Here’s another of Oprah’s book club choices. While the subject matter is regarding Jews in the holocaust, there are messages for people of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds. The main character of Night is a religious Jewish teenager named Eliezer.
Like many other observant boys, he spends most of the day studying the bible. His evenings are spent in the synagogue with the beadle learning about Jewish mysticism. Judaism, he learns, places a high value on the value of asking questions and debating. Moshe, the beadle, says, “Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him”.
After Hungary announces that any Jew unable to prove citizenship would be deported, Moshe is taken to Poland in a cattle car. Miraculously, he escapes. Intending to warn the Jews of his homeland, he returns to Sighet and tries to tell them of the atrocities he has witnessed. Much to his horror, nobody believes him. During the next year and a half, Jews lose more and more of their rights.
Three weeks before the Allies invade Normandy; the Jews of Sighet were transferred to one of two small communities called ghettoes. Here in the isolated community of all Jews, they mistakenly thought they would be safe. Unfortunately, they were sadly wrong. In May of 1944, the residents of these ghettoes
were forcibly expelled. Only permitted to take a few small items, the Jews began their journey to Auschwitz.
Upon arrival at the concentration camp, Eliezer and his family were separated. He and his father were put in a group moving to the left, his sisters and mother to the right. He had no way to know that this would be the last time he would see his mother. He desperately attempted to stay with his father, even within direct line of sight if possible. Over time, he watched his father decline until their roles of nurturer and nurtured reverse.
During his time in Auschwitz, Eliezer’s faith in humanity and God falters. The gas chambers and fire pits consume countless Jews, leaving him with his father in the unspeakable position of reciting the prayers for the dead for themselves. Witnessing the slow, tortured hanging of a child, he finds himself wondering where God is during this atrocity. He perceives this death as the literal death of God and is no longer able to participate in the Jewish rituals that the prisoners celebrate together.
Three months after Eliezer and his family were sent to the camp, he and his father were transferred to Auschwitz III, a work camp at Buna-Monowitz. Starving to death and in danger at every moment, their lives revolved around attempting to survive. In January of 1945, Eliezer and his father were once again ordered to relocate, this time on foot.
They marched to Gleiwitz along with 60,000 other prisoners. They were forced to march through the icy winter weather with soldiers taking delight in following out the orders to shoot anyone too weak to keep up. The march took them to the train where they were put into open top cattle cars. With no protection from the snow, most of the prisoners died. Upon arrival, they are greeted with instructions to go take hot baths, but Eliezer’s father collapses in the snow.
Eliezer continues ahead, angry with his father for giving up so close to warmth. Shlomo does not, in fact, die that night, but ends up ill with dysentery. After a week of illness, his father is taken away to the gas chambers in the middle of the night. Sadly, his father died only a short time before the liberation of Buchenwald. In April, the prisoners were told that they would be moved again, they rose up against the soldiers and took over the camp.
And so, finally, Eliezer was free. Do not read Night and expect to feel good afterwards. This book is a story that must be heard and understood, for to forget such horrors is to repeat them. Before long, the last of the survivors will have passed away and we will only be left with these accounts.
Between history books brushing over the unpleasant details and the hate mongers attempting to write it off as a hoax, fewer people are aware of the truth. These victims, the innocent people whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, are fading fast from our collective memories.
George Guidall has a very smooth and expressive tone in his voice which remains consistant through out this reading