Monday, March 14, 2011

Night by Elie Wiesel

Recently, I pulled this book off the shelf in a lending library by the sea. I assumed it would be a memorable read. How I underestimated the impact this book would have on me!

At the time I stuffed this paperback in my beach bag and headed for the sun, I had no intentions of writing a book review for this title. However, some books contain true stories that need to be shared. This author's work must be talked about and often - Lest We Forget....

I reviewed this book with an open mind, however, as I am firstly a reviewer of Christian non-fiction, I did seek a faith element. I did find a faith element weaved throughout.

Page 19 posed a question of which I may never receive an answer. The author's family is being led from their home by German policemen. I quote, "My father was crying. It was the first time I saw him cry. I had never thought it possible. As for my mother, she was walking, her face a mask, without a word, deep in thought. I looked at my little sister, Tzipora, her blond hair neatly combed, her red coat over her arm: a little girl of seven. On her back, a bag too heavy for her. She was clenching her teeth; she already knew it was useless to complain. Here and there, the police were lashing out with their clubs: "Faster!" I had no strength left. The journey had just begun and I already felt so weak..."

If you saw Schindler's List, (if not, you will only need to watch this DVD once to understand) you will no doubt remember seeing the little girl in the red coat. Since this movie was presented in gray scale and sepia tones throughout, this splash of color quite hard to miss and so very tragic - the constrast of joy (red versus death (gray, black and sepia tones). I wondered if possibly this account was woven into Schindler's List which is a true account. Elie never saw his sister or his mother again soon after page 19.

There is a character Moishe the Beadle who miraculously is taken away and returns. He is a sort of town crier or prophet who warns of the impending evil soon to descend on the town. However, because of his eccentric behavior and dabbling in Kabbalah (the town is mostly Jewish) the people ignore him. In the opening act of Night the author is intrigued with the diversity of this man's spiritual views.

However, Mr. Wiesel does a quick turn away from Kabbalah back toward the God of the Bible in page 20. Page 33 brings with anger at God. I have no judgement but compassion for the author's faith journey in this amazing work. Truly, I do not know how anyone could come away from this horribly evil, cruel, tortuous dark world with their sanity intact let alone not spend even one hour thinking God forgot about them or did not care. And so I truly appreciated the honest account of his turning from God, questioning God for being treated so horrifically and then his returning to the Lord for the sole reason that he had survived.

Page 45 he states, "Some of the men spoke of God: His mysterious ways, the sins of the Jewish people, and the redemption to come. As for me, I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice."

"Those were the first human words." You must read this chapter beginning on page 29. You would understand this short sentence better than I or anyone else could ever hope to explain. Utterly devoid of humanity these victims of evil were treated. Mr. Wiesel blessed me as he shared the hard-to-hear treatment of people who did nothing wrong but be of Jewish lineage.

Yes, I cried often as I read this book. I paused briefly to grab a box of tissues then continued reading of the French woman who had befriended the author and then an unexpected reunion in Paris many years later. That encounter was one of the rays of sunshine in an otherwise black hole.

Whole paragraphs on pages 65, 67 and 69 jumped off the pages and praised God. I rejoiced as father and son stayed together until almost the very end. Amazing to me was the love of the father and the unwillingness to die though the father was suffering so long. Humanity was displayed in its not-so-lovely way on the part of Mr. Wiesel. I appreciated his confessions and his unabashedly explaining how hunger and cold turned his heart into that of a survivor and less of a human. I cried again on page 75 when the spoon his "dying" father wanted to give Elie almost became Elie's entire inheritance.

Akiba Drumer, a father in search of his entire family I will never forget. His story was so sad. He had such hope and then like a mist, was soon gone.

Again, the faith element on pages 80-81. I quote, "My faceless neighbor spoke up: "Don't be deluded. Hitler has made it clear that he will annihilate all Jews before the clock strikes twelve." I exploded: "What do you care what he said? Would you want us to consider him a prophet? His cold eyes stared at me. At last he said wearily: I have more faith in Hitler than anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people."

Powerful. Such powerful words.

Nearing the end of Night,  another account of a father and son, becoming separated stuck with me.The author again shares his observance and views from being personally a part of this scene. The author does such an excellent job of helping you to be there in Auschwitz with him. Painfully so but still sharing some of the emotions he no doubt felt and still feels today helped me to have an inkling of what the concentration camps must have felt like.

You must read the foreword as well as The Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech in the back of the book. You will better understand the reason why though this book was already written and circulated forty-five years, his wife translated it again - this time into English as her English was much better than her husband's English. His challenge in his own words, "But how was one to rehabilitate and transform words betrayed and perverted by the enemy? Hunger-thirst-fear-transport-selection-fire-chimney: these words all have intrinsic meaning, but in those times, they meant something else. Writing in my mother tongue-at that point close to extinction-I would pause at every sentence, and start over and over again."

War declared on God's chosen. I disagree with Elie Wiesel. His survival to share his story was truly a miracle. His suffering not in vain as we will never forget that plotting genocide begins in the heart of a monster and is carried out by many who deceptively become vessels for evil.

Not surprising was Elie Wiesel's dedication, "In memory of my parents and of my little sister, Tzipora." His story translated so that that little girl in the red coat and so many others will not be forgotten.

The truth of Night retold - - Lest we Forget...

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free on loan from Ocean Village Library in Hutchinson Island Florida. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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1 comment:

  1. The main reasons why I enjoyed Night are because it added to my knowledge about the Holocaust, and helped me realize who I am. Before reading it, all I knew from the Holocaust was what I read from The Diary of Anne Frank, which didn't give as much background information as Night did. It made me, once again, realize how big of an impact this genocide was and the people it affected. Also, Night gave me a better understanding of our recent past, and reminded me how fortunate and lucky I am to be me.


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