Eli Wiesel. Night. Hill and Wang, 1985. (120 pages)
I began reading this in commemoration of Yom HaShoah (יום השואה), Holocaust Remembrance day (April 7). It is a small endeavor to reconnect with humanity, and to personally acknowledge the solidarity due to all people in suffering and oppression.
As I searched a bit, it appears there is some controversy over Elie Wiesel’s actual identity (see here) and potential plagiarism (of this book). I searched for images of Elie Wiesel’s tattoo, and as claimed, could not find any.
So, regardless of the controversy, I found the book still compelling and moving, and reflective of the real holocaust, or at the very least, a step towards engagement with the real experience. I record them here with no opinion to the controversies listed above. And, while I also record phrases and sentiments that I felt needed highlighting, it must be said that no excerpt is sufficient in any review of a book on the topic of the Holocaust. May we continue to read the stories, in full.
For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. (xv)
…every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer … | Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks Him (5)
…eternity, into that time when question and answer would become ONE. (5)
The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion. (12)
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
In one terrifying moment of lucidity, I thought of us as damned souls wandering through the void, souls condemned to wander through space until the end of time, seeking redemption, seeking oblivion, without any hope of finding either. (36)
I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice. (45)
Behind me, I heard the same man asking: “For God’s sake, where is God?” And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where He is? This is where — hanging here from this gallows…” (65)
Where are You, my God? I thought angrily. How do You compare to this stricken mass gathered to affirm to You their faith, their anger, their defiance? What does Your grandeur mean, Master of the Universe, in the face of all this cowardice, this decay, and this misery? Why do you go on troubling these poor people’s wounded minds, their ailing bodies? (66)
Blessed be God’s name? | Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar? (67)
“It’s over. God is no longer with us.” | An as though he regretted having uttered such words so coldly, so dryly, he added in his broken voice, “I know. No one has the right to say things like that. I know that very well. Man is too insignificant, too limited, to even try to comprehend God’s mysterious ways. But what can someone like myself do? I’m neither a sage nor a just man. I am not a saint. I’m a simple creature of flesh and bone. I suffer hell in my soul and my flesh. I also have eyes and I see what is being done here. Where is God’s mercy? Where’s God? How can I believe, how can anyone believe in this God of Mercy?” (77)
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. (118)