Night by elie wiesel
Modern humans have questioned the existence of a “higher power” throughout history, especially during the events like the Holocaust. My experiences in Catholic schools left me wondering about the truth of a “loving God” narrative as well. Struggle with faith is one of the main threads that run through the book Night, written by Elie Wiesel. The Story of Night follows the lives of the boy Elie and his family in the ghettos of his hometown of Sighet Hungary, as well as his and his father’s ordeal in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buna from 1944 to 1945. During their harrowing ordeals in concentration camps the Jews began to question whether the God they had so much faith in had abandoned them. Wiesel demonstrates his own, and his peoples loss of faith in a loving God through his own words and symbols in the story.
Elie’s crisis of faith in God is first demonstrated when he enters Auschwitz. There he witnesses the slaughter of countless innocent children and infants in the terrifying flames of the crematorium. This leaves Elie in complete shock and anger that the God he had so loved and worshiped as a young boy would allow such wanton death suffering of the innocent and faithful. “Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God…”(p.34). The quote demonstrates the magnitude and the pace at which Elie fell out of faith in God; the reader can see evidence of this in the use of the word “moments”, which indicates that it only took a few milliseconds for his faith to be crushed. The reader can see the magnitude of his experience in the use of the strong word “murdered”. A similar crisis of faith can be seen today in the recent shooting in Newtown Connecticut. The parents of the town once had faith in the security of their school, but a locked door was not enough for their small town to avoid a horrendous tragedy. However, after this shocking incident, the town’s people faith in the security of the school system evaporated, also within minuets. Those few moments when Elie witnessed the children tossed into the fire and the parents of Newtown saw their children killed were enough to destroy their faith in a loving God and a safe community.
The Jewish people’s loss of faith can be seen in the words of a man who was in the infirmary at the same time as Elie. "I've got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He's the only one who's kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people." this single quote demonstrates The depth of his cynicism. This is seen in the phrase "I've got more faith in Hitler…” In addition, the expression, “He's the only one who's kept his promises…” shows how completely shattered his faith was. Similar depletion of faith is seen in recent events in the economy and job market. Today many young adults are being promised that they will be able to find jobs if they get a good education. When they graduate, however, there are no jobs available. Many teens and young adults have lost faith in a reason to go to college due to the terrible job market. The instance of the man in the infirmary shows just how far loss of faith can go, that one would put more faith in ones enemy than their God.
A symbol for loss of faith is exhibited when Elie observes the son leaving behind his father, a Rabbi. This scene occurred when the prisoners of Buna were being evacuated due to the close proximity of the Russian army to the camp. “his son had seen him losing ground, sliding back to the rear of the column…He had continued to run in front, letting the distance between them become greater.” This quote represents how God had left the Jewish people behind, to die. The son was a symbol of God who had failed to help the Jewish people in the hell they endured, this is seen in the phrase, “He had continued to run in front”. The father was a Rabbi and was a symbol of the faithful Jewish people who had been left behind by God. This is seen in the phrase “letting the distance between them become greater.” The more literal meaning of this quote, a son leaving his father behind, possibly to die, is similar to what the refugees of Vietnam were forced to do when trying to escape. Parents were forced to leave children behind in order to reach the border quicker and to not be found by soldiers because of crying children. Elie felt that God had left his people, there prayers had not been answered, the innocent were being slaughtered, and sons were force to abandon their fathers. Both the philosophical and the physical aspects of leaving brethren behind contributed immensely to Elie’s loss of faith in God.
Wiesel shows the damage done to the faith of the Jewish people and himself through his writing and symbols within the book. The reader sees loss of faith in Elie’s first moments in the concentration camps, the Rabbi’s loss of his son, and the injured man’s words concerning Hitler. All these instances and many other make it clear how such harrowing and vile ordeals can make a person loose something that is a quintessential part of who they are, their faith, beliefs, values, and morals. Without those four concepts, a person is merely a body driven by primal instincts. The Holocaust is a time in history that the world must never forget. It is an example of one the cruelest episodes in human history and one that should never occur again. The philosopher George Santayana once said “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it” this was never more true than in remembrance of the Holocaust.