By Eli Weisel, Copyright 1972
Night is a quick read physically, but it stays with you mentally a long time. It’s the true story of a young Jewish teenager in Transylvania who is taken from his home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp. What is so haunting about the story is how the events unfold, one little piece at a time, such that the people who are experiencing it don’t really grasp the grim reality of what is happening to them until it is too late. No one imagines the true horror of Hitler’s war, and so Eli and his family, friends and neighbors go along with their forced departure from home, the long walks, the train rides and eventual placement in the camp thinking, this isn’t so bad, I can live with this, it will all be over soon. But it just gets worse and worse.
I have been reading a diary an older Jewish professor kept in the years leading up to the war, and his experience is the same; each little occurrence that is experienced often happens with little or no resistance or is soon forgotten, until he realizes one day, far too late that their freedom has been stripped from them completely.
The Nazis carried out their final plan in 4 steps:
- First, identification of Jews and other undesirables
- Secondly, the expropriation of their property
- Third, physical concentration of the people
- Fourth, extermination
While Night covers Eli’s experience through all four steps, it is his experiences in the first two steps that bothered me most. Yes, the concentration camps and extermination processes are completely horrifying, but they are well known to the world now. His description of the all the little details within the first two steps that seem innocuous when they are happening sends chills down my spine; that insidious, stealthy destruction is happening right under peoples’ noses and they don’t even realize it. These evil people actively carry out a plan that is known only to them, and they manipulate the innocent victim who is completely unaware that he or she is being led down a path towards their demise.
I think it disturbs me so much because when it happens to you, you realize that you trusted people who really had ulterior motives all along; you’ve been had. And then the worst part is that you lose that sense of trust, and you no longer trust anyone; you begin to wonder if everyone has ulterior motives. Your faith in mankind is shattered.