The Night That Never Dawned

Compiled by Heather Bentley
Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

Elie Wiesel was born in the town of Sighet in Transylvania, Hungary, in 1928. He was a teenager when he was taken from his home to a concentration camp in Auschwitz and later to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where his mother and sister were killed. When WW II ended and the Jewish survivors were released, Elie went to Paris. He later wrote many books about Holocaust, both fictional and non-fictional, such as The Fifth Son, The Accident, The Gates of the Forest, Dawn, A Beggar in Jerusalem (which was a winner of the French Prix Medici for 1969), The Town Beyond the Wall, The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel (published in 1985), and, of course, Night. In 1985, Elie Wiesel received the Congressional Gold Medal. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

The autobiographical book Night is about a young Jewish boy whose life was turned upside down due to the rise of Hitler, the Nazi Party's dream of religious and racial purity, and territorial expansion. When the German army entered Elie Wiesel's town in 1944, life for him and his family changed forever.

[ Brick and Wood Bunks - Auschwitz I ]

Auschwitz: Brick and Wood Bunks

One of the goals of the I*EARN Holocaust/Genocide Project conference, <iearn.hpg>, is to provide a space for students from a variety of schools to discuss common readings related to the Holocaust and genocide. This type of exchange occurred in a discussion about Wiesel's Night by students from schools in New York, New Mexico, and Wisconsin -- Grades 9, 10 and 11. There are many things about Wiesel's book which affected the students' responses to it. Although the Jews were dehumanized, some, like Elie and his father, struggled to maintain compassion and the courage to survive.

The students wrote that they were not sure if they would have had the will to survive such horrors. Kate Flood, from Hudson High School, Wisconsin said "I hate to imagine the burning of people. To stay strong would be impossible for me. I don't know how anyone could survive. I can relate to how losing your faith in God could be possible. I feel the only way that I could keep my humanity is if I had a parent or a brother on my side."

Here are some other student responses to the discussion of Elie Wiesel's Night all of which can be found under Topic 40 in the <iearn.hpg> teleconference.

"I remember when we read Macbeth and discussed the use of dramatic irony in the story. In Shakespeare's play, there were many instances where we knew things that the players were not aware of. In that story, it was almost funny to watch people do things when we knew their fate. There was nothing funny about the dramatic irony in Night however. While the Jews were going along with the deportation unaware and completely naive to their fate, I wanted to warn them of their destiny much like Moshe the Beadle had done."

Mack Alpert, Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

". . . This book was correctly titled Night due to the fact that everything in it was black except for the small glimmer of hope that was shown by Eliezer and his father. All through this book I found myself wanting to stop reading because I couldn't stand to hear of the cruel treatment of this one family during this period of history. It seemed that every page was another problem, another horror, another death. My only hope is that we would learn from this experience and never repeat or let happen the tragic mistake that was made long ago."

Chris Foster, Hudson High School, Wisconsin

"What I would like to know is if the Hungarian police were forced to cooperate with the Nazis or if the Nazis implanted into their minds that Jews were bad. I would also like to know this because many of the Jews were practically brothers to them. I would also like to know how much influence the Jewish Council actually had in the decisions of their fate or if it was made just so they felt they had influence."

Sage Newman, Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

"The events of the Holocaust were probably the most inhumane acts since the beginning of the civilized world. If I were to research it further, I would like to find out what happened to the German officials who were responsible for the Holocaust after the war. Leaders like Hitler and Himmler, S.S. men, the Gestapo, what happened to them? What were the details of the Nuremburg Trials? This interests me because I would like to know how the world dealt with such an evil force."

Adam Blocksidge, Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

"I thought the book Night, by Elie Wiesel, was a very strong and moving book. The Holocaust is something I feel everyone should know and learn about. It is a very important part of the world's history. One topic that bothers me about the Holocaust is why the rest of the world was so silent. If they knew what was happening to these poor innocent people, why didn't they do something to try to stop the slaughters? Why didn't anyone help them? I am bothered by this because there are so many people in this world who could have helped and there would have been even more if the Holocaust never existed. Out of all these people in the world, very few (compared to how many were killed) chose to help the victims. Why is this?"

Jen Papa, Cold Spring Harbor High School, New York

". . . Another student mentioned the dramatic irony of the Jews on the way to their own death. I, too, wish I could have warned them of the horrible world that they were about to enter."

Kate Flood, Hudson High School, Wisconsin

"While reading this book I experienced many different emotions. Three of them were sadness, sorrow and anger...I felt sad for the Jews because they had to leave their home and valuables which they worked so hard for. Families were also torn apart and babies were taken from their mothers. . . . I cannot understand how one human being can treat another like this. . . . The Holocaust was nothing but pure ignorance."

Monica Garcia, Albuquerque High School, New Mexico

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