Elie Wiesel, a strong survivor of the Holocaust, went face to face with the worst of God’s tests. His novel, Night, was published to remind future generations of this heart-breaking event, in order to prevent a catastrophe such as this one from happening again. Throughout his novel, Wiesel shares the moments that he found to be most life changing. He starts his journey with a strong belief in God and then from the challenges he faces he becomes confused in what to believe. Elie Wiesel’s experiences during the Holocaust gradually alter his faith in God; this is a result of the deaths he witnesses, the lack of mercy from the guards, and his separation from friends and family. The millions of deaths that Elie Wiesel witnesses throughout his experience in the Holocaust cause his faith to slowly fade away. In the novel, the young teenager unfortunately witnesses death and must deal with the tragic loss of the ones that he loves. One of the most devastating sights he saw was of the young children, “Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky” (Wiesel 32).
The life changing sights Elie Wiesel saw during the Holocaust will strongly remain within his memory. Wiesel’s faith was on the line and he did not know how he was going to be able to hang onto it while he was being forced to watch the bodies of young children burn to death (Wiesel 32-43). Another death that causes Wiesel to lose his faith is when he sees a young boy turn on his father for food. While traveling between the concentration camps, the prisoners were malnourished and delusional. Elie witnessed a savage young boy kill his own father for a small ration of bread, and then watched another man kill the young boy for the same ration. When Elie Wiesel beheld these tragic events he was weakened and did not know if he could still have trust in God. God did not create man to kill. However, Elie questioned whether or not God was still there for him as he witnessed man killing man (Wiesel 95-97). What should have been the most difficult death for Wiesel to face was sadly the most relieving.
The death of Elie’s father had been expected; however, when it finally happened he was sad that he was not able to weep at the thought of his father’s death. Death had become so common for Elie that even the death of his own father had no effect on him. God had allowed so many innocent human beings to be taken from this world that people began to think nothing of death. The thought of this made Elie question God’s existence in his life (Wiesel 99-106). Not only do the deaths that Elie Wiesel witness cause his faith to alter but also the lack of mercy the guards have for the prisoners. The lack of sympathy the guards have for the prisoners causes Elie Wiesel’s faith to gradually fade away. While the prisoners were at the concentration camps, they were brutally abused and treated like animals by the officials in charge. The beating of Elie’s father has a dramatic effect on his emotions and beliefs, “What happened to me? My father had just been struck, before my very eyes, and I had not flickered an eyelid” (Wiesel 37).
Elie’s faith began to slip when he started to realize that God is allowing these horrible men to put his father through such great pain for such a harmless act (Wiesel 37-43). Another abusive moment that Wiesel remembers is when he is beaten for catching Idek having an affair with a female prisoner. Idek, Elie’s Kapo, had forced the prisoners in the camp to evacuate in order for him to be alone with this woman; however, as Elie is wondering around, he finds Idek and the woman together, so Elie is beat by Idek until he loses consciousness as punishment for sneaking around. This moment causes Wiesel to lose his faith because of the pain he went through as a result of Idek’s selfish actions of evacuating the camp for his own pleasures (Wiesel 54). Franek, a guard, beating Elie Wiesel’s father is another example of when the guards are abusive towards the prisoners.
Franek wanted Elie’s golden crown; however, Elie would not give it up and in return Franek starts to blackmail Elie by beating his father for not marching in step. The guards’ willingness to beat a weak old man for a small amount of gold proves that the guards are selfish and merciless against the prisoners. These traits that the guards possess cause Elie to lose his faith in the absence of Divine Intervention. Elie’s life has been scarred by a civil war of abuse and death between two sides of mankind (Wiesel 53-54). Not only do the cruel forces the guards use on the prisoners cause Elie Wiesel’s faith to alter but also the suffering he faces from the loss of his family. The result of Wiesel dealing with the loss of his family and friends causes his faith to gradually alter. Once Elie and his family arrive at Auschwitz they were immediately separated, “Yet that was the moment when I parted from my mother. I had not had time to think, but already I felt the pressure on my father’s hand: we were alone” (Wiesel 27).
At this point in the novel Elie does not know what to expect from the concentration camps, but he believes that the outcome will not be good. When Elie realizes that things are not going to be alright he is showing that he does not have trust in God that He will make sure everything will go as He planned. Another loss of friends and family that Elie faces is the death of Juliek. Juliek was a young boy who played a beautiful violin piece to the dead. The young boy was the only person who attempted to bring a sense of happiness to the people who have given up in their journey through the Holocaust. Juliek gave the suffering hope and comfort by playing his violin. Elie felt that when Juliek was killed all hope was taken with him and that Juliek’s music kept him alive for just a little bit longer.
One of the most influential losses Elie suffered was the loss of a pipel, “‘Long live liberty!’ cried the two adults. But the child was silent. ‘Where is God? Where is he?’ someone behind me asked” (Wiesel 61). A child being put to death by being hanged is a heart-breaking sight, forcing Elie to believe that God is no longer protecting him and the rest of the individuals in the concentration camp. Elie’s faith was being tested and Elie was confused as to why God would let something so cruel come about his world. The deaths he witnesses, the lack of mercy from the guards, and his separation from friends and family cause Elie Wiesel’s faith in God to gradually alter. Every death that Wiesel suffers causes him to feel depressed and scared.
The guards treat their prisoners with no respect and cause them to go through great stress and pain. When Elie Wiesel loses one of his friends or a member of his family he finds that he is becoming more and more alone. Each of these horrifying events leads to Elie Wiesel falling toward a belief that God can no longer help him or anyone else in the concentration camp. The tragic memories from the Holocaust will forever be kept in the mind of Elie Wiesel. Even though he may have been afraid and confused in the mysterious ways of God’s actions, future generations may see his loss of faith in God as an opportunity to pray for those who died in the Holocaust and find Elie Wiesel’s missing faith in themselves.
Courtney from Study Moose
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