Night is a sobering and heartbreaking book written by holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
In the book he recounts the story of he and his family being taken and sent to concentration camps during Hitler’s reign in World War II. Wiesel was originally sent to Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald with his father. The things he had to see as a young man, the traumatic personal losses he experienced, and the mental, physical, and spiritual abuse he took at that early age are unbelievable.
One of the things that really stood out to me throughout the book, was Wiesel’s wrestling with his faith. As a youth he grew up as a devout Jew passionately studying the Talmud. From the moment he arrives at Auschwitz though, you begin to see the erosion of his deeply held belief system.
Here is a look at some of his wrestling with his faith:
“For the first time, I felt anger rising within me. Why should I sanctify His name? The Almighty, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for?” (p. 33).
“Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever…Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams into ashes” (p. 34).
“I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long. In the midst of these men assembled for prayer, I felt like an observer, a stranger” (p. 68).
“…there was no longer any reason for me to fast. I no longer accepted God’s silence. As I swallowed my ration of soup, I turned that act into a symbol of rebellion, of protest against Him” (p. 69).
Although you can clearly see his frustration, disappointment, and anger towards God, you can also see him holding on to shreds of faith in God between some of the things he says and in his interactions with others at the concentration camps.
“…I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice” (p. 45).
“…in spite of myself, a prayer formed inside me, a prayer to this God in whom I no longer believed” (p. 91).
The Book of Job would be a great portion of scripture to read alongside Night. Questions of faith, suffering, and pain abound in this book as they do in Job and in our daily existence as human beings. Night is not a book you approach with answers, but rather with listening ears and a compassionate heart.
Wiesel’s book is crucial as mankind should never forget what happened and should do everything possible to ensure something like that never happens again. Although Night is a short read, it remains a deeply emotional and important read.