Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is an extremely powerful narrative, despite its diminutive size. Elie recounts his story as a survivor of the Holocaust, a genocidal campaign carried out by the Nazis under the leadership of Hitler during World War II. Elie finds himself the lone survivor of a journey that would take him from his small town to the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald. Along the way, he finds himself questioning everything he thought he knew, including his faith in God.

This is not an easy book to read, and it is far from an enjoyable read. It is an important narrative. I have read many Holocaust survivor stories. I have always been fascinated by this horrific event, which probably sounds a little strange, but it is true. It is a prime example of humanity at its worst, but at the same time, there are examples of hope, kindness, and goodness. I think it is this juxtaposition of the opposite sides of humanity that fascinates me.

For anyone interested in the human psyche, I think the Holocaust is a treasure trove of things to explore. I am always intrigued by how humans respond when faced with such unimaginable things. Why do some give up, while others fight? How do some hold on to hope and faith, while others lose theirs forever? How does one man get the power to bring such destruction to the world? How do others let it happen? For the survivors, where do you go from there? How do you rebuild your life after it has been shattered so completely? So many questions that have no easy answers.

One thing that always strikes me when I read Night is the denial. Despite the warnings and the ever increasing restrictions on their freedoms, many Jews refused to believe that it could get worse and chose not to leave when they had the chance. I am by no means judging these people. I can't even imagine how I would respond if I was in their shoes. Who could ever have imagined how far Hitler would go to create his vision of the perfect world? Who knew that he would get so close to doing it? To me, the denial speaks to a greater belief that many of us hold - that at our core, humans are inherently good. That in the end, good will triumph over evil.

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

It has been said that narratives such as Night should not be taught. That the only way to move forward is to put the past behind us. I think this is a common adage. If we put a horrific experience behind us and don't think about it, then we can move on. I disagree with this train of thought wholeheartedly. Stories like Night need to be told over and over again, especially when genocides are still occurring in the world today. If we do not continually hold these stories up as a mirror, then it is all too easy to ignore and brush aside the fact that these events DID happen and CONTINUE to happen.

I give this book 5 stars, not because it is enjoyable, but because it is a powerful and important narrative. I would also highly recommend picking up the other two books in this trilogy.

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