Although this is not the first time reading Night, I can recall my first reaction to Wiesel’s book. It portrays such hardship and devastation that is beyond comprehension, whilst revealing the true horrors of mankind. This fear had the power to crush the spirit of millions of Jewish prisoners and have them succumb to the evils of the Nazi’s. It took over their morality, their intelligence, their logic, the mere simplicity of love… all erased from their miserable lives.
Within the pages, there is a very obvious yet hidden detail that caused absolute anguish and misery to the Jews of Sighet. Before being sent to the concentration camps in Buna, Birkenau, and Auschwitz, there was an atmosphere of delusional optimism present within the town. Despite the foreboding news on the radio and the blatant foreshadowing of desolation, they remained positive. It was infuriating while frustratingly sad. But their useless hope and desperate attempts to console themselves were meaningless. It only added to their suffering and torment that was barely hanging by a thread. Their efforts to remain on the “bright side” only left them utterly shattered when they understood that only torture and death awaited them. After accepting this miserable fate, “they went, defeated in their bundles, their lives in tow, having left behind by their homes, their childhood. They passed…, like beaten dogs, with never a glance..” (pg.17)
And so they wander; empty shells of once lively, beautiful beings that have been forced to look into an abyss of emptiness and darkness.
“Our eyes opened. Too late.” (pg. 23)
As a child, I was quite introverted. I still am. I would watch many shows with characters that stand for justice, characters that would fight or take risks and seize every opportunity they could. It was admirable, some may say their courage was foolish, but it was incredibly commendable. This trait was not limited to only fictional characters, but real people with real aspirations. I wanted to be just like them, but it never seemed to be quite so easy. I was fearful as a child, still am to this day. I fear failure, I fear rejection, I fear defeat… but at the same time, I refused to see the possibilities of success. I stuck to my talents and gifts but never gave anything else thought or a mere try.
Fear is able to keep people in absolute control, and it keeps them submissive. But what can overcome fear? Courage? Determination? Sacrifices? False hope? It is revealed that Elie respects and admires those who have great courage. The men and the young pipel that had been executed for storing firearms and sabotaging the power plant did not seem frightened by the concept of death — rather, in their minds, they had sacrificed their livelihoods to do what is just.
My situation was and is incomparable to Elie’s dire predicament, but I can understand how he wanted to be great, admirable, and powerful; to die with no regret, but the fear of death overcame him. It is difficult to comprehend, the words on a page spark emotions of despair, disgust, and devastation, yet the true horrors of those years will never traumatize the readers as it has broken Elie.
Yes, it is cowardly.
There are stories of individuals that have been able to accomplish any great feat with courage and determination, yet the morals of these stories could never truly explain and allow listeners and readers to comprehend the feelings of guilt, hesitance, and fear.
Will we ever see the light of determination again?