In 1944 Elie Wiesel and his family were forcibly removed from their home in Hungary, and sent to Auschwitz. He was still only 15 when the concentration camps were finally liberated at the end of the war. He was the only one out of his family who had survived, and had spent a significant part of his adolescence in living hell, a hell created by average ordinary people who would not think for themselves and stand up for what they knew was right.
It is important, I think, for all of us alive now to understand the German concentration camps, because no society on Earth is immune to what happened to the Germans and their victims. Throw ordinary people into uniforms, tell them they have important jobs to do, that require having lethal power over other people, and ordinary people are quite capable of telling themselves that what they are doing is right, or at least necessary and excusable, even when they are killing or torturing other people.
On every inhabited continent on our planet, in every century since human societies developed, these same traits in our species have led to suffering and waste.
So, while Elie Wiesel’s book, Night, is not a cheerful story, or an easy story to read, it is an important story. There are many other books available now that also tell of the WW2 German concentration camps, but I think this book was one of the easiest to read, because it was short. It also was just following Elie’s experience, not a whole group of people, so in a way it was less gruesome than some I have read because there are fewer main characters whose awful experiences the reader has to read about. Leon Uris’ excellent book Mila 18 was far tougher to read, for instance, because it was much longer, and with a variety of men women and children in the story’s focus, many terrible things happened on those pages that would make for very unpleasant dreams.
I picked up Night on a whim from my mom’s bookcase last night, and she has another of his books, Dawn, as well. So, Dawn may be one of the next books I read in the coming week.
Night. Elie Wiesel. Originally published in 1958, my copy was published in 1986 by Bantam Books. My rating (out of 10): 7.8