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Crime And Literature: “Night” By Elie Wiesel

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Elie Wiesel, the Romanian born Jewish writer, grew up in Sighetu, Romania during the height of World War II. He became a brilliant writer who captured the egregious experience of the rise of the Nazi Socialist Party, and the attempt to exterminate the Jewish race, living in Europe during the time. His gripping account of the gradual process, that eventually landed Jews into the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, helped propel the writers recognition, and eventually earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Elie Wiesel was a devout Orthodox Jewish man, who eventually questioned the validity of Gods deity and power. His experience with the Nazi’s, and the concentrations camps, brought to question the famous German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s statement, “God is Dead”. Wiesel lost all hope that there could possibly be an all sovereign, merciful, loving God, that would allow something as heinous as what we call today, The Holocaust.

The German occupation of Eastern Europe, began in the late 1930’s, and went well into the end of World War II. Part of the overall plan, was to blame all Jews for the demise of the German Government and economy, and eventually exterminate all Jews from existence. Through propaganda, and gradual social engineering, Adolf Hitler was able to carry out that plan for almost a decade. By design, outlined in the book “Mein Kampf”, Adolf Hitler carried out the most egregious mass murder in European history, with the aggressive attempt to exterminate the Jewish race presiding in Europe.

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Elie Wiesel was born on September 30, 1928, in Sighet, Romania. He was a devout Orthodox Jew, born into a family that valued its Jewish heritage, and religion. Elie began his work into the Jewish religion (Yeshiva), during his formidable teenage years, studying the Torah, Tanakh, and the Midrash. These are the three precepts to the Jewish religion that make up the Yeshiva. Elie’s faith in God was traditionally passed down from his grandparents, who had a significant impact in his life. Elie was extremely motivated in his studies, and believed he was on the righteous path of an Orthodox Jew. Elie also studied great scholars and philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, whose theories would later become a catalyst to his disbelief in the God he spent so many years studying about.

In 1940, Hungary added Sighet to their current territories, occupied by the German Socialist Nazi Party. Elie and his family were art of a mass movement of Jewish people into ghettos, to be isolated from the rest of the society in Romania. His family, who were well to do financially, would loose everything they worked for, and end up in a small apartment, in the ghetto. The end of the hope that Elie once had in God, would start to loose its credibility. Eventually the family would be identified to move further away from home, and into the country of Poland. Unknowing, they easily complied with the Nazi’s idea, of moving the Jews to labor camps. The idea of hard labor would chip away at Elie’s faith, but would not crush it completely. He still held on to the idea that God would save them from this terrible plight, or the Unified forces of Britain and Russia would be their redeemer. Conditions increasingly and rapidly became worse. Sometimes by the hour. The Nazi’s began to treat the Jews like animals. Beating them unexpectedly, feeding them scraps, de-humanizing them with prison clothing, and profiting from the free labor they would provide in the concentration camps. Elie and his family would eventually be separated. He and his father were herded off to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, and his mother and sisters were transported to an unknown location. This is the time that Elie’s faith in God, really took a plunge. He was clear in his book about his feelings of doubt by pointing out, a merciful loving God, would never allow something this awful to happen not just to Jews, but to Gentiles as well. This draws the first conclusion to Friedrich Nietzsche theory, that God is dead. The theory that God is dead, speaks volumes to the rise of the Socialist Nazi power, and the affirmation of putting themselves in the position of God, to judge, and decide life or death. The secularization of the German government, paved the way for the German citizens, to accept the idea that Jews were not human. They were not children of God. Therefore, their lives were expendable, and exterminating them would make complete sense, to assist in the goal of German world wide superiority. Jews were considered the thorn in the side of the German citizens, stealing all wealth and fortune, leaving Germans with little to nothing in their own country. Elie Wiesel was experiencing the full implementation of this plan, while he and his father barely held on to the desire to live from day to day. Another quote from Nietzsche was “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live”. Elie was so focused on what he lost over the years, he forgot to see the obvious miracles right in front of his face. The fact that he was able to escape death moments, even footsteps away from the burning pits of Auschwitz. Something or someone distracted the line of Jews, and ordered them to another part of the camp. Although he was unaware of the whereabouts of his mother and sisters, he was fortunate enough to be housed with his father, and provide care for him that others would have waived off. The miracles were in the details of his story. Unfortunately the book does not address if Elie reflected on all his experiences at Auschwitz, and see the details of miniature miracles happen from time to time. The second quote from Nietzsche that applies is “He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how”. The fact that Elie was housed with his father, and furthermore, the fact that he was even sent to the same concentration camp as his father, created the “why” he needed to stay alive, and the care he gave his father was the “how” he survived. His day to day motivation was surrounded by his need to make sure his father was taken care of. The body of his testimony of Auschwitz, may very well be a lot different from the story he told, if he did not have that motivation to live for his father. There again, the miracles are in the details. Elie was able to speak on behalf of his father to keep him gainfully employed, so he would not be killed by the Germans. In hindsight, Elie and his father both came close to walking away from this torturous concentration camp alive. Furthermore, Elie ultimately survived and was able to write a book, and detail their horrible experience, which prevented the death of his father, of his family, and millions of other Jews from being in vain. These are all reasons to reflect on this undoubtably horrible experience, and see that God was not dead. That God in fact was very alive. Elie’s studies of the Bible, including the Jewish Tora, would point out that several important characters of the stories, had to endure similar egregious experiences, and the fact that they survived, and were able to record these experiences with precise articulation, points to a supreme being known as God. Elie Wiesel was eventually rescued from the murderous grip of the Nazi’s, and he honored his family, and the Jewish race with the extraordinary story called “Night”.

In conclusion, I was very enlightened and informed through the book that Elie Wiesel wrote. So much that I chose these specifics to write about in my paper, because of my own beliefs in the deity of the same God that Elie once believed in. From the grave, Elie’s testimony of his experience in Auschwitz, is still educating the reader, and enlightening the reader to a new level of understanding of Friedrich Nietzsche’s theories, and the experiences the Jews endured during World War II. It has been argued that studying the past, will prevent societies from repeating huge mistakes in history like the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel did an amazing job in pointing the gradual process of social engineering rendered by the Nazi Socialist party. We, the readers, are responsible to prevent Elie Wiesel’s story, his family’s death, and the mass murdering of a designated race, to become pointless, and from ever happening again.

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