a Jewish tradition, honored by the survivors of the Holocaust, to respect the memory of the dead by letting them rest in silence. However, to not talk about the sickening events of the Holocaust is disrespectful to the millions of Jewish people who fell victim to the Nazi camps. As a bearing witness to the Holocaust, Weisel gives his testimony about the crimes he has seen. These statements will bring remembrance for those who died and expose the perpetrators. Perhaps most importantly, it preserves for future generations the memory of what happened, so that it will never happen again. Night did not analyze the whole aspect of the Holocaust, but instead it focused on the experiences of a single victim, Eliezer. Weisel is not a character in the story; instead a boy named Eliezer who represents Weisel narrates the story. By doing so, Weisel was able to distance himself from the actual experience and look in on the story from the outside. Night revolves around Eliezer’s emotional journey from a Orthodox Jewish boy to a corpselike boy who questions the existence of God and the humanity of man.
One question that the Jewish people constantly ask themselves is whether or not they could of escaped the Holocaust had they acted more wisely. In Night, there were many times when the Jews of Sighet had a glimpse of what was in store for them, but chose not to believe it. The Jews are unable to imagine the horrors in the concentration camps due to typical human inability to realize the cruelty of which men are capable.
Even when they arrived at Auschwitz, they continued to believe that it was just a work camp. Until the Jews experience the horrors of Auschwitz, they could not believe the cruelty of men. Therefore, it was very difficult to convince other of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis.
From the start of the story, Elieser was a sincere Jew who studied Jewish tradition faithfully and believed faithfully in God. Even as the Jews were being deported, they expressed their faith in God to save them from the Nazis. To understand the Holocaust through the eyes of Eliezer, one must follow his path of lost faith in God. At Auschwitz, when he first spotted the furnace pits in which the babies burned, he began to doubt God. Eliezer asked himself, “Why should I bless His name? What had I to thank him for?” Eliezer at this point felt that God betrayed him because God was not there to stop the horrible events. With the lasting impact of that night, Eliezer went on to state, “Never shall I forget that night…which has turned my life into one long night…Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever…that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget this moments which murdered my God…Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself.” That night was the turning point of Eliezer’s faith in God. Eliezer told a story where two prisoners were suspected of being involved with a resistance along with a young boy, who was a servant of a resistance member. As the prisoners watched the child strangle on the end of the noose, they began to tear. One man even starts to wonder how God could be present in a world with such cruelty. This was a symbolic enactment of the murder of God. “Where is He? Eliezer asks, “He is hanging
here on this gallows.” In the mind of Eliezer, God does not exist in a world where an innocent child can be hanged on the gallows. Being a witness to the hanging of the child, Eliezer’s faith had fallen to the lowest point. God had been murdered on the gallows alongside the child. At the end of the summer in 1944 brings the Jewish Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On these special days, Eliezer felt his lost of faith intensify. He could not find any reason to bless God when there was so much suffering. He started to believe that the Jews were not the chosen people, but were the chosen people to be massacred. This denial of faith caused Eliezer to feel alone and on Yom Kippur, when Jews fast, Eliezer ate. In Eliezer’s mind, man has taken the role as God; he determines who lives and who dies. All the prisoners go through Dr. Mengele, Nazi Physician, and he determines who dies, not God. Eliezer has decided that praying for God is foolish because God is not present in the concentration camps. Even a fellow inmate stated, “I’ve got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He’s the only one who’s kept his promises…” Hitler has taken the place of God, where Hitler has the ultimate power.
Even though, Eliezer has rejected his faith in God forever, he still refers to God’s exsistence when he vows never to forget the Holocaust “…even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself.” Although it may seem that Eliezer is rejecting God, he still cannot get God off his mind. Even though, Night ends with Eliezer being faithless and without hope for himself or for humanity, it is Eliezer’s later belief that there are reasons to believe in God and the in man’s goodness. The fact that he wrote Night shows that Eliezer believes in importance of human life and his own life. Night ‘s existence proves that Eliezer still had some hopefulness after the Holocaust.
Another important theme in Night was if people are exposed to inhuman cruelty, they themselves actually lose a sense of humanity and morality. Through the Nazi treatment of the Jews as less than human, caused the Jews to actually act less than human. An example of this kind of behavior was when some of the deportees, in the cattle car, started to have sex publicly. When you rob people of their homes and treat them like animals, they begin to act like animals. Some of them even beat Madame Schachter in order to quiet her, while others supported the beating. Not only does God fail to save the Jews, the Jews themselves fail to act human. Their acts were all the affects of being treated inhumanly by the Nazis. Eliezer also starts to lose his sense of morals and values, along with his faith. Survival had become Eliezer’s main goal, in a world in which survival is unlikely. He lives only to feed himself. There was a time when Idek beat his father; Eliezer felt no pain or pity. Instead, he was furious at his father for not being able to avoid Idek’s anger. Eliezer also noted that he had seen a 13-year-old boy beat his own father for making his bed improperly. This showed that even the relationship between parent and child grows weak under Nazi tyranny. Other examples of this relationship becoming weaker was when Rabbi Eliahou’s son abandoned him during the evacuation from Buna and when a son beat his own father to death for a crust of bread on the cattle car. These incidents show how inhuman people can get when they are mistreated for too long.
One purpose of Night was to prevent the Holocaust from ever reoccurring. While another purpose was to preserve the memories and traditions of the victims. The last
reason why Night was written was to lessen the guilt he felt over his father’s death. On January 29, 1945, Eliezer woke up to the realization that his father was taken to the crematory. Shamefully he did not cry. Instead, he was relieved. There were times when Eliezer actually thought of abandoning his father, to conserve his strength. When his father was sick, Eliezer brought soup and coffee to him. Although apart of him wanted to keep the food for himself. It was this guilt that drove him to record the events of the Holocaust. He must honor his father’s memory and repay his sacrifice.
Eliezer had been a victim to an atrocious evil. He had lost his faith in God and his faith in man. After seeing what Eliezer saw without hope and faith, he would have been better off dead. His survival was a stroke of luck. At the end, Eliezer looked at himself in the mirror and saw a corpse. While looking at the mirror, he stated, “The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.” Eliezer thought of himself as another person after the Holocaust. He felt that he had changed from an innocent boy to the lifeless corpse he saw in the mirror. However, when he looked back he realized that he was no longer that corpse who was liberated from Buchenwald. He will forever remember the look of the corpse’s eyes, but he will keep himself separate from that corpse. Only by remembering can the survivors of the Holocaust ensure that this horrible event will never happen again. Night ended with the questions about God and man’s capacity of evil, but with no answers. The responsibility is left to the reader.