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By Elie Wiesel. Night. Preface to the New Translation.

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preface to the new translation
Preface to the New Translation

If in my lifetime I was to write only one book, this would be the one. Just as the past lingers in the present, all my writings after Night, including those that deal with biblical, Talmudic, or Hasidic themes, profoundly bear its stamp, and cannot be understood if one has not read this very first of my works.

Why did I write it?

Did I write it so as not to go mad or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness, the immense, terrifying madness that had erupted in history and in the conscience of mankind?


Was it to leave behind a legacy of words, of memories, to help prevent history from repeating itself?

Or was it simply to preserve a record of the ordeal I endured as an adolescent, at an age when one’s knowledge of death and evil should be limited to what one discovers in literature?

There are those who tell me that I survived in order to write this text. I am not convinced. I don’t know how I survived; I was weak, rather shy; I did nothing to save myself. A miracle? Certainly not. If heaven could or would perform a miracle for me, why not for the others more deserving than myself? It was nothing more than chance. However, having survived, I needed to give some meaning to my survival. Was it to protect that meaning that I set to paper an experience in which nothing made any sense?

In retrospect I must confess that I do not know, or no longer know, what I wanted to achieve with my words. I only know that without this testimony, my life as a writer—or my life, period—would not have become what it is: that of a witness who believes he has a moral obligation to try to prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory.

why it s titled night
Why it’s titled Night

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.



The struggle to maintain faith:

In the beginning Elie’s faith is absolute.

His faith is shaken by the cruelty and evil he witnesses.

Begins to feel that if the world is so disgusting and cruel then God must either be disgusting and cruel or not exist at all.

The fact that he is questions reflects his inherent commitment to God.

Although he is forever changed Elizer emerges with his faith intact.



Silence of God: how can an all-knowing, all-powerful God allow such horror and cruelty occur, especially to such devout worshipers?

The Jews expected to be saved by an angel as Isaac was when Abraham was commanded to sacrifice him.

God’s silence demonstrates the absence of divine compassion

Silence of the victims: overall lack of resistance to the Nazi threat

Suggests that passivity and silence are what allowed the Holocaust to continue

Night is an attempt to break the silence: to tell loudly and boldly the atrocities of the Holocaust


Inhumanity towards other humans

The revelation of how horrible people can be to one another

Incomprehensible aspect of the Holocaust: how human beings can so callously slaughter millions of innocent victims

Cruelty breeds cruelty

The cruelty of the camp turns prisoners against each other

Self-preservation became the highest virtue


Father-Son Bonds

The camp and the need to survive ruptures familial bonds

Elie discusses instances where sons sacrifice their fathers in order to save themselves.

Despite his love and care for his father, Elie feels that he has somehow sacrificed his father for his own safety.

Elie demonstrates that his relationship with his father was stronger than his instinct for self-preservation.


Elie’s father Chlomo




Symbol of the Nazis’ cruel power

Agent of destruction in the crematoria

The wicked who wield the power of fire use it to punish the innocent.



Symbolize a world without God’s presence

Always occurs when suffering is the worst

Presence reflects Eliezer’s belief that he lives in a world without God.

Elie first arrives at Birkenau/Auschwitz at night

The prisoners begin their horrible run from Buna at night



A people without a country/home—as a result memory and tradition play a significant role in Jewish life

Judaism relies on customs, observances, and traditions passed down from generation to generation as the markers of cultural identity

The Holocaust was an attempt to wipe out this cultural identity

Conversation & Storytelling are important elements of Jewish folk tradition

Chlomo’s storytelling symbolizes Jewish culture as a whole.


Religious Observance:

Memoir begins with many references to religion and religious observance

By the end of the book almost all mentions of Jewish observance have vanished

Jewish tradition and beliefs indirectly hold the foundation of the book.

jewish ghettos
Jewish Ghettos

Before being transported to concentration camps, Jews were rounded up and forced to live in walled off areas of the city.


Little by little life returned to “normal.” The barbed wire that encircled us like a wall did not fill us with real fear. In fact, we felt this was not a bad thing; we were entirely among ourselves. … People thought this was a good thing. We would no longer have to look at all those hostile faces, endure those hate-filled stares. No more fear. No more anguish. We would live among Jews, among brothers…

--Night (page 12)

temporarily out of the krakow ghetto on forced labor

After the morning roll call we were marched downtown, under heavy guard, for work. Even under those circumstances it felt good to be out of the ghetto and breathe fresh air. At the same time we felt our deprivation at the sight of the unchanged world going on around us: normal people living normal lives. We passed carefree children playing in the streets; toddlers led by their mothers, chatting and giggling, unafraid of sudden, forced separation. There were grandmothers pushing their infant grandchildren's carriages, exuding joy and anticipation; young people holding hands, smiling and conversing, facing the future with confidence. We marched on.

Jewish homes occupied by the Poles. Jewish businesses taken over by the Germans. And the Jews themselves, plundered of their joys, torn from their families, dressed in tatters, degraded, hunted, and herded like animals. They would extract some work from us, squeeze the last drop of blood from our veins, and then finally discard the useless bodies.

Yes, there was still a normal world outside the ghetto walls. There the Poles, laughing and jeering, relished the sight of the ravaged, tattered Jews. "What, are they still around?" they asked. "Hasn't Hitler killed them all off?"


  • Auschwitz:
  • Largest Nazi Concentration Camp
  • Proportion of deaths among Auschwitz prisoners was much higher than in other camps
  • Included more than 40 satellite camps that spread over a vast industrial area
    • Satellite camps served as a huge pool of prisoner labor for the German war effort
auschwitz birkenau



Death Camp

  • Holding Camp/Torture Center

“Jews faced selection immediately upon arrival; those deemed fit to work, usually a small minority of those on the transports, became registered prisoners, whereas others, including as a rule all children and the elderly, went to their death in the gas chambers.”

--Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum)


Prisoners were tattooed with a serial number

They wore striped camp fatigues with a piece of cloth attached bearing the prisoner’s serial number and the symbol of his/her category

Red triangle= political prisoner

Green triangle= ordinary criminals

Black triangle =asocials

Star of David=Jewish

death marches
Death Marches
  • As the Third Reich crumbled and the eastern front collapsed, the Germans began a comprehensive retreat to the West, towards Germany. SS Chief Himmler ordered his subordinates not to allow the Allied armies to liberate living prisoners in the concentration camps—as had happened in Majdanek, where the murders had been discovered. The evacuation of the inmates of hundreds of camps in Poland and eastern Prussia westwards, to the Reich, began in late 1944. In harsh winter weather, as artillery thundered in the distance, the prisoners were loaded aboard trains or led out on foot on murderous treks that lasted weeks, if not months. Some prisoners, those who were too weak to set out, were put to death in the camps; only a few sick prisoners were left behind. The guards who were ordered to lead the prisoners understood that these duties were an obstacle to their own escape from the Red Army; thus, they were all the more eager to kill the prisoners and get away. After the war the mass graves of thousands of murdered evacuees were found along the routes of the death marches. The order to evacuate the prisoners to the German interior was not issued in writing; that is, no written order has surfaced. For this reason, the local initiatives taken by guards and escorts are especially telling. Scholars suggest that the purpose of the death marches was twofold: first, they were intended as another way to continue killing Jews, to the last man and woman. And, second, until this could be accomplished, the prisoners would be concentrated temporarily in camps so as to ensure that no witnesses would be left to testify about the murders and, meanwhile, to exploit the Jewish labor force until the last possible moment. In this fashion, the mass murder of the prisoners continued until the day of surrender. – To Bear Witness
death marches1
Death Marches

“I was in a terribly bad condition and the German guard stood there and watched us picking food out of the trash…There was a rotten apple and we pulled it out and ate it…he asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I told him, ‘…Do me a favor, kill me, kill me.’ He said, ‘I wasn’t given any such order.’” –Lea

the men s march from auschwitz birkenau
The Men’s March from Auschwitz-Birkenau

  • On January 18, 1945, some 3,000 prisoners dressed in flimsy striped clothing were marched out of Birkenau in the heavy snow. The marcher alleviated their thirst by eating snow; they slept out in the open. After covering 59 kilometers on foot, they were placed aboard open freight cars. Many froze to death on the way. When the train stopped—possibly because the track had been damaged in a bombardment—the prisoners continued on foot. Several hundred men escaped into the forest; many were shot. During the ten days of the march, the prisoners received food only four times. After a further 368-kilometer trek, those still alive reached the Gross Rosen concentration camp. On May 9, the last day of the war, the few survivors were liberated by the Red Army. They had covered 498 kilometers in total.
fact sheets
Fact Sheets

Jewish mysticism


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Fact Sheets



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Fact Sheets



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Fact Sheets

Adolf hitler


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Fact Sheets

Zyklon b


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Fact Sheets



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Fact Sheets



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Fact Sheets



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Fact Sheets

S. S.

Dr. Mengele

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Fact Sheets

Jewish Councils


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Fact Sheets

Yom Kippur

Red Army

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Fact Sheets



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Fact Sheets

Elie Wiesel