Elie Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania; a town bordering between Hungary and Romania. As a child he was devoted to studying the Talmud, the Torah, and the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah.
In 1944, Germans deported him and his family, along with approximately fifteen thousand other Jews, to the notorious concentration camp in Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister were exterminated to Birkenau. Realizing the importance of being together, Elie and his father lied about their age so they would not be separated. Elie, who became known as number A-7713, and his father were together throughout their interment until his father passed away in Buchenwald. After a short stay in Auschwitz they were moved to a camp called Buna where they experienced the dehumanizing practices of concentration camps. The male Jews were shaved, showered, and given work clothes. This is where their nightmare began. They were severely beaten. Elie, in one occurrence, is struck twenty five times with a whip for walking in on an overseer while he was with a girl. All the prisoners at camp were overworked and undernourished.
Wiesel describes scenes in which he remembers flames and a horrid smell that he couldn’t describe. He quotes, “Do you see that chimney over there? See it? Do you see those flames? (Yes, we did see the flames). Over there, that’s where you’re going to be taken. That’s your grave, over there.” (Wiesel, page 28). Later he learns that these flames come from a fire in a ditch where babies are thrown in to reduce the population. He depicts scenes that he thought were unimaginable. A nightmare that he thought could never be real.
Imagine being separated from your family, being imprisoned, being tortured, and not knowing why. Imagine going through such experiences that you lose your faith in God. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.” (Wiesel, page 32).
Wiesel has written several books describing his experiences as a Jew in the time of Hitler. Night is an outspoken, horrific, and deeply heartbreaking autobiographical account of one teenager’s will to survive in the Nazi death camps dictated by Hitler. It addresses not only the daily terrors of life in Auschwitz and Buchenwald but also philosophical and personal questions eliciting debate of what the Holocaust was, what it means to those who lived in it and survived, and what it will mean to future generations of Holocaust survivors. In his courageous account, Wiesel shares with us the death of his family, his loss of faith, and his will to live. It is as powerful and personal as The Diary of Anne Frank. Some of Wiesel’s other novels include Dawn (1960), The Accident (1961), and A Beggar in Jeruselam (1968). He has also written a series of memoirs.