Sixty years ago, a young Jewish man by the name of Elie Wiesel published his second, and arguably most famous book, “Night.” It is the heart-wrenching memoir of Wiesel’s time in the ghettos and concentration camps where he, at the age of 15, and his father struggled to survive for a year.
The story begins describing Wiesel’s early life in 1941, at age 13, when he passionately devoted himself to religious studies in the peaceful Jewish community of Sighet, Romania. He studied under the tutelage of a man named Moishe the Beadle who educated him on the Kabbalah, the Jewish religious discipline.
He describes the change of life for his people in 1944 when came the yellow stars and ghettos; then the cattle cars, the separated families, and the concentration camps. Wiesel wrote in great detail about the suffering he endured, how he fell out of faith with God, and became embittered and apathetic. He wrote about the way his perspective of the world changed. How even in witnessing the worst of horrors, he eventually felt nothing, not even being able to shed a tear over the death of his family.
Written from the perspective of 15-year-old Wiesel, “Night” not only provides a narrative for the plight of the Jewish people, but it is also a strangely relatable narrative. It shares the broken story of a young person caught up in the politics surrounding him and struggling to make sense of it all. He’s left in this situation where he is forced to question his values, the world, humanity and God Himself. All important questions for students continuing their college adventures today. It’s a young voice speaking out on his suffering, which is why it’s so highly regarded in schools today.
Since the release of its English translation in 1960, “Night” has become a bestseller, having even maintained a spot in the Oprah Winfrey book club for 80 weeks. It has sold over 10 million copies and was the starting point for Wiesel’s efforts to further help Jewish people. Its impact has given a voice to the Jewish people who struggled to speak for themselves in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Wiesel’s efforts have led him to become a prominent speaker and winner of the Nobel Peace of Prize.
Night is an acclaimed book because it gives the world one of the best insights into the reality of the Holocaust. Wiesel died on July 2 of this year. However, in all that he’s done in raising awareness for the Holocaust and helping so many Jewish organizations, his memory lives on.As college students, it is important to become familiar with Wiesel’s works, “Night” being just one of many. There is incredible knowledge and insight to be gained from reading about a tragic time in history we can’t truly understand ourselves.