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Elie Wiesel’s Night is about what the Holocaust did, not just to the Jews, but also by extension, to humanity. People all over the world were devastated by this atrocious act, and there are still people today who have not overcome the effects. One example of the heinous acts of the Germans that stands out occurs at the end of the war, when Wiesel and the rest of the camp of Buna are being forced to transfer to Gleiwitz. This transfer is a long, arduous, and tiring journey for all who are involved.
The weather is painfully cold, and snow fell heavily; the distance was greater than most people today will even dream of walking. The huge mass of people is often forced to run, and if one collapses, is injured, or simply can no longer bear the pain, they are shot or trampled without pity. An image that secures itself in Wiesel’s memory is that of the Rabbi Eliahou’s son leaving the Rabbi for dead.
The father and son are running together when the father begins to grow tired. As the Rabbi falls farther and farther behind his son, his son runs on, pretending not to see what is happening to his father. This spectacle causes Wiesel to think of what he would do if his father ever became as weak as the Rabbi did. He decides that he would never leave his father, even if staying with him would be the cause of his death.
The German forces are so adept at breaking the spirits of the Jews that we can see the effects throughout Wiesel’s novel.
Wiesel’s faith in God, above all other things, is strong at the onset of the novel, but grows weaker as it goes on. We see this when Wiesel’s father politely asks the gypsy where the lavoratories are. Not only does the gypsy not grace his father with a response, but he also delivers a blow to his head that sent him to the floor. Wiesel watches the entire exhibition, but does not even blink. He realizes that nothing, not even his faith in God, can save him from the physical punishment that would await him if he tried to counterattack the gypsy. If the gypsy’s attack had come just one day earlier, Wiesel probably would have struck back. However, the spiritual beating by the Germans had already begun. The incident that perhaps has the greatest effect on Wiesel is the hanging of the pipel. He is a young boy with an “innocent face” who is condemned to death because he is involved in a conspiracy that results in the destruction of a German building.
When the time for the hanging approaches, the Lagerkapo refuses to kick out the chair, so SS officers are assigned to do it. Unlike the necks of those he is hanged with, the young boy’s neck does not break when he falls, and he suffers for over half an hour. The suffering of the child is comparable to the suffering endured by many Jews during the Holocaust. He fought for his life, at times even seeing a bit of hope, only to be destroyed in the end. The Jews struggled for everything they had, from their possessions at the beginning, to their lives at the end. The result, however, was the same. At the end of the war, Wiesel looks into the mirror, and says he saw a “corpse.” This “corpse” is Wiesel’s body, but it has been robbed of its soul. This is similar to the loss suffered by people all over the world. Those not directly killed during the Holocaust were still alive physically, but their mind and spirit had long been dead. By the end of the war, Wiesel loses all of his faith in God and his fellow man, and this is the most difficult obstacle to overcome when he is released.
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