The Holocaust is without doubt the greatest human tragedy of the twentieth century. The literature surrounding Holocaust speak of the profound alienation of personality and loss of divine faith experienced by those affected. Those who survived to record these experiences are both lucky and unlucky. They are unlucky in that they had to continue to live the rest of their lives with tormenting memories and unanswered questions about human nature and God. Elie Wiesel is one such survivor, whose post-liberation life would be filled with mental anguish. In his seminal book Night, first published in Yiddish in 1955 and later appeared in English in 1960 we evidence how his faith in God as well as faith in humanity is challenged by the grave circumstances faced in German ethnic cleansing operations. The following passages will analyze how Wiesel’s faith in God and humanity is shaken to the core in the face of compelling circumstances and consequences.
In a poignant passage in the poetically assembled book, Wiesel notes how, at one point during the life in the ghetto, taking care of his ailing father becomes burdensome. Already weakened by severe malnutrition and mental disorientation, his mind loses perspective and emotional connection with his father. He simply does not have the resources of empathy and solidarity to be able to care for another human. It makes him lament the forceful encampment that was the beginning of the great long ordeal: “Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.” (Wiesel, 1960)
In a tragic turn of events, his father would be beaten to death by German guards, just two weeks before American army liberated his camp. Wiesel could hear the final shrieks of pain from his father from his slot in the upper deck. But he could not venture a thought or an action to mitigate his suffering. Even sacrificing his own life for his once beloved father was beyond him. This is a key passage in Night, for it reveals how the Holocaust had stripped the humanity of the victims as well. The “loss of humanity” with respect to the Holocaust, is thus, equally witnessed in the perpetrators and the victims of the great crime. Hence, much in contradiction to preaching in the covenant, Wiesel fails to take care of fellows of his community, most notably his father. But Wiesel’s is not the universal case, for there are those exceptional individuals who could must spiritual and physical resources to offer themselves in service to other weaker members of the ghetto. This difference in behavior is not a consequence of moral convictions or volitional choices of the ghetto inmates. Rather, they just showcase the manifest act of God through the lives of the faithful. The following passage highlights how the inmates of the ghetto encouraged each other during grave times: