I checked out this book during Holocaust Remembrance Month. The first book Night is an account of Elie’s village in Transylvania being emptied of its Jews, his separation from his mother and little sister after they were transported by train, and his horrific experiences in some of the most famous concentration camps, including Auschwitz. He was able to stay with his father most of the time. His father finally died just before the Allied liberation. He went from being a devout Jew as a child to questioning the existence of G_d, to finally feeling more powerful than G_d through his survival. He stands witness to the atrocities he experienced and saw. Wiesel writes in a very matter of fact way but with compelling images. I have a Ukranian friend who was in the Russian prison camps as a boy, separated from his parents, and his narratives strike me as similar.
One of the things that always strikes me is how the Jews didn’t realize what was going to happen to them. Why didn’t more Jews try to escape before they were forced into ghettoes? “In front of us flames. In the air that smell of burning flesh. It must have been about midnight. We had arrived at Birkenau, reception center for Auschwitz” (p. 37). I have to admit that when I recently attended a branding of the cattle at a ranch, the funneling of the frightened calves through the chutes while their mothers bawled at them and the smell of the burning hair reminded me of the Holocaust.
Today I started the second book Dawn where he is recruited in Paris to join a terrorist group in Palestine. In Paris he was studying philosophy to try to process his thoughts and experiences in the concentration camps. Given recent terrorist events here (the Boston Marathon bombing), it is interesting to read how he was recruited and his soul searching when he discovers he will have to murder a captured British officer in retribution for the hanging of a Palestinian Jew.
The last book, The Accident, is about a life threatening accident he has in New York City and the self reflection that came out of it. I couldn’t renew the book from the library, so I will have to wait awhile to report on this story.
I was a convert to Judaism in my 30’s and my children have been raised as Jews. I was surprised at how early in their education they were introduced to the Holocaust. At a recent exhibit at Social Security I was surprised to see a map of the number of hate groups based in the Bay Area (anti-Islam, anti-Arab, anti-Black, you name it). We are not immune to racial hatred and violence even in our seemingly enlightened San Francisco Bay Area. The exhibit also had an excellent presentation on what to say to someone who makes a racist (or sexist) remark around you. Essentially, it suggested you echo the statement back. “Did you really mean to say that (Group X) is…?” The person will either consider their statement and apologize or if they defend the statement, one can say that they don’t like those kinds of generalizations and that they won’t tolerate listening to them. In some ways I find this easier to call people on in the work place than out on the street.
Wiesel, Elie. The Night Trilogy: night, dawn, the accident. 2001 edition. 318 pages. ISBN: 0-8090-7368-4. http://www.amazon.com/THE-NIGHT-TRILOGY-Containing-Accident/dp/B000JJXIE2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1367808709&sr=8-4&keywords=night+trilogy+elie+wiesel