A Synopsis of "Night" by Elie Wiesel

by Danny Djeljosevic
Influenced by the events he relates in

Influenced by the events he relates in "Night" and elsewhere, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

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The book "Night" by Elie Wiesel recounts the author's real-life experiences surviving the Holocaust in the 1940s. During the course of the novel, Wiesel and his father go from the Jewish ghetto of Sighet, Hungary, to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald at the hands of Germany's Nazi forces. Wiesel, of course, survives, but at great expense to his humanity and his faith.


"Night" opens with Elie recounting the tale of Moishe, the beadle of the local synagogue, who disappeared along with the rest of the foreign Jews of Sighet. However, Moishe returns to relate how the German Gestapo is murdering the rounded-up Jews out in a forest. Unfortunately, none of Sighet's townspeople heed his warnings.


After a couple of years, the Nazi presence in Hungary increases, and Sighet's Jews find themselves with gradually restricted rights. The townspeople agree to such rules as not leaving the house at night and being required to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing to identify them as Jewish. Before long, the Nazis round up the Jews into ghettos before eventually deporting them in cattle cars to Auschwitz.


The train ride from Sighet has the Jews stuffed into train cars meant for cattle, not people. Social norms break down as passengers beat a hysterical woman into silence. When the train reaches the Birkenau section of Auschwitz, the men and the women are separated. Elie's mother and little sister are immediately sent to the gas chambers.


Upon their arrival at Auschwitz proper, the prisoners are shaved and given prisoner numbers. The Nazis move Elie, his father and their fellow prisoners to the Buna subcamp, where conditions are somewhat more bearable. However, Idek, the camp's head, is a violent, angry man who beats both Elie and his father on separate occasions. Elie receives a bit of generosity from one of a fellow prisoner, a young French girl, and witnesses several hangings of disobedient prisoners.


The Nazis relocate the prisoners once again as the Russian army grows closer to the camp. The prisoners march through the harsh winter conditions, and resort to eating snow and tiny bits of bread. Elie manages to trick the Germans into not choosing his father to die for his growing weakness. On the train, Elie witnesses a son kill his father for a piece of bread, only to be killed in turn by hungrier passengers. Only a handful of prisoners survive the trip.


After they arrive at Buchenwald, Elie's father contracts dysentery and receives beatings from his fellow prisoners for his inability to move. A camp officer strikes Elie's father in the head, and Elie returns the next day to find that his father has died and been taken away. As Germany begins to lose the war, a resistance effort easily takes over the camp. Soon, American forces liberate the camp, and Elie suffers from probable food poisoning. As his health improves, he finally gets up and looks at himself in the mirror for the first time since leaving the ghetto. Elie doesn't recognize the corpselike figure staring back at him.

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