For those who have read Night, Shlomo Wiesel is undoubtedly one of the most important characters in the novel. He and the narrator, Eliezer, are the only two characters who are in the novel from the beginning to (almost) the end.
Shlomo Wiesel in Night
Night begins in Sighet, a small village in Romania where Eliezer lives with his father, mother, and sisters. Eliezer is a studious young man who spends his time studying the Talmud and the Kabbalah. His family, like the other villagers, are disbelieving of the horrors playing out at a stance from them. That is, until Nazi soldiers make their way to Sighet. The Jewish population is rounded up and forced to live in a ghetto. Even then, when the Jews are forced to wear yellow stars, it’s unclear what’s going on. Eliezer describes his father’s reaction to the stars with this quote:
My father’s view was that it was not all bleak, or perhaps he just did not want to discourage the others, to throw salt on their wounds: “The yellow star? So what? It’s not lethal…”
They were soon made aware of the terrible threat they were facing when they were taken in cattle cars to Auschwitz/Birkenau. There, Eliezer sticks close to his father, both of whom are selected to work, while Eliezer’s mother and sister are sent to the gas chamber. Eliezer realizes as time goes on that he has a great responsibility for his father, one that binds him as it does all fathers and sons.
Shlomo becomes a target for the guards who seek out the weakest link among the prisoners. He’s threatened when a guard wants to take Eliezer’s tooth and Eliezer has to make sure that his father is as protected as possible. This is something that weighs on Eliezer. He loves his father, but he is barely surviving himself.
In one particularly moving part of the novel, Shlomo is selected by the guards to go to the gas chamber, due to his weakness and overall age. He’s soon given a second chance, but this close brush with death inspires him to give Eliezer his only possessions of value—a knife and a spoon. In one altercation with a guard, Elie Wiesel wrote these words to describe Eliezer’s thoughts on the matter:
My father had just been struck, in front of me, and I had not even blinked. I had watched and kept silent. Only yesterday, I would have dug my nails into this criminal’s flesh. Had I changed that much?
He grows weaker as the novel progresses, deathly so after the march through the snow and the cattle car ride to Buchenwald. There, he’s denied food from the other prisoners, beaten, and then finally killed with a blow to the head by a guard. These lines occur when Eliezer is describing his last moments with his father:
I tightened my grip on my father’s hand. The old, familiar fear: not to lose him. Very close to us stood the tall chimney of the crematorium’s furnace. It no longer impressed us.
The two have seen so much horror together that one more crematorium and what it symbolizes does not move them. After Shlomo is beaten, Eliezer describes his father’s body being taken away while he was asleep, something that concerned him as there was the possibility that his father was still alive when taken to the crematorium. The camp is liberated in April of 1945.
Shlomo Wiesel’s Character in Night
Shlomo Wiesel’s character in Night is not a dynamic one. He remains the same throughout much of the novel with the bulk of the character arc being reserved for Eliezer, whose emotions the reader is constantly aware of. Shlomo is an older man who loves his son and depends on him in a way that makes the camps even more difficult for Eliezer to navigate and survive. Readers are only aware of Shlomo through Eliezer’s eyes, this means that his perspective is lost and unknown.
Eliezer thinks about his father a great deal in Night. He worries about him as an important aspect of his own life. He’s at the center of Eliezer’s struggle for survival and his desire to maintain some aspect of the person he used to be. His relationship with his father is a symbol of his familial love and humanity, things that the Nazi regime and camps tried to strip him of. This is especially meaningful when Eliezer observes the degradation around him and how the other prisoners sink into cruelty and despair in a way that he can’t, and won’t.
His father is a reminder that there is more to life than what’s inside the camps and if Eliezer can only keep him out of harm’s way then they have the possibility of returning to that life.
Shlomo Wiesel’s Timeline in Night
- Shlomo and Eliezer stick together while arriving at Birkenau.
- Shlomo is yelled at when he tries to go to the bathroom.
- He becomes a target when the guards want to take Eliezer’s gold tooth.
- Eliezer begins to realize his responsibility for his father.
- Shlomo is almost selected to go to the gas chamber and gives his remaining possessions to his son—a knife and a spoon.
- He suggests it’s best for Eliezer to be evacuated with the rest of the prisoners while Eliezer is in the hospital but isn’t sure.
- Shlomo grows weaker as the prisoners are forced to march through the snow.
- He’s further weakened by the trip in the cattle car.
- Eliezer wakes him up in time to keep him from being thrown from the car.
- Shlomo grows deathly ill at Buchenwald and the fellow prisoners refuse to give him any food. They beat him as they wait for him to die.
- A guard kills Shlomo by hitting him in the head. He dies on January 28, 1945, while calling his son’s name.