Elie Wesel relives his experience as a Nazi prisoner in World War II concentration camps. Wiesel recounts the loss of his freedom, innocence and family. He was raised as a devout Jew, excelling in Talmudic and Spiritual studies. Night is a powerful human document that not only illustrates the evils perpetrated by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Buchenwald but also what evil can cause to a person. Wiesel witnessed the transformation of good men into “beasts unleashed by cruelty” (101).

The book’s most important theme is the way evil deforms and transforms people. Night does not only describe the horrors of Nazi Germany, but also the evils committed by Jews and other victims of Nazism. Wiesel’s fellow prisoners abuse him from the start of his time in Auschwitz. In the first barracks Wiesel lived in, veteran prisoners were waiting for the newcomers to be beaten with sticks indiscriminately (35). This lack of compassion, as well as the outright violence and anger towards other humans, is a constant theme throughout Night. Wiesel’s behavior changes after just a few days of working at Buna. The dentist that was supposed to remove Wiesel’s crown was arrested after he stole some gold. He was then going to hang. Wiesel was not remorseful or sympathetic towards the dentist. In fact, he felt a sense of satisfaction. There was no room in the concentration camp to think about others or abstract concepts like compassion. All that was important was to live your life and to have an empty stomach. The prisoners had to leave Buna as the allied forces moved in. But not before they cleaned the barracks for the liberating army. Let them be aware that men were living here, and not pigs.” So hungry, the prisoners fall violently onto each other, and fight each other over crumbs. Wiesel saw a child strangle his father to get a crust (101). The book ends with the realization that all of what separates men and animals from each other has gone. The concentration camp experience has stripped prisoners of all that makes them human: individuality; compassion; and remorse. Was left behind was a body, or rather an empty stomach. There was also a drive to protect what was left.

Wiesel felt the main reason for evil to exist was that people were unwilling to accept it. All Jews born abroad were expelled from Sighet long before the native Jews started to suffer. Moishe the Beadle was a Jewish man who had experienced Nazi atrocities and was eager to tell his fellow Jews about them. As the people in Sighet went about their daily lives, it was difficult for them to understand the evil Moishe preached. Also, because he came from a lower-class background, he was dismissed more easily as a crazy person (6-7). There were some who, after the fascists seized power in Transylvania – and forced the Jews into ghettos – refused to accept that anything could be worse.

Sighet’s people were not herded into transports until some began to doubt whether everything was okay. Mrs. Schachter started screaming, “Jews, heed my warning, I can see a fire!” As her screaming became louder, the passengers wanted to stop her. In an attempt to calm her down, or perhaps to quell their own doubts, the normally peaceful Sighet residents who were her neighbors and friends, struck and bound her (25-26). The people of Sighet were forced to face the horrors of Birkenau once the cattle cars had emptied their cargo. One inmate shouted: “You would have been better off hanging yourself than coming here.” Didn’t it dawn on you what Auschwitz would bring? Didn’t you know? “In 1944?” (30). Evil is often a mystery, because we’re too afraid to investigate its true possibilities.

Any person who has to deal with evil must ask themselves why there is evil. Devout Jews find it difficult to respond to this question. It is difficult for a devout Jew to answer this question, as it contradicts their religious beliefs. Some thought they were punished by God for the sins that the Jews had committed. Some thought that God was testing them. He wants to know if we can overcome our instincts and kill the Satan inside us (45). Wiesel, however, was angry by what he considered God’s lack of action: “Why do I have to sanctify the name of God? The Almighty chose to remain silent. What was it that we could thank Him? “(33) Wiesel compares him to Job in the Bible. Job, an innocent man of righteousness who lived a life dedicated to God, suffered despite his innocence. He questioned whether suffering was punishment for his sins because he had not committed any. Job finds peace in the knowledge that, even though there is no reason for Job’s suffering, God is still present. Job’s pain is eased by his renewed faith in God. Wiesel believes that the story Job is unable to bring peace. Wiesel believed that God was absent at Auschwitz. Wiesel’s peace of mind seems to come only after he writes Night. Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech states that Wiesel tried to make use of his life, which he was able to preserve despite the concentration camps. Wiesel stated, “I tried to keep memories alive… We must choose sides.” Neutrality only helps the oppressors, not the victims” (118). Wiesel seems to have seen the worst in himself as having at least a positive result, which was that it may prevent similar evils from occurring again. In the Christian tradition and later Jewish thought, it is not uncommon to see suffering as an experience that can teach or renew.

Night gives a very personal account of the pain and suffering Wiesel experienced. Wiesel never attempts to justify or offer excuses for Nazism, nor the evil perpetrated by Jews in concentration camps. He offers an honest and brutal look at how men react when pushed to the limit, as well as what they can do. In Night Wiesel, he shows that even our humanity can be taken from us. The book may be short, simple, and easy-to-read, but it’s the truths within that are hard to comprehend. This work is meant to make us confront evil, which we sometimes hesitate to do. Wiesel has chosen not to exaggerate his own or other characters’ heroic qualities, as only the full truth is truly revealing. Wiesel, by telling the story of “the Kingdom of Night”, warns us against allowing such a tragedy to happen.


  • owenbarrett

    I'm Owen Barrett, a 31-year-old educational blogger and traveler. I enjoy writing about the places I've visited and sharing educational content about travel and culture. When I'm not writing or traveling, I like spending time with my family and friends.