Written by Elie Wiesel
Who has also written Dawn and Day
Moshe the Beadle
Night is the terrifying account of a Nazi death camp as told by survivor Elie Wiesel.
Wiesel was still a teenager when he was taken from his home in Sighet, Transylvania, to the
Auschwitz concentration camps and then to Buchenwald. The horror turned this young Jewish boy
into an agonized witness to the death of his family, the death of innocence and the death of his God.
Even through all this, the story is one of hope and bravery.
Moshe had changed. There was no longer any joy in his eyes. He no longer sang. He no longer
talked to me of God or of the cabbala, but only of what he had seen. People refused not only to
believe his stories, but even to listen to them.
‘He’s just trying to make us pity him. What an imagination he has!’ they said. Or even: ‘Poor
fellow. He’s gone mad.’
And as for Moshe, he wept.
‘Jews, listen to me. It’s all I ask of you. I don’t want money or pity. Only listen to me.’ (pp 4-5)
Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1984
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was given to Wiesel.
Wiesel was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Letters in 1996.
Recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.
Founder of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.
As chairman for the Presidential Commission for the Holocaust from 1978 – 1986, he spearheaded
the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In 2006, Wiesel received an Honourary Knighthood in the UK.
In 2007, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize's Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Wiesel.
Wiesel has been Awarded various doctorate degrees from various Universities around the globe.
Night sells approximately 300,000 copies per year in the United States alone.
In 2006, Night was No.1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.
In January 2006, Night was chosen as Oprah’s Book Club book.
Guide Review from http://bestsellers.about.com/od/nonfictionreviews/gr/Night_r.htm
Night, by Elie Wiesel, is a hard book to read. The writing is clear and the volume is short, but it is
difficult nonetheless. Who wants to read about torture and genocide, about people being ripped from
their homes, losing their faith and turning on their own families? It is depressing, to say the least.
Night is not, however, primarily about making the reader sad or dwelling on the past. It is about
remembering. Wiesel wrote his memoir so that we would remember what happened and remember
what civilized humans are capable of.
Part of me wants this book to do more than remember. I am disturbed by the fact that Wiesel never
returns to hope or faith. He raises big questions about humanity and suffering, but the book never
points toward a meaningful answer. I want redemption, or at least some hint of light.
But Wiesel did not experience light, and Night will not let the reader pretend the Holocaust was
anything other than what it was. Wiesel tells the complete truth about his experience, and the reader
is left with hard questions.
Remembering, however, is not a fruitless task. We remember so that we can tackle the big questions
honestly and so we can change. We remember because Rwanda and Darfur prove the lessons of the
Holocaust still need to be learned. We may not want to remember, but we should. So, read.
The Story of ‘Night’ by Rachel Donadio
January 20, 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/books/review/Donadio-
This fall, Elie Wiesel’s “Night” was removed from the New York Times best-seller list, where it had
spent an impressive 80 weeks after Oprah Winfrey picked it for her book club. The Times’s news
survey department, which compiles the list, decided the Holocaust memoir wasn’t a new best seller
but a classic like “Animal Farm” or “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which sell hundreds of thousands of
copies a year largely through course adoptions. Indeed, since it appeared in 1960, “Night” has sold
an estimated 10 million copies — three million of them since Winfrey chose the book in January
2006 (and traveled with Wiesel to Auschwitz).
But “Night” had taken a long route to the best-seller list. In the late 1950s, long before the advent of
Holocaust memoirs and Holocaust studies, Wiesel’s account of his time at Auschwitz and
Buchenwald was turned down by more than 15 publishers before the small firm Hill & Wang finally
accepted it. How “Night” became an evergreen is more than a publishing phenomenon. It is also a
case study in how a book helped created a genre, how a writer became an icon and how the
Holocaust was absorbed into the American experience. … “Night” was one of the first books to raise
the question: where was God at Auschwitz?
… Although “Night” had sophisticated literary motifs and a quiet elegance, American publishers
worried it was more a testimonial than a work of literature…
Finally, in 1959, Arthur Wang of Hill & Wang agreed to take on “Night.” The first reviews were
positive. Gertrude Samuels, writing in the Book Review, called it a “slim volume of terrifying
power.” Alfred Kazin, writing in The Reporter, said Wiesel’s account of his loss of faith had a
“particular poignancy.” After the Kazin review, the book “got great reviews all over America, but it
didn’t influence the sales,” Wiesel said.
The trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 brought the Holocaust into the mainstream of American
consciousness. Other survivors began writing their stories — but with higher visibility came the first
glimmerings of criticism. In a roundup of Holocaust literature in Commentary in 1964, the critic A.
Alvarez said “Night” was “beyond criticism” as a “human document,” but called it “a failure as a
work of art.” Wiesel, he argued, had failed to “create a coherent artistic world out of one which was
the deliberate negation of all values.” …
Although his books were all reviewed respectfully, some critics questioned Wiesel’s role as a self-
appointed witness. “His personal project has been to keep the wounds of Auschwitz open by
repeatedly pouring the salt of new literary reconstructions upon them, and thus to prevent the
collective Jewish memory — and his own — from quietly letting the wounds heal,” Leon Wieseltier,
now the literary editor of The New Republic, wrote in Commentary in 1974. Reviewing Wiesel’s
novel “The Oath,” about a pogrom, Wieseltier criticized Wiesel for “turning history into legend.”
His characters were “archetypes of the varieties of Jewish pain,” Wieseltier wrote, so “what remains
is ... a kind of elaborate superficiality which does justice neither to the author’s intentions nor to his
terrible subject matter.”
…To Lawrence L. Langer, an eminent scholar of Holocaust literature and a friend of Wiesel’s, what
sets “Night” apart is a moral honesty that “helps undermine the sentimental responses to the
Holocaust.” To Langer, “Night” remains an essential companion — or antidote — to “The Diary of
Anne Frank.” That book, with its ringing declaration that “I still believe that people are really good
at heart,” is “easy for teachers to teach,” Langer said, but “from the text you don’t know what
happened when she died of typhus, half-starved at Bergen-Belsen.” Wiesel takes a similar view.
“Where Anne Frank’s book ends,” he said, “mine begins.”
About Elie Wiesel and His Book, Night
However painful this autobiographical work is to read, Night is a testament to memories, wounds
and losses. Each chapter raises questions that have haunted the world since Hitler’s rise: How could
the world allow such a staggering number of innocents to be persecuted and executed? Why does
one man survive when his body, mind and spirit are brutalized for moths, even years, when his
neighbor – or father – does not? Night is essential reading for anyone seeking a deeper
understanding of the Holocaust and the legacy it left behind.
Elie (short for Eliezer) Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928, in Sighet, Transylvania (a town in
northern modern-day Romania near the meeting of the Hungarian and Ukrainian borders). He was
15 years old when he and his family were deported by the Gestapo to Auschwitz and sepereated….
In 1948, he began his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris…Over time, Wiesel became acquainted with
the distinguished French Catholic writer and Nobel laureate Francois Mauriac, who finally inspired
Wiesel to break his self-imposed vow of silence and write about surviving the Nazi concentration
The result was a nearly 900-page personal account, And the World Remained Silent, written in
Yiddish and published in Buenos Aires, Argentine, in 1956. Two years later, a compressed, 127-
page French version called La Nuit was published. In 1960 the first English translation was
published…. A new 2006 edition, translated by his wife, marion Wiesel, offers the most accurate
English translation of the work to date. And in a substantive new preface, Elie Wiesel reflects on the
enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never
forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.
Allusions, References and Noteable Notes
Wiesel and Winfrey
In early 2006, Wiesel traveled to Auschwitz with Oprah Winfrey, a visit which was broadcast as part of
The Oprah Winfrey Show on May 24, 2006
“You can’t hear Elie’s story without wondering: ‘Can he live through that kind of hate and not become a
hater? Can he still be capable of love? Can he find any reason to be grateful?’ When I talk with Elie
about these things, he tells me that he has few answers and many, many questions – yet even in his
questions, I hear hope that the human spirit can survive anything. Anything.”
Novel or Memoir and Different Versions of the Text
Scholars and reviewers have been unsure which literary genre Night belongs to. In All Rivers Run to the
Sea, Wiesel explicitly says, "Night is not a novel," calling it his "deposition," and writes that he
"object[s] angrily" if someone implies it is a work of fiction. He writes that he wants his readers to
know that "the truth I present is unvarnished; I cannot do otherwise.
Nevertheless, reviewers have had difficulty approaching Night as a historical work or eyewitness
account. Gary Weissman of East Carolina University writes in Fantasies of Witnessing: Postwar Efforts
to Experience the Holocaust that Night has been called a "novel/autobiography," an "autobiographical
novel," a "non-fictional novel," a "semi-fictional memoir," a "fictional-autobiographical novel," a
"fictionalized autobiographical memoir," and a "memoir-novel." Weissman argues that Night is
regarded as defying all categories, and notes Irving Abrahamson's introduction to the latter's collection
of Wiesel's work: "Night is an unprecedented book, the beginning of something new in literature, if not
François Mauriac wrote in the foreword to the first French edition that Night is "different, distinct,
unique ... a book to which no other could be compared." When the first American edition was published,
A. Alverez wrote in Commentary that it was "almost unbearably painful, and certainly beyond
Ruth Franklin argues that the book's impact stems from its construction, which she calls "exquisite." Its
language is plain, but "every sentence feels weighted and deliberate, every episode carefully chosen and
delineated. It is also shockingly brief; it can be read in an hour, and carried in a pocket. One has the
sense of merciless experience mercilessly distilled to its essence ... To read it is to lose one's own
innocence about the Holocaust all over again."
The simplicity and power of the narrative has come at the cost of literal truth, writes Franklin. The
Yiddish version was more of a historical work than a literary one, and it was political and angry…
In preparation for publication in France, Wiesel and his publisher pruned everything that was not
entirely necessary, and Franklin writes that it was a work of art that emerged, rather than a faithful
Naomi Seidman, professor of Jewish Culture at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, wrote a
comparative analysis of the Yiddish and French texts for a 1996 article in Jewish Social Studies. She
documented the transition from a historical account of events to what she sees as an autobiographical
novel, concluding that Night transforms the Holocaust into a "religious theological" event. She writes
that "[i]n the aftermath of God's abdication, the site and occasion of this abdication — "the
Holocaust" — takes on theological significance, and the witness becomes both priest and prophet of this
new religion," quoting Wiesel, who has said that "Auschwitz is as important as Sinai."
Seidman concludes that there was not one Holocaust survivor in Night, but two, "a Yiddish and a
French," a view that Holocaust deniers have exploited to imply that Wiesel has not been truthful about
some of the scenes, and which led to Seidman herself being accused of Holocaust revisionism in
letters to the editor. Seidman told the Jewish Daily Forward that, in re-writing, rather than simply
translating Un di Velt Hot Geshvign for publication in France, Wiesel had replaced an "angry survivor"
who regards "testimony as a refutation of what the Nazis did to the Jews," with one who is "haunted by
death, whose primary complaint is directed against God, not the world, [or] the Nazis."
Seidman supports her thesis that the Yiddish and French versions are two books written for different
audiences by comparing the parts of the text that survived the editing process, and pointing out what she
sees as significant differences. For example, in the Yiddish, Wiesel writes that, after liberation, some of
the camp survivors, the "Jewish boys," run off to "fargvaldikn daytshe shikses" ("rape German shiksas"),
whereas in the French, they are just "young men" who go "coucher avec les filles" ("to sleep with
girls"). Seidman argues that the Yiddish version is for the Jewish readers, who want to hear about
Jewish boys taking revenge by raping German non-Jews. For the rest of the world—the largely Christian
readership—the anger is removed, and they are simply young men sleeping with girls. Seidman
writes that Wiesel, perhaps taking advice from François Mauriac, a Roman Catholic, deliberately
suppressed what his Jewish readership wanted to read about: the need for vengeance. She asks: "Was it
worth translating the Holocaust out of the language of the largest portion of its victims and into the
language of those who were, at best, absent, and at worst, complicitous in the genocide?"
Sighet, Transylvania is a small, rural village in
It is such a small village that it did not even make the
maps. Before the war, there were several Jewish
temples and synagogues in and near Sighet.
In the 1930's,
500,000 up from 29,000 in 1803. However, during World War
II, most of those Jews were evacuated and sent off to the Nazi
labor or death camps.
Judaism is a set of beliefs and practices originating in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), as later further
explored and explained in the Talmud (a book of Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history. It is a central
text of mainstream Judaism) as well as in other texts.
Judaism presents itself as the covenantal relationship between the Children of Israel (later, the Jewish
nation) and God. It is considered either the first or one of the first monotheistic religions, and is among
the oldest religious traditions still being practiced today.
The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. – Elie Wiesel
Questions unite people, answers divide them. So why have answers when you can live without them? –
Text as Story
After Eleizer’s father was beaten by Idek, a Kapo, Eliezer says,
“I had watched the whole scene without moving. I kept quiet. In fact I was thinking
of how to get farther away so that I would not be hit myself. What is more, any anger
I felt at that moment was directed, not against the Kapo, but against my father. I was
angry with him, for not knowing how to avoid Idek’s outbreak. That is what
concentration camp life had made of me.”
What are the implications of this last line in context of the book as a whole?
Elie is changed by his experiences, what is Wiesel communicating about that change?
Similarities between Moshe the Beadle and Mme Schacter – what is their role? How do these two
characters resonate throughout the book?
Symbols of faith, hope, beauty, life etc. What is the role of such symbols in this book?
Examples of dehumanizing as method of torture – evidence of how Elie was effected
Text as Technique
Novel v. memoir – difficulties; support for each
“Slim volume of terrifying power.” (New York Times) Weisel’s style and format are concise but
compelling – how is this accomplished?
Quote Scene Significance/Relevance