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Night by Elie Wiesel. The story of a young Jewish boy sent to the concentration camps during the Holocaust Story of his struggle to survive, his struggle to keep his family together, and his struggle with God. I. Elie Wiesel.

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night by elie wiesel
NightbyElie Wiesel
  • The story of a young Jewish boy sent to the concentration camps during the Holocaust
  • Story of his struggle to survive, his struggle to keep his family together, and his struggle with God.

I. Elie Wiesel

  • Grew up in an orthodox Jewish community within Sighet, a small town in Romania.
    • The town was isolated from world events until Nazis captured the town in 1944.

Elie was 15 years old

    • Sent to Auschwitz
  • After the war, Wiesel lived in France
    • Didn’t write about his concentration camp experiences until 10 years later – due to a vow of silence

Wrote Night in 1958

  • Continues to voice human-rights violations
  • Noble Prize winner in 1986

WW II Background


The Holocaust

  • Germany was crippled by the Great Depression. React with the rise of the Nazi party.
  • Believed the Aryan race (Germans and Northern Europeans) should rule the world.
    • “Final Solution” – elimination of all Jews. Estimated 6 million Jews are killed in concentration camps.

Gradually stripped Jews of their rights:

    • Boycotted Jewish businesses
    • Vandalized Jewish businesses and homes
    • Forced to wear a yellow Star of David

Eventually barred Jews from public facilities

  • Transported to ghettos – “for their own safety”
  • Sent to concentration camps

ghettos: The Nazis revived the medieval term ghetto to describe their device of concentration and control, the compulsory "Jewish Quarter." Ghettos were usually established in the poor sections of a city, where most of the Jews from the city and surrounding areas were subsequently forced to reside. Often surrounded by barbed wire or walls, the ghettos were sealed. Established mostly in eastern Europe (e.g., Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, Riga, or Minsk), the ghettos were characterized by overcrowding, malnutrition, and heavy labor. All were eventually dissolved, and the Jews murdered.


Entrance to Auschwitz in 1941. The slogan Arbeit macht frei over the gate translates as "Work (shall) make (you) free" (or "work liberates")


Selection for Death

Selection at the Birkenau ramp, 1944 — Birkenau main entrance visible in the background


Auschwitz is the name used to identify the three main Nazi German concentration camps and the 45-50 subcamps.

  • The three main camps were:
  • Auschwitz I—the original concentration camp
  • which served as the administration center for the
  • whole complex. It was the site of roughly 70,000
  • Polish intellectuals, gay men and Soviet Prisoners of War

Auschwitz II (Birkenau)—an extermination camp and the site of the deaths of roughly

  • 1 million Jews, 75,000 Poles, gay men and some
  • 19,000 Roma (also known as gypsies)
  • Auschwitz III (Monowitz)—served as a labor
  • camp.

The total number of deaths at the camps is estimated at around 1-1.5 million.

  • About 700 prisoners attempted escape from the camps; about 300 were successful. Common punishment for escape attempts was death by starvation. The families of successful escapees were sometimes arrested and interned in Auschwitz and displayed to deter others from trying to escape.

(Above) Left - An enormous pile of clothing taken from children who were gassed at Auschwitz. Right - Bales of hair shaven from women at Auschwitz, used to make felt-yarn. (Below) After liberation, an Allied soldier displays a stash of gold wedding rings taken from victims at Buchenwald.


“The world is too dangerous to live in—

Not because of the people who do evil,

But because of the people who sit and let it happen.”

-Albert Einstein

hasidic judaism
Hasidic Judaism:
  • Jewish religious movement which began in the 18th century in Europe.
  • Stresses joyful performance of duties
  • Hasid: the leader who devotes his life to study of the Jewish scriptures:
    • Talmud
    • Cabbala
jewish scriptures
Jewish scriptures:
  • Wiesel cites the book of Job.
  • The Talmud: Compilation of Jewish oral law accompanied by a vast literature of rabbinic commentary
  • The Cabbala: Jewish system of mysticism
    • Arose from the medieval interpretations of Jewish scriptures.
the kaddish
The Kaddish
  • An ancient prayer for the dead in the Aramaic language, which requires a quorum of ten adult Jews for proper recitation.
  • Wiesel quotes its opening words:
    • “May His Name be blessed and magnified”
jewish feasts
Jewish Feasts:
  • High Holy Days or the Days of Awe:
    • Rosh Hashana: New Year
    • Yom Kippur: Day of Atonemant
  • Feasts encourage reassessment of one’s life and deeds.
  • In ordinary life these days promote spiritual renewal and reconciliation with others. In the camps they ironically reinforce Elie’s loss of faith.

Discussion Questions

  • Could something like this ever happen again?
  • What would stop this from happening again?
  • What does it take for survivors to go on?
  • How is it more or less difficult to survive a tragedy based on age?
  • What difficulties have you had to survive?
  • How do they compare?
  • What is the significance of sharing survival stories?