The Holocaust was a dreadful and truly awful time period, people were dehumanized, and shamed into losing their faith while they experienced tragic and awful death and pain. One Jewish survivor documents his experiences with death in his memoir, ‘Night’, Elie Wiesel. The novel is filled with his tales of death, dehumanization, and faith throughout the concentration camp, Auschwitz. In Auschwitz, the Jews lost their innocence that they once had. In the novel, Night, Elie, his father, and his fellow Jews lost their innocence through dehumanization, loss of faith, and experience of death and violence.
The Holocaust affects Jews in a way that seems unimaginable, and most of these effects seem to have been universal experiences; however, in the matter of faith, Jews in the concentration camp described in Elie Wiesel’s Night are affected differently and at different rates. The main character, Elie, loses his faith quickly after the sights he witnesses (as well as many others); other Jews hold on much longer and still pray in the face of total destruction. In the beginning, all of the Jews are more or less equally faithful in their God and religion.
In chapters 4 to 6 in the novel, “Night”, Elie Wiesel and his father continue to suffer in the grasp of the Germans. Eventually, all the Jews are moved to a new work camp, Buna, where they are overworked and undernourished, and resort to killing each other for pieces of bread. In his old home, Elie had never experienced brutality and inhumanity within it. Now, Elie and other Jews witness extreme violence and an absence of mercy that begins to erode their mental state; bringing most men to animalistic tendencies. In chapter 4, the Jews arrive in Buna.
In the novel, “Night” Elie Wiesel communicates with the readers his thoughts and experiences during the Holocaust. Wiesel describes his fight for survival and journey questioning god’s justice, wanting an answer to why he would allow all these deaths to occur. His first time subjected into the concentration camp he felt fear, and was warned about the chimneys where the bodies were burned and turned into ashes. Despite being warned by an inmate about Auschwitz he stayed optimistic telling himself a human can’t possibly be that cruel to another human.
As time carried on, Eliezer’s faith and connection to God died. It was too much for him to believe that his once-beloved God had abandoned them. “Blessed be God’s name? Why, but why would I bless him? ... Because he caused thousands of children to burn in his mass graves?
In the beginning of the memoir, religion and God were a very important part of Elie’s life. He devoted a large portion of his time to religious studies, and praying and it is such a natural part of his life that he couldn’t really explain why it was so essential
Elie prayed so often it is instinct that he pray to God. He had been raised to listen and obey God. He had never thought of why he prayed, all he knew was that God commanded men to pray. Elie believed and trusted in God and did what he asked without questioning the motives. This shows that Elie had great faith in God when he lived in Sighet.
As stated by Wiesel, at a desperate point Jewish prisoners needed help from God. Elle believed God chose to be silent in a time when people needed him. This drove Elie to thoughts of committing suicide because if God wasn’t helping the prisoners there is no point of living. Elle thought there was no point in thanking God because he believed didn’t do anything to help the prisoners that were praying to him and asking for help. He questioned the reason why people even try to have hope that The Almighty would help them if he wouldn’t even answer their Kaddish to him.(33) Wiesel believed, Elie came close to giving up on hope when a son killed his own father for food on a train to another camp.
He seems to find any possible way to fight against. “But further, there was no longer any reason why I should fast. I no longer accepted God’s silence. As I swallowed my bowl of soup, I saw in the gesture an act of rebellion and protest against Him,” (Wiesel, 76). As the book progressed, Elie found every possible way to fight against God or his retired religion.
And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.” This had reinforced Elie’s growing conviction that God was dead, that there was no purpose in praying to God or calling up God’s promises to His people because He had abandoned them.
“My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now” (Wiesel 68). God was humanity for Elie, his faith meant everything to him, so when he lost his faith he felt his life had lost purpose. He truly felt alone in the world without God there to guide him, he was more damages by his loss of faith than anything else that happened to him.
Elie Wiesel had once sought comfort in his faith; however, he had struggled to maintain hope since. Another example of his struggle is when Elie had tried to pray to God even though he no longer believed in Him. After witnessing a child betray his own father, “a prayer formed inside [him]. A prayer to the God whom [he] no longer believed.” (91) Here, the motif of “eyes” is important because it shows how even though Elie had lost all faith in God, he still found himself asking for support from Him.