Sunday, September 21, 2008

Death of Innocence

Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote “Night” in 1958 the first of forty works of literature he has written to date. “Night” is Elie Wiesel’s personal memoir of the incredible, horrific journey he and his family made in 1944 from the small town of Sighet,in Transylvania, to Birkenau, the German concentration camp and ending in April of 1945, with the American liberation of the concentration camp prisoners at Buchenwald.

The Wiesel family are first forced into a tiny Jewish ghetto in Sighet. Soon after they are packed into cattle trains and taken to Birkenau. It is there on the first “night” of horror that Elie sees his mother and sister for the last time. He and his father manage to stay together as they are starved, and forced to work in the labor camp. Those who were able to survive are marched to Auschwitz, the main extermination campsite. At Auschwitz they endure beatings, excruciating labor, and starvation.

A teenager who spent all of his time studying the Talmud and praying in the synagogue, Elie Wiesel is now a 15 year old trying only to survive and not abandon his father. He felt his faith in God slowly slipping away. The Germans had stripped him of his family, his strength, his hope, his childhood, and his faith in God.

At the end of 1944 the Russians were advancing on Auschwitz, so the Germans forced the prisoners to march and run in snow, ice and wind, without food, for fifty miles to Gleiwitz the nearest camp. They arrived at Gleiwitz in January 1945. At Gleiwitz there were now one hundred remaining prisoners who were loaded onto one train headed for Buchenwald. Only 12 prisoners, including Elie and his father, survived the excruciating trip. They reached Buchenwald where within weeks Elie’s father died of dysentery, starvation and exhaustion. Elie survived, barely, living in a children’s block, until April 10, 1945 when the Americans liberated the camp.

Elie Wiesel has written, that having survived the holocaust he needed to give meaning to his survival. He wrote the powerful, gripping story, “Night”, as a witness who believes that he has a moral obligation to prevent this horror from ever being allowed to happen again. By the late 1990’s “Night’ was a standard high school and college text, selling 400,000 copies a year.

No comments:

Post a Comment