Author: Elie Wiesel
Series: The Night Trilogy
Publisher: Hill & Wang
Publication Date: 1960 (English translation)
Genre(s): Memoir, Historical non-fiction, Young adult
They called him Moishe Beadle, as if his entire life he had never had a surname.
In 1944, Elie Wiesel’s life, among millions of others’ lives, was changed forever. He and his family were evacuated from their home and forced to live in ghettos with other Jews. Eventually, Elie, his parents, and his sisters were taken to a concentration camp. There, Elie and his father were separated from the women. Never again would he see his mother and younger sister. Elie and his father wind up in the notorious Auschwitz, pushing each other to stay alive at all costs. Night is Elie’s personal account of the Holocaust and how he became a survivor.
As many of you already know, I’m not a big fan of non-fiction, especially memoirs. Even so, Night had me hooked from the beginning. I liked that it detailed his journey from his home to the ghettos to the camps and finally to his liberation. It’s a pretty short book with my copy only being 115 pages. Originally, Night was over 900 pages, but Wiesel’s editor told him he had to shorten it — a lot. Not many people are going to sit down and read a 900-page book. Plus, a lot of it was angry rants and Wiesel’s hatred for the Nazis, which ultimately would take away from the story. So Wiesel shortened it, and Night was created. I love learning about the Holocaust and found this book to be a great informative read. Wiesel is only a teenager during this time, so it’s kind of like an awakening for young adults to read this. We think winter is cold in Ohio? Just imagine what it was like in Germany with very minimal clothing, working outside for long hours, and being starved to death. It’s shocking and horrible, but also necessary for young adults to read and understand.
This is a memoir and the characters are people. It’s heartbreaking to read about these people and the horrors that they faced. It’s interesting, though, to see Wiesel’s transformation at such a young age. He’s just a normal kid, a Jew studying to become a Rabbi that lives with his parents and his sisters in a normal town. The Holocaust changes all of that. He loses his faith completely in the camps and even blames God for what’s happening. The Nazis are directly responsible, yet he goes on a rant about how it is God’s fault. The war destroyed homes and lives, but it also destroyed Wiesel’s faith. Can you blame him? He’s forced to leave his home and he is separated from his family at the camps. He has his father for a while, but eventually loses him, too. He experiences a lot in the camps. Sometimes he does stupid, childish things, but that’s because he’s a child. He experiences a lot of guilt in the camps, too, forcing him to question his humanity. There’s so much in this book that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. It’s hard to understand what Wiesel was going through. He was forced to grow up real fast.
Wiesel’s writing is very simplistic. Young readers could easily read this and understand the words; however, I’m not sure how young of a reader could understand the content. Some criticize that the book is not a memoir but more like a novel. I can see that — I can see how it’s structured like a novel and the people seem more like characters, but I know this is a true story, and I know this is a memoir. This man experienced things I cannot imagine. Of course some of the story is altered — how is Wiesel expected to remember things word for word or experiences in exact detail? I really enjoyed this book and I think anyone who is interested in the Holocaust should read it. Oh, and the way he ended the book is probably my favorite part; it is haunting and it will stay with you.