How does one review a book which recounts the horrific details of one survivor’s life in Hitler’s concentration camps? I am afraid that it would be a terrible insult to actually attempt to review this particular book and others like it. I would like to share my initial reaction and a few of my thoughts about the book, though.
Wiesel’s story begins when he is 13 years of age. The year is 1941, and he is living in a small Jewish community called Sighet. He has a mother, a father, two older sisters and one younger sister. He recounts the closeness of the community, going to synagogue, praying daily, and his zeal to know God. I enjoyed this part of his story very much. I wanted to know more about this part of his life. However, the good feelings I had as I was reading ended as abruptly as his carefree days in Sighet. With the turn of a page, night descended on his community. So well written, I “felt” the fear in my stomach as he began to realize what was happening. But my feelings couldn’t really go any farther with him than standing on the platform waiting for the trains to come.
This story is so far removed from my comfortable existence in America. I’ve not been forced out of my home. I’ve not been ripped from my family. I’ve never had the thought that in the next few moments I will be dead. I have never been “inspected.” I’ve never run for miles and miles in the snow. I’ve never been hungry. I’ve never been whipped nor beaten. I’ve never been forced to walk past a row of my hanged countrymen. I’ve never had to dig myself out from under a pile of people. I’ve never seen suffering that made me doubt God. I’ve never endured any of the horrors Elie Wiesel was forced to endure…And this is exactly why it was beneficial for me to read a book like Night. I am an American. And it seems that we Americans are so spoiled, so obcenely wealthy, so unaffected by the rest of the world that we are in danger (once again) of refusing to believe that such horrible things happen in this world. Or worse, it seems that we don’t care.
My thoughts, as I was reading, turned to the genocide in Darfur while our most influential world leaders stand by. The Iranian president denies the Holocaust and speaks openly of destroying Israel. Where is the outrage? I see no outrage coming from those who have the power to do something to stop it or prevent it. (However, I do see some promise in the fact that Milosevic and Hussein were not allowed to continue their atrocities). Perhaps, those who desire the end of Christianity in Sudan and the deaths of Israelis and Americans will be stopped before it is too late. Wiesel writes,
“Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere….As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.”
Apart from reading The Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, I have not read any other literture pertaining to the Holocaust. I became interested in Night after reading Jane (of Much Ado) relate the impact this book had on her. She wrote, “Although this is a slim volume, the impact this book had on me, will leave a lasting impression. Like any book about the Holocaust, the issues that are dealt with are weighty, horrific and harrowing but perhaps what makes Elie Wiesel’s book stand out from the rest is that it is intensely personal, brutally honest and extremely well written.” I couldn’t agree more. Night is not easy to read (it’s downright terrifying!), but it is an important book to read.