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Night (Wiesel)

Night
Eli Wiesel, 1958
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
120 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780374500016


Summary
Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.

Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be

Author Bio: Elie Wiesel is the internationally celebrated author, Nobel laureate, and spokesperson for humanity whose decision to dedicate his life to bearing witness for the Holocaust's martyrs and survivors found its earliest and most enduring voice in Night, his penetrating and profound account of the Nazi death camps. Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, he was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel's memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio 
Birth—September 30, 1928
Where—Sighet, Romania
Education—La Sorbonne
Awards—Congressional Gold Medal of Achievement, 1985;
   Nobel Peace Prize, 1986; Ellis Island Medal of Honor, 1992
Currently—lives in New York, New York


Elie Wiesel, the author of some forty books, is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University.  Mr. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky." Since the publication of this passage in Night, Elie Wiesel has devoted his life to ensuring that the world never forgets the horrors of the Holocaust, and to fostering the hope that they never happen again.

More
Wiesel was 15 years old when the Nazis invaded his hometown of Sighet, Romania. He and his family were taken to Auschwitz, where his mother and the youngest of his three sisters died. He and his father were later transported to Buchenwald, where his father died shortly before Allied forces liberated the camp in 1945. After the war, Wiesel attended the Sorbonne in Paris and worked for a while as a journalist. He met the Nobel Prize-winning writer Francois Mauriac, who helped persuade Wiesel to break his private vow never to speak of his experiences in the death camps.

During a long recuperation from a car accident in New York City in 1956, Wiesel decided to make his home in the United States. His memoir Night, which appeared two years later (compressed from an earlier, longer work, And the World Remained Silent), was initially met with skepticism. "The Holocaust was not something people wanted to know about in those days," Wiesel later said in a Time magazine interview.

But eventually the book drew recognition and readers. "A slim volume of terrifying power" (New York Times), Night remains one of the most widely read works on the Holocaust. It was followed by over 40 more books, including novels, essay collections and plays. Wiesel's writings often explore the paradoxes raised by his memories: he finds it impossible to speak about the Holocaust, yet impossible to remain silent; impossible to believe in God, yet impossible not to believe.

Wiesel has also worked to bring attention to the plight of oppressed people around the world. "When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant," he said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. "Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must —at that moment—become the center of the universe."

Though lauded by many as a crusader for justice, Wiesel has also been criticized for his part in what some see as the commercialization of the Holocaust. In his 2000 memoir And the Sea Is Never Full, Wiesel shares some of his own qualms about fame and politics, but reiterates what he sees as his duty as a survivor and witness.

''The one among us who would survive would testify for all of us. He would speak and demand justice on our behalf; as our spokesman he would make certain that our memory would penetrate that of humanity. He would do nothing else.''

Extras
• Use of the term "Holocaust" to describe the extermination of six million Jews and millions of other civilians by the Nazis is widely thought to have originated in Night.

• Two of Wiesel's subsequent works, Dawn and The Accident, form a kind of trilogy with Night. "These stories live deeply in all that I have written and all that I am ever going to write," the author has said.

• President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel to be chairman of the President's Commission on the Holocaust in 1978. In 1980, Wiesel became founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He is also the founding president of the Paris-based Universal Academy of Cultures and cofounder of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

• Since 1969, Marion Wiesel has translated her husband Elie's books from French into English. They live in New York City and have one son. (From Barnes and Noble.)



Book Reviews 
(Older books have few mainstream press reviews online. See Amazon and Barnes & Noble for helpful customer reviews.)

[Elie Wiesel's] slim volume of terrifying power is the documentary of a boy—himself—who survived the "night" that desgroyed his parents and baby sister, but lost his God.... A remarkable close-up of one boy's tragedy.
New York Times Book Review (11/13/1960)


Wiesel has taken his own anguish and imaginatively metamorphosed it into art.
Curt Leviant - Saturday Review


I gain courage from his courage.
Oprah Winfrey



Discussion Questions
1. Compare Wiesel’s preface to the memoir itself. Has his perspective shifted in any way over the years?

2. In his Nobel lecture, presented in 1986, Wiesel writes of the power of memory, including the notion that the memory of death can serve as a shield against death. He mentions several sources of injustice that reached a boiling point in the 1980s, such as Apartheid and the suppression of Lech Walesa, as well as fears that are still with us, such as terrorism and the threat of nuclear war. Will twenty-first-century society be marked by remembrance, or by forgetting?

3. How does the author characterize himself in Night? What does young Eliezer tell us about the town, community, and home that defined his childhood? How would you describe his storytelling tone?

4. Why doesn’t anyone believe Moishe the Beadle? In what way did other citizens around the world share in Sighet’s naïveté? Would you have heeded Moishe’s warnings, or would his stories have seemed too atrocious to be true? Has modern journalism solved the problem of complacency, or are Cassandras more prevalent than ever?

5. As Eliezer’s family and neighbors are confined to a large ghetto and then expelled to a smaller, ghostlier one whose residents have already been deported, what do you learn about the process by which Hitler implemented doom? How are you affected by the uncertainty endured by Sighet’s Jews on their prolonged journey to the concentration camps?

6. With the words “Women to the right!” Eliezer has a final glimpse of his mother and of his sister, Tzipora. His father later wonders whether he should have presented his son as a younger boy, so that Eliezer could have joined the women. What turning point is represented by that moment, when their family is split and the gravity of every choice is made clear?

7. At Birkenau, Eliezer considers ending his life by running into the electric fence. His father tells him to remember Mrs. Schächter, who had become delusional on the train. What might account for the fact that Eliezer and his father were able to keep their wits about them while others slipped into madness?

8. Eliezer observes the now-infamous inscription above the entrance to Auschwitz, equating work with liberty. How does that inscription come to embody the deceit and bitter irony of the Nazi camps? What was the “work” of the prisoners? Were any of the Auschwitz survivors ever liberated emotionally?

9. Eliezer’s gold crown makes him a target for spurious bargaining, concluding in a lavatory with Franek, the foreman, and a dentist from Warsaw. Discuss the hierarchies in place at Auschwitz. How was a prisoner’s value determined? Which prisoners were chosen for supervisory roles? Which ones were more likely to face bullying, or execution?

10. Eliezer expresses sympathy for Job, the biblical figure who experienced horrendous loss and illness as Satan and God engaged in a debate over Job’s faithfulness. After watching the lynching and slow death of a young boy, Eliezer tells himself that God is hanging from the gallows as well. In his Nobel lecture, Wiesel describes the Holocaust as “a universe where God, betrayed by His creatures, covered His face in order not to see.” How does Wiesel’s understanding of God change throughout the book? How did the prisoners in Night, including rabbis, reconcile their agony with their faith?

11. After the surgery on Eliezer’s foot, he and his father must face being marched to a more remote camp or staying behind to face possible eleventh-hour execution amid rumors of approaching Red Army troops. Observing that Hitler’s deadliness is the only reliable aspect of their lives, Wiesel’s father decides that he and his son should leave the camp. The memoir is filled with such crossroads, the painful outcomes
of which can be known only in retrospect. How does Wiesel respond to such outcomes? Do you believe these outcomes are driven by destiny, or do they simply reflect the reality of decision-making?

12. In his final scenes with his father, Eliezer must switch roles with him, becoming the provider and comforter, despite advice from others to abandon the dying man. What accounts for the tender, unbreakable bond between Eliezer and his father long after other men in their camp begin fending for themselves? How does their bond compare to those in your family?

13. What is the significance of the book’s final image, Wiesel’s face, reflected in a mirror? He writes that a corpse gazed back at him, with a look that has never left him. What aspects of him died during his ordeal? What aspects were born in their place? What do you make of his observation that among the men liberated with him, not one sought revenge?

14. Wiesel faced constant rejection when he first tried to publish Night; numerous major publishing houses in France and the United States closed their doors to him. His memoir is now a classic that has inspired many other historians and Holocaust survivors to write important contributions to this genre of remembrance. What is unique about Wiesel’s story? How does his approach compare to that of other memoirists
whose work you have read?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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