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imagesI am one of those people who buy and download books and forget about them. Then, in a moment where I have reached the peak of boredom, I sift through the pile that I have amassed and pick out the most intriguing title that I can find. That was how I found Night—at four in the morning in my mobile phone’s Adobe Reader Documents list. It seemed like a fitting title given my present circumstances.

I don’t usually read books relating to the Second World War—I had tried reading The Diary of a Young Girl years ago but failed. I find the subject to be terribly disturbing, and the plots to be too slow. But there was something about Night that held me. Maybe it was Wiesel’s personal Introduction to the story, in which he had put in some extracts that had been omitted by publishers in the editing process. One of those extracts described how his father was being bludgeoned mercilessly by the SS and was calling out to him, and Elie did not do anything about that because he was afraid he would end up with the same fate as his father. If anything at all, he was angry at his father for attracting attention.

As you read through, you will realize that it was not an act of inconsiderateness, or cruelty—that was just how the war changed people. They were in a concentration camp where the image of a chimney that was used to burn thousands daily loomed over their heads. All they could think about was the next ration of stale bread and soup and avoiding selection.

Night begins in the early 1940s in Sighet, where Elie and his family, reputed in their Jewish community, were living peacefully. All he was interested in was finding the truths in life and having a contended life. They had heard of the war, and how they were sure that Germany was going to be defeated.

It came as a surprise to them then, when Elie was fifteen that the German army landed on their doorstep. The evacuation began soon, and they ended up, scared and terrified, at Birkenau. Considering that the book is based entirely on Wiesel’s own life, it’s hard, almost painful to read it. To think that a child of fifteen could have lived through such atrocities sends shudders right through the reader’s core.

This is where the real story begins. I reiterate what Wiesel has said in his introduction. People knew what happened at the holocaust and at camps like Auschwitz and felt sorry for it. But it cannot be described, even in the most articulate of languages, the pain that plagued the people living inside. Words fall short for the horror that came to Jews all over under the reign of Hitler. Even Wiesel admits that.

How do you describe hunger that goes on for six days? What words do you use to delineate your father being beaten to near death in front of you and not being able to do anything about it? How can you possibly put into words the cries of thousands of people who were pushed into a burning fire simply because they had run the course of their usefulness?

Wiesel says that he can never forget, as long as he lives, his first night in the camp—his first selection. Those who passed got to work and wait for another sunrise and death that they knew would eventually come. Those who failed were sent to the crematorium—a pit of fire—and burned alive. Such was the terror that it resounded in the night. Such was the smell of burning flesh that you could not get it out of yourself even after a hot shower.

From Birkenau to Auschwitz to Banu they went, until life got to a point where they had lost their names, identities and any hope they had left for life. As for Elie, he battled with faith in the Supreme power. He was enraged at his God and his people, who were facing his majesty with their skinny, emaciated bodies, and hungry stomachs. Life, as he knew it, had been reduced to a consolidation of bones and flesh that was his body, an aching pit inside functioning as a stomach, and shreds of esteem demarcated as whiplashes on his back.

He could see and feel it inside—the slow transition of himself into a meaningless, emotionless corpse—as could everybody around him. He no longer dreamed of happy times, just of the next ration of bread and soup. Wiesel writes almost painfully. He does not waste words—another effect of the war, I presume, since wasting or consuming anything at once on this day could prove fatal on the next.

He describes an event where the Jews were gathered into a square of sorts to witness the hanging of another, and yet all anyone could think about was the impending roll call and food. After the intended died, they looked at him square in the eye and went off to their blocks. Wiesel recalls the soup as tasting better than ever that night.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect in the book is their journey from Gliewitz to Buchenwald, where thousands of Jews stood on the station eating stale bread and using spoons to eat snow off of the backs of their neighbors to quench their thirst because they were not allowed to bend. After that, a hundred were pushed into each roofless cattle car and sent away, with only flimsy blankets to protect them from the falling snow of January.

Each station where the train stopped, the guards counted the dead and threw them out. Yet, all the occupants could think about was how much more space they would have due to the lessened numbers. At each station where the passers by threw in pieces of bread for entertainment, a stampede ensued in the car, with each person gnawing at the other like a lion to get their hands on a single piece. After sleeping on dead bodies at Gliewitz, Elie was not really surprised when he saw a son murder his own father for bread.

He lost his own father at Buchenwald to Dysentery, but he did not feel sorrow. He felt no regret or remembrance. His only thoughts were about how he was free at last, how he would now get an extra ration of bread and soup and clothing. It wasn’t like he had turned into a complete savage—he knew that this was no place to mourn for the departed. If you did, you would soon join them. There was a common knowledge residing inside all. No one felt sorry anymore, because everyone had left any semblance of humanity behind.

Even when they were rescued by the Americans, there was no remembrance for the dead, no prayers said and bells rung. The people threw themselves upon the food and clothing. Nobody even thought of revenge. And as a sixteen year old Elie looked at himself in a mirror after almost a year, he knew he would never forget the look in the eyes of the corpse that was staring back at him.

Never shall I forget that night, the first in the camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

Never.”

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Lavanya Singh

Individual Contributor
I am an eighteen year old bipolar megalomaniac sociopath. I know- not very reassuring. I am a literature freak and a terrible workaholic. I am sarcastic- though that mostly stays inside my head with my imaginary friends- and, according to popular vote, insensitive. But I am a nice person. I like all things literature, analysis, crime, Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Arts and Entertainment, Travel and chocolate. I add to or subtract from that list time to time, so don't hold your breath. I am also an ardent lover of music, and my favorite band is The Goo Goo Dolls, so anybody who's ever heard of them, please come forward! I write about a variety of things. They are mostly musings inside my head that just wouldn't stay there. I do not make any guarantees about any political, ethical or social considerations. I am blunt, as you might be able to tell. I also won't have a regular posting schedule, but I'll try to limit that to once a week. Oh, and I'm a big, BIG, geek. Proud of it too.

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