Night by Elie Wiesel

Eliezer Wiesel was a deeply observant 13-year-old Jewish boy when Moishe the Beadle came to his town with descriptions of the horrors of the war, where Jewish men, women, and children were buried in graves they had themselves dug. No one in Eliezer’s town of Sighet in Hungary believed this was happening. It only a year later, in 1944, when Hungary was overrun by the Germany army, that the Jews began to worry. As their rights begin to be taken away, the community gets restless. They are even excited when they hear they will be transported out of the city, because that means something will be different for them!

Night by Elie Wiesel (published in French 1958/English 1960, audio recorded by Jeffrey Rosenblatt) is Elie’s poignant and personal reflection on his experience: being forced into a cattle car, entering Auschwitz, working in Buchenwald labor camp, and watching friends and loved ones die even as he lost his own will to live. Although Wiesel’s gorgeous prose is well deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature, it is his story of shattered faith in God, frustrated dreams as a teenager, and loss of belief in the humanity of his fellow men that really make Night a classic. Did people really do this to other people?

The horrors of the event known as the Holocaust as simply unbelievable. It is nearly impossible for me to comprehend the horrors that one people forced on another, and so reading accounts such as Wiesel’s are all the more important. A common theme in Night was, obviously, the darkening of hope and the darkness that enters Wiesel’s soul, never to leave him. When one experiences what he experiences, life will never be the same. Contrasting with the image of night that is so prevalent in his memoir is the image of fire: children burning, bellies suffering from hunger, and hatred growing in his soul. A young idealistic boy was left behind and what remained was a man without faith in the good of humanity and the love of God.

I listened to an audio recording of the book, and I think this made Elie Wiesel’s account all the more powerful. Wiesel’s story was less than four hours of narration (120 pages in hard copy) but nothing was missing.

His story is one I hope never to forget. I was in awe of the strength of the human spirit to survive at the same time I was horrified by the evil of others.  Although other stories of German concentration camps may be more hopeful about humanity (The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, for example), Night is an important and classic memoir that should be read.

Wiesel originally wrote this memoir in Yiddish, titling it And the World Remained Silent. In his new preface to the edition translated by his wife (2006), he says, ” I don’t know how I survived.” I don’t know either. I will forever be in awe of the power of the human spirit to overcome horrors, and I will remain horrified myself by the fact that humans could do this to each other in the first place.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. Is this the first time you’ve read Night? They assigned it to us in late middle school or early high school, can’t remember, but I do remember just how strongly it touched me at the time.

    1. Amanda, sorry for the late response. Yes, this was my first time reading it. I was thinking it would be perfect for late jr high or high school though, since it’s told from a teenager’s perspective! So powerful.

  2. It’s hard to WANT to go back and re-read this, but I feel I should. I’ve not read them, but I’m also really interested in reading his novels “Dawn” and “Day” which are supposed to make up a trilogy with Night, even though “Dawn” and “Day” are fictional.

    1. neal, sorry for my late response. I didn’t know Dawn and Day were fictional! I don’t know if that makes me more interested or less interested to read them….

  3. I haven’t read this since high school and I really want to give it another read because it’s such an amazing and powerful story but I also know how difficult this is to read. I imagine listening to the audiobook would be even more difficult.

    1. Alley, sorry for my late response. Yes, the audio meant I couldn’t speed ahead and skim over the horrors. But at the same time, I loved it because it gave Elie a personality through the wonderful narrator’s inflection. It was a powerful book to experience on audio.

  4. This is one of the most memorable stories I have ever read. It really is unreal how evil people can be to each other.

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