Ilana Night-Eli Wiesel
- 1 International Book-Sharing Project
- 1.1 Characters, setting and plot
- 1.2 Writing the American students about the Holocaust
- 1.3 Writing about the book "Night" - Belief, Denial, Indifference
- 1.4 Writing about the book "Night" - Foreshadowing
- 1.5 Choiceless choices
- 1.6 Survivors Who Champion Human Rights
- 1.7 Indifference or helplessness
- 1.8 Is There Any Morality to Survival
- 1.9 Silence
- 1.10 Where is God?
- 1.11 Final Reflections
International Book-Sharing Project
Characters, setting and plot
Eli Wiesel was a 12 year old boy at that point of time (1941). He lived in a small town in Romania. He had 3 sisters: Hilda, Bea and Tzipora, and they were a Jewish and a religious family. Eli's father (whose name wasn't mentioned yet) was honored by the Jewish community at there home town; people had much respect for him. His father was that kind of a man who cared more about others more than his family. At the beginning of the story we are also introduced to Moshe, nicknamed: the Bidlle. He was a strange man, looking somehow as a clown, he was poor and not much seen by people, and in addition he was a Cabbala student. Despite his young age, Eli strongly connected to the Jewish religion. He studied the Talmud and at nights he used to go to the synagogue and pray. While praying, Eli used to cry - something which shows us the great spiritual and mental connection to Judaism. Eli didn't get any support when he wanted to study the Cabbala (because of his young age), nevertheless he decided to do it. Eli asked Moshe - the experienced Cabbala student to teach him the Cabbala, to show him the right way to approach life and to be his spiritual guide. As he was told by Moshe, Eli had to fist study and live the sources he was close to (the bible and the Talmud) and only then reach to the great studding of the Cabbala.
We are introduced to a normal town, with regular people living in it. The Jewish community living in that town is a very religious one and the Cabbala is one way of mentally connecting to Judaism.
The Second World War had already started, but nothing wasn't mentioned about it so far.
Writing the American students about the Holocaust
Hi again, as part of our assignment, we are supposed to share our thoughts and feelings about the Holocaust. So first of all I can say that this issue is pretty much known to all students in Israel since it's part of the Jewish history. Each year we have a memorial day of the Holocaust and we are faced again to that ugly feeling, the horror and terror which happened not long ago. As students of the 11th grade,and as a part of history lessons we study about the second world war and the Holocaust. I personally volunteered to visit each week a Holocaust survivor at her house last year. Visiting that elderly woman, who has lived through so much already, and hearing her stories about what she had to suffer, is a very emotional experience. Even when you think you know everything about the Holocaust, you discover more and more information about it. When I hear or read about the Holocaust I always have a few question in my mind - How come I'm here, living nowadays, and other Jewish people weren't lucky to be born at that time? How could all those horrible and inhuman actions could have taken place in the modern world? And how could people, normal people you and me, be treated so brutally as if they were nothing ?
What do you know about the Holocaust? How do you feel about it?
Writing about the book "Night" - Belief, Denial, Indifference
Hi Alexis, I read your answer...and I pretty much agree with what you wrote.
I'm in the 5th chapter of the book. (I also read the 8th chapter of the book...in order to tell about it in class..).
I also think that Jews of Sighet were in denial. When Moshe the Beadle told them about the horrors he saw, they didn't even consider taking him seriously. We (as the readers) know that what he was telling was true, but it didn't occur in the people's minds that something like that was really happening.
I guess that Eli was the one acting indifferently. When his father was treated very badly by the S.S or was beaten by them, he showed no objection - he didn't do anything to change the situation. But I don't fully agree with that-it just seems to be like that. In the following chapters, we can see that Eli does care about his father, but he isn't sure how to respond. He is constantly reminding himself to stay out of trouble (even if it means not to help his own father) - he seemed to be indifferent about his father.
When you continue reading the book, you'll see that it's pretty hard to say which character has belief in it - all the horrible things they all had to suffer, took the faith as well as the belief out of them. There was one moment when many of the Jewish people in the labor camp gathered together and showed that they still believe. It was the last day of the Jewish year (a day before the Jewish holiday -"Rosh Hashana"), and all Jewish men went outside to pray to God. It proves us that their belief in God and in a positive miracle was still there. Their belief is probably one of the things keeping them alive.
Writing about the book "Night" - Foreshadowing
Hi again, congratulations on finishing reading the book (and for finding time to do it :] ). I guess I'll finish reading it in about a week from now.
Well, I totally agree with you that the first event of foreshadowing was the one with Mrs. Schächer. Her visualization showed her fire, huge flames and something burning. Everyone saw her as a crazy woman, whose actions shouldn't even be referred to. But as we read on we understand that what she was talking about came true. They arrived at a concentration camp, where a crematory was standing - burning people.
I thought about another event of foreshadowing. If you remember, the first time Eli showed indifferent behavior, was when he saw his father hardly hit by the person responsible for the block. At that moment, Eli said to himself that he was afraid to do something (he was scared to even move), he was afraid to stand for his own father. And in chapter 8 we actually see that what eventually ended his father's life, was Eli not defending his father and not doing anything to try and help him. The S.S that hit him in the head caused his death. [ "I did not move. I was afraid....I did not move"].
I read your answer and I really liked it. So here is my answer to the question :
As you said, choiceless choices are decisions people need to make when they have no other choice or alternative. When reading the book we can meet many situations like that. From the beginning, when the Nazis entered the city and began to deport the Jewish people from their homes. It was an action that definitely was tough for all of the people, people who had been living their normal lives till that point of time. But they had no choice. They couldn't confront the Nazis, their word was nothing against the Germans. And so they were sent to the camps. Living in the concentration and work camps - with the conditions there, was another choiceless choice. The conditions in there were terrible, food was law and work was hard. But many Jewish people chose to accept it, and to continue fighting for their lives. They had no choice but to accept the rules and the "life" they had there, if they wanted to survive and maybe, someday to get out of it. If we focus on Eli and his father, we can notice that sometimes even their father-son relationship faced "choiceless choices ". For example, when Eli's father was hit by a Nazi, Eli decided not to respond or to defend his father. He probably knew that doing that would cause even worse results, so he had no other choice than being silent in such cases.
In the book "Night" there are definitely many events considering making "choiceless choices". Life at that time and in those places sometimes just didn't leave any other options.
Survivors Who Champion Human Rights
Hi Alexis, how are you ? I definitely agree with your answer. I agree that the main reason why Eli still continues to fight for human rights is him being exposed to neutrality in the Second World War.
When Eli was a prisoner in the concentration or work camps he wasn't treated as a human, he as well as all other people being with him. His main natural rights were discounted. Those rights who are supposed to be given to people automatically because of them being human beings were crushed. Others even lost their main right - the right to live (from which come all the other rights). As a child in the Holocaust, Eli witnessed all that damage caused to human rights as well as the consequences came because of it. The Holocaust was such a big event in history that brought many to an awful reality that should not be repeated. As a survivor, Eli cherishes the fact he got to live on and get back his human rights. Who can understand better than Eli about life and about rights - human rights. Eli probably feels that he as a human and as a Holocaust survivor has a certain responsibility to protect all those people whose rights are easily forgotten. How could Eli let the world to again be silent, and neutral ? He just can't let history to repeat itself. He maybe feels he shouldn't let down the ones in need the same way he was let down by the world for so many years.
Indifference or helplessness
Hi Alexis, It's probably the first time that I answer such a question before you do. Well, I'm pretty sure that when Eli's father was beaten by a kapo Eli didn't turn from a loving son to a dispassionate survivor. At that time, many people had to change the way they would usually act. The main reason for that is that they just wanted to survive and to protect their own lives. That situation left Eli no choice but to stand still and just do nothing. Maybe he was also scared to act, terrified of the consequences that may come afterwards. Terror was all around, every single move was thought over a few times before it was made. Not knowing what might come in the future and being scared of it, changes people. I can't say Eli didn't love his father at that point, he did. I think he just didn't want the situation to get worse. I'm sure Eli regretted his action, he regreted standing there and just not being able to do anything. But on the other hand - he didn't have a choice. His heart was saying one thing and his head was saying another. Eli was helpless, and I think that what he has done was right.
Is There Any Morality to Survival
Hi Alexis, How are you ?
Is there any morality to survival? Should one survive at any cost? These are questions that pop up in mind while reading the book "Night". To discuss this topic, here are two scenes from the book. The first one is when Elie teaches his father to practice the hated militarism of his persecutors by marching in step. Eli's father didn't get the marching rhythm and because of that he was constantly mugged by the officers. His position in camp as well as his life were destabilized. In order to save his father and to make sure nothing bad would happen to him because of the marching, Eli decided to help his father practice it. Eli didn't care that people were looking at him and his father, laughing the guts out and thinking all wierd things about them. Eli didn't think about him being tired, or him preferring to do other stuff. He didn't even think about suddenly changing roles with his father and him being the "head" between them both. He just knew he had to do everything in order that his father would survive. His father was his protection through all his childhood years, and now it was Eli's turn to help his father.
The second scene was when Elie receives from the head of the block not to feed his dying father. At that point, people were ready to do anything to save their own lives. The will to survive was so bad that people were even ready to crush and forget their own families. When Eli's father got very sick, it seemed like his end was coming closer. Eli was told to take his father's meal to himself because it was better that way. Eli was faced a very hard dilemma - to care for his own survival and take two rations of bread or to feed his father dying anyway. Should he survive at any cost? Even if the cost is his father's life ? Should Eli see his father as dead already and prevent himself from getting closer to death ? It seemed that Eli decided to take all the food for himself, but then he got back and offered his father some food. I think that in such situation, kids should always think of their parents, the ones who raised them and who are always ready to do anything for their children. He should have given his father his meal withought thinking twice, no matter what his father's situation was.
What do you think about those two scenes from the book ?
Silence - this word is usually associated with peacefulness, but there also other sides of this word. Silence is the situation in which something is keeping a person from telling his or her thoughts, ideas and wants. One reason why people choose to keep silent and say or do nothing is them being scared. Fear is something people don't have control over, and it sometimes has control over people - which eventually prevent them from acting. Another reason for keeping silence is preferring yourself over others, and believing that things are going to somehow be fixed.
The first situation mentioned is Eli imposing a ten year silence on any discussion of his experiences of the Holocaust after liberation. I think we can find here the fear of the past, the fear of facing what ended up as his reality (a cruel one). For many people the Holocaust is based on just stories and pictures, but that wasn't Eli's case, he had to live it all. The silence he kept for 10 years maybe was his way of getting himself back to the normal life. The things he had to see, and the ugly and painful few years he had to live in are definitely too much for a person to recognize.
The second situation is world being silent to the plight of the victims. Here we can also mention fear. The world in those years preferred to be neutral. The world was silent, didn't take a side and did nothing for all those victims. Many countries didn't want to become part of what was happening out of their borders - it wasn't their problem. So they were silent. And their silence caused the loss of so many human beings.
What do you think about silence ? Do you have other suggestions of why Eli kept a ten year silence ?
Where is God?
I think that at this point a lot of people have lost their believe in god. They felt they had no trust in people any more, people who treated them as animals. So they have also lost their faith in god. How could they rely on something that isn't perceptible, something that seems to be so far away from them ? Many Jewish people, before the holocaust, were very religious and they strongly believed in god. They felt they could "trust" god in the everyday life. They were sure god was always protecting them. Them being suddenly pulled out of their lives and having to go through all those horrible things, created a distance between them and the religion. They probably understood that there is no sense in keeping their faith in god, because no matter how hard they believed or how hard they preyed - the situation wasn't going to improve. People's lives were so easily destroyed, that god was no longer that big power they have all believed in. Some people even blamed god for what was happening to them..and in that way they wanted to show that god is powerless and that he isn't really able to save his Jewish nation.
It was really hard to believe in god in the holocaust, the one people saw as an upper power, always caring for the people he created. The holocaust has ruined their lives and it has also depressed their faith in god.
I think that I wouldn't believe in god and trust him if I witnessed all that evil.
To Ilana I personally really like this book partly because I am fascinated about learning about the Holocaust. This book is more than just naming off facts of the Holocaust; this book is incredibly moving because it dives into personal experience, it ties in emotion and with something that is foreign to me. It had an incredible impact of me especially when he was describing the last few days of his father’s life. At this point of the book I realized exactly how much this affected people and how much it hurt to loose someone they loved.
I have really enjoyed discussing Night with you, because you have made some really good points about situations in the book.
I hope that everything continues to go well for you
Sincerely, Alexis Giannotti
Hi Alexis, For me, as a Jewish person, it's really important that people around the world recognize the fact that such thing as the holocaust happened to the Jewish nation. It is important people understand that it's all not just stories, pictures or movies - it was the reality, and it is part of the Jewish people's history. This book "Night" was very touching..and it's always interesting to read about the holocaust and the survivors true stories. I also enjoyed discussing the book with you..it was really nice to read what you had to say about different situations in the book. I also think the idea of the "book sharing project" is very successful. It's nice to communicate with students living in a different country.
I wish you all the best, Ilana