He spent his life, up until he died in 2016, making sure that the stories of the Jews who lost their lives in the Second World War were not forgetting. He sought to ensure that humanity never forgot what had happened during the Holocaust.
Remembering and Indifference
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.
These are some of the most moving and disturbing lines from Night. They also allude to one of the most important themes in the novel, religion, and a loss of religion. Eliezer’s emotional state comes through clearly, especially when it comes to the repetition of the word “Never.” These are declaratory statements that help the reader understand the memories burned into his soul. These lines come from chapter three.
No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.
These direct lines are a clear rebuke of the thought process and system of belief that led to mass genocide during the Second World War. Elie Wiesel never shied away from his cause or mince words when it came to the future of the human race. He understood what set the Holocaust in motion and was determined to do what he could to stop it from happening again.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
These lines very clearly lay out what it is that Wiesel was trying to accomplish through his career, although especially in his Night trilogy. These novels were written as a way of never forgetting what happened to him and to millions of others during the holocaust. It was Wiesel’s goal throughout his life to help these stories live on so that generations of people would know what happened. He also often spoke passionately about indifference and what happened in the world due to so many’s indifference towards a group of people they once considered their neighbors and friends.
Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and loving and dreaming. At night everything is more intense, more true. The echo of words that have been spoken during the day takes on a new and deeper meaning. The tragedy of man is that he doesn’t know how to distinguish between day and night. He says things at night that should only be said by day.
These lines can be found in Dawn, the second book in Wiesel’s Night trilogy. The novel was published in 1961 and is a work of fiction. It focuses on Elisha, a Holocaust survivor who moves to the British Mandate of Palestine and joins a paramilitary group after WWII. These lines bring in the images of night and day that are at the heart of the trilogy. Wiesel’s speaker describes the tragedy of “man” and how hard it is to tell the difference between night, which is “for thinking and loving and dreaming” and day.
Identity and Loss
The yellow star? Oh well, what of it? You don’t die of it.
This short quote comes from the first chapter of Night. In these lines, the speaker alludes to the horrors that await Eliezer and his family, and they are forced from their homes, into the ghetto in their village, and then onto the cattle cars to Auschwitz/Birkenau. The yellow star is just an image, but it is one that marks Eliezer and his family out as different and as destined for a terrible fate.
I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach. The stomach alone was aware of the passage of time.
In these dark lines from Chapter 4 of Night, the speaker, Eliezer, describes his hopelessness. He lost his identity, most of his family, and now he’s nothing but a “body or a starved stomach with nothing more than a desire to live on to the next day.
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe
These lines drive home the leading cause in Wiesel’s life. They were spoken during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech when he won the award in 1986. The Nobel Prize website describes the motivation for the award as Wiesel “being a messenger for mankind: his message is one of peace, atonement, and dignity.”
One day I was able to get up, after gathering all my strength. I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.
These lines are the final passage of Night and Wiesel’s ending statement regarding the effect that the Holocaust had on him and his narrator, Eliezer. This conclusion helps relay Elie Wiesel’s intentions for Night as a personal story about one young man’s experiences in the camps. It is about him and his inner and outer turmoil. While he looks at himself in the mirror, he knows he’s survived the Holocaust when so many others did not. But, despite this, he can’t help but see himself as something already dead, a walking corpse. He’s a shell of the person he was when he was sent with his family to the ghetto back in Sighet.