Elie Wiesel’s book Night provides an account of his experience in the Nazi concentration camps. The action takes place during WWII. The book’s purpose was to preserve the record of the ordeal to prevent history from repeating itself. Moreover, the author aimed to explain the nature of the terrors witnessed by the Holocaust survivors.
The book Night was written in 1960 by Elie Wiesel. He is a Romanian-born American writer, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor. It describes his experience in Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps during World War II. The book was translated into 30 languages. Moreover, it is one of the most prominent examples of Holocaust literature. It was initially written in Yiddish as an 862-page manuscript. Then, Wiesel edited the book down to 178 pages for the French publication. In 1960, the English translation was published, with the text reduced to 116 pages. It is the first book in a trilogy: Night, Dawn, Day, that describes the author’s transition from darkness to light.
Wiesel was born in 1928. His native town was Sighet. In 1944, the town was invaded by the Nazis, and Wiesel’s family was transferred to Auschwitz. Here, Elie was separated from his sisters and mother and deported to Buna with his father. They spent the following two years in the concentration camps. Here they worked under slave-labor conditions and lived inside cramped barracks, struggling to survive. Elie’s father died in January 1945, three months before the United States Army liberated the camp.
The book describes the terror and despair that Elie witnessed during his time in the camp. He is forced to watch the death of fellow prisoners and children. The horrific conditions where he lived made the boy feel the constant fear of death. Wiesel feels an increasing disgust for humanity. Many of the prisoners start to slide into cruelty, concerned only with personal survival. Elie’s father slowly declines into helplessness. It makes Eliezer experience guilt and shame having to serve as his caregiver. Gradually, Elie himself starts to lose his humanity and faith both in God and in the people.
At the beginning of the book, Wiesel explicitly describes its purpose. He wanted to leave behind a legacy of words to help prevent history from repeating itself. Wiesel regards his life as that of a witness who believes that he has a moral obligation to try to prevent the enemy from “enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory.” As for his personal reasons, he argues, “Did I write it so as not to go mad, or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness?” Basically, he tries to explain to himself the nature of the terrors that he witnessed. Moreover, he wants to share his pain with the people who could have never imagined them possible.
The critics argue whether the book should be regarded as a memoir or fiction. The initial 862-page version was a long historical work. When it was shortened for the English translation, the power of the narrative was achieved trough literal truth. The book produces an impact not because of its language or historical accuracy. It influences the readers because of the emotional power of the story itself. Franklin notes, “The reason Night is incomparably devastating has less to do with the facts of Wiesel’s story than with the way he tells them.” The purpose of the book is to tell the story of the terrors of Nazism. Wiesel effectively achieved it through a simple but emotionally powerful narrative.