Wiesel's Night is about what the Holocaust did, not just to the Jews,
but by extension, to humanity. People all over the world were devastated
by this atrocious act, and there are still people today who haven't
overcome the effects.
One example of the heinous acts of the Germans that stands out occurs at
the end of the war, when Elie and the rest of the camp of Buna is being
forced to transfer to Gleiwitz. This transfer is a long, arduous, and
tiring journey for all who are involved. The weather is painfully cold,
and snow fell heavily; the distance is greater than most people today
will even dream of walking. The huge mass of people is often forced to
run, and if one collapses, is injured, or simply can no longer bear the
pain, they are shot or trampled without pity. An image that secures
itself in Elie's memory is that of Rabbi Eliahou's son's leaving the
Rabbi for dead. The father and son are running together when the father
begins to grow tired. As the Rabbi falls farther and farther behind his
son, his son runs on, pretending not to see what is happening to his
father. This spectacle causes Elie to think of what he would do if his
father ever became as weak as the Rabbi. He decides that he would never
leave his father, even if staying with him would be the cause of his
death.
The German forces are so adept at breaking the spirits of the Jews that
we can see the effects throughout Elie's novel. Elie's faith in God,
above all other things, is strong at the onset of the novel, but grows
weaker as it goes on. We see this when Elie's father politely asks the
gypsy where the lavoratories are. Not only does the gypsy not grace his
father with a response, but he also delivers a blow to his head that
sent him to the floor. Elie watches the entire exhibition, but doesn't
even blink. He realizes that nothing, not even his faith in God, can
save him from the physical punishment that would await him if he tried
to counterattack the gypsy. If the gypsy's attack had come just one day
earlier, Elie probably would have struck back. However, the effect of
the spiritual beating by the Germans was already being felt.
The incident that perhaps has the greatest effect on Elie is the hanging
of the pipel. He is a young boy with an "innocent face" who is condemned
to death because he is implicated in a conspiracy which results in a
German building being destroyed. When the time for the hanging
approaches, the Lagerkapo refuses to kick out the chair, so SS officers
are assigned to do it. Unlike the necks of those he is hanged with, the
young boy's neck does not break when he falls, and he suffers for over a
half-hour. The suffering of the child is comparable to the suffering
endured by many Jews during the Holocaust. He fought for his life, at
times even seeing a bit of hope, only to be destroyed in the end. The
Jews fought for everything they had, from their possessions at the
beginning, to their lives at the end. The result, however, was the same.
At the end of the war, Elie looks into the mirror, and says he saw "a
corpse." This "corpse" is Elie's body, but it has been robbed of its
soul. This is similar to the loss suffered by people all over the world.
Those not directly involved with the Holocaust were still alive
physically, but their mind and spirit had long been dead. By the end of
the war, Elie loses all of his faith in God and his fellow man, and this
is the most difficult obstacle to overcome when he is released.