Night

February 18, 2007 at 4:03 am (Day to Day)

After a couple of hours at the donut shop, I finished Night by Elie Wiesel. The book is his autobiographical teenage account of the time spent from his days as a student of academia and Kabala in his Hungarian town to the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald concentration camps. It was read on the recommendation of Tyler and is probably the coldest book to pass under my eyes. This paragraph bitterly sums up the theme of hopelessness in the book:

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 that smoke.
Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.
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.

The author saw countless people die in the most horrific ways; piles of babies tossed from the back of trucks, as if nothing more than unwanted cargo, into the crematoriums, children used as machine gun practice:

“Without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who were forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks. Infants were tossed into the air and used as targets for the machine guns.”

It is hard for me to imagine and comprehend that humanity is able commit such acts, so apathetically and with no more passion than if they were to take out the garbage or do their taxes. How is it possible for such people to lack the most basic concept of the human soul, a dichotomy from the body? They did not view as individuals with souls, only as chattel with tantamount purpose, even to their inconsequential deaths. Their life at the death camp was no more than an in-between, limbo existence until physical death finally consumed their emotional and spiritual death.

It’s funny to note that the tears didn’t come at the macabre passages of hopelessness and death—I was already desensitized by page ten—they came at those few passages of sincere and cherished acts of human kindness, even in the midst of the many contrary passages such as:

“Listen to me, kid. Don’t forget that you are in a concentration camp. In this place, it is every man for himself, and you cannot think of others. Not even your father. In this place, there is no such thing as father, brother, friend. Each of us lives and dies alone. Let me give you good advice: stop giving your ration of bread and soup to your old father. You cannot help him anymore. And you are hurting yourself. In fact, you should be getting his rations…”

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