Elie Wiesel, the man whose writing brought alive the horrors of the Holocaust, died this week in the USA. I heard about his death in the morning news and like most of the people in my country, I was unware of him prior to his death. The article mentioned that he was the author of an autobiographical work called ‘Night’, which has been hailed by many critics as a path breaking work on Holocaust literature and probably one of the best among the 50 odd books written by the author. I ordered a copy of the book for myself and began to read.
Elie Wiesel is a typical Jewish boy of sixteen, living with his family in the quiet little town of Signet. The story of the Jews of this town is quiet different from that of those living elsewhere in Europe. Although most of the inhabitants know about the war, uptill the end of 1943, none of them are even acutely aware that a systematic program for Jewish elimination is already in progress in Europe. But come 1944, the situation begins to change. German soldiers begin to arrive in town, and soon enough, impose curfew and begin to transport the Jews to the concentration camps. The rest of the book follows a trajectory similar to other Holocaust stories: the transport by cattle carts to Auschwitz; segregation of the elderly and children from the adults; and hard work with little food; and death.
But what sets this book apart from the other narratives is the honesty with which the author has written about his experiences. The anguish at having his mother and youngest sister sent to the crematorium, and the subsequent indifference he felt towards life and people as time went by, all come alive through his writing. One of the most touching chapters in the entire story is the one where the author writes about the events leading up to the death of his father. The author tells us that when he discovered that his father was not in the bunk bed below him in the morning, he knew that he had been taken to the crematorium and even then he did not feel anything.
World War II was a hard time for everyone involved in the conflict, for the Jews even more so. Elie Wiesel managed to give a voice to those victims through this monumental work, ensuring that their suffering is never forgotten and the world is reminded of the horrors of the war.
Rest in peace Elie.