by Elie Wiesel
“As a human document, Night is almost unbearable painful, and certainly beyond criticism.”
–A. Alvarez, Commentary
Many many tears later, I can affirm that reading a true account of the reality of Hitler’s prisoners physically hurts. Reading imagined horror is one thing. But reading the horror of someone’s actually remembrance is excruciating.
Elie Wiesel and his family were taken from their home in the spring of 1944. Less than a year later, both his innocence and his family were dead.
Faithful, educated people were reduced to their most base instincts, left with the sense that God had left them to rot. The only aim was to avoid death and every decision, all critical in the context of survival, came with haunting consequences.
Within that frame, the small acts of compassion suddenly take on so much significance. They’re moments that are heartbreaking precisely because they mean so much. A gesture of decency in a civilized world is expected, but in a world where burning people alive is no more than cleaning house, it means a glimpse of humanity.
The text is written very simply, with unembellished raw honesty. Wiesel shares the confusion, disbelief, fear, numbness, shame, and heartache that made up the days and nights of his imprisonment. He speaks in the voice of a witness forcing himself to testify, to meet a sacred obligation to tell what happened so that it doesn’t happen again…ever.
It’s a tiny book that you can read in one sitting. It took me several months, digesting only small bits at a time every couple of weeks. Not because of any excessive graphic description—which it doesn’t have—but because this is not a story, it’s a true account of how evil humanity can be.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.