Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Book Review: Night by Elie Wiesel

That's right, folks. I'm expanding my repertoire even further. Now this Blog isn't just about TV and movies and music. I'm now even going to give book reviews. You just never know what might come next!

With Remembrance Day approaching, I thought it only appropriate that I offer up my thoughts on Night by Elie Wiesel. This book came recommended to me by Sara Beer, Oprah Winfrey, my Aunt Linda, and several other high authorities on literature. On the cover of teh novel, there is a quote from the New York Times calling it: A slim volume of terrifying power.

It couldn't have been described more accurately.

The story is a first-person account from Mr. Wiesel of his time spent in concentration camps in Nazi Germany. In 1944, as a 15-year-old boy, Mr. Wiesel and his family, who were observant Jews, were taken from their home and sent to Auschwitz, and then to Buchenwald. He describes how hundreds of people were loaded into cattle cars for the journey. Upon arriving at the camp of horror, he witnessed babies being tossed into the air for target practice by the Gestapo. Families were torn apart (including his own), and he describes the crematorium, where his mother and little sister had to go. The crematorium, where bodies were thrown into a fire and burned, with the thick, acrid smoke of death continually pouring out from a large chimney. Most women and children were automatically sentenced to death there. The males had a chance, but if they were not deemed fit and healthy, they were sent to that crematorium, as well.

Elie and his father survived that first selection, and countless others afterwards. However, they faced such vicious and traumatic experiences in the months to follow that one must wonder if they wouldn't have been better off in that fire.

It was a shock to me to read about what these people went through. It was a shock to the people then, too, as Elie remembers asking his father: "Can this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How would the world remain silent?" It is a question the author struggles with throughout the novel. Of course, there is no logical answer, other than the fact that people just did not want to face that horror. It was beyond belief; it was easier to ignore it than try to deal with what was going on under Hitler's reign of terror.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I've actually read a thorough account of what actually happened during the Holocaust. I knew it had happened, I remember reading about it in high school history, but I never allowed myself to be truly immersed in what had happened. Maybe it's because I didn't want to believe that such an atrocious act of cruelty could have actually occured. Maybe it's because I didn't want to think humans could treat other humans, regardless of race or religion, so horribly. Like those people who remained silent back then, it was just easier to pretend that it had never happened.

With these concentration camps in Nazi Germany, Hitler's goal, as Mr. Wiesel writes in his preface, was "to leave behind a world in ruins in which Jews would seem never to have existed." In essence, they were to be entirely wiped out. Millions of people were tortured, battered, and finally burned, then their bones and ashes dumped into massive, unmarked graves. How inhumane...how unbelievably cruel... Reading about it made me feel sick; it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. And the fact that Mr. Wiesel, who actually lived through this real-life horror and survived to tell his story, uses such blunt, matter-of-fact descriptions only adds to the terror of it all. Watching people being murdered daily, and being the victim of countless acts of threats and abuse - it had all become so commonplace for him that it didn't even shock him anymore; it didn't even make him feel anymore.

Elie's guilt over not being able to sit with his father as he lay dying in the infirmary is evident in this book. He writes of how he wished his father would quit calling his name in his delirious state, as he feared the blows of the SS officers. He just wanted his father to be quiet and just die so that he would no longer be burdened by having to stick with him. He recalls the day he realized his father was gone for good: "I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep. But I was out of tears. And deep inside me, if I could have searched the recesses of my feeble conscience, I might have found something like: Free at last!..."

Mr. Wiesel does not want people to forget. It is important that his story, and the stories of other victims of war, be passed down to the next generation and the generation after that, so that they may understand this horror and never allow it to occur again. We don't live in a world free of pain and fighting now; it still rages on, and although it is happening in countries far away, we should not be ignoring it. It's easier to pretend it isn't happening, but we must face the fact that there are still hundreds of people facing unimaginable terror everyday. We have troops over there who are fighting and dying everyday. Hitler is gone, but there is still pain and suffering; still hunger, and poverty, and torturing, and death. Mr. Wiesel writes: "Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can we not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere."

So on this upcoming Remembrance Day, I urge to read Elie Weisel's Night, and really face that horror. Remember what he and the rest of the Jews went through. It would be easier to ignore. But we owe it to the memory of those millions of people who died, and who are still dying today, to listen to their stories, and do our best to ensure that our world will one day be free of that suffering and unimaginable pain.

Lest we forget.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

not only the suffering of the Jews but most people seem to forget that the Jews made up roughly 50% of the victims of the Holocaust...the other 50% were gypsies, fags, communists and just about anybody else who was labelled as a threat (an aside..believe it or not, it wasn't only black people who died in New Orleans last summer, either). and not to mention what happened in Rwanda where more people were killed per day then in the Holocaust and everyone (meaning the UN) just stood back and did nothing about it.
I'm glad the book isn't pointing a finger at the German people. It is documented historic fact that the Holocaust was only see as a rumour at the time. Not to mention the boatlaods of Jews that were turned away from Canada and the US in the 1930s. We also have our own dirty little WWII secret regarding our treatment of the Japanese. And though he is not Adolf Hitler, George W. is pushing the human race faster and quicker to the brink of oblivion and what are we doing about?

Priscilla said...

The Bob Dylan show in Ottawa didn't get great reviews, they were talking about it on Chez the other day. Doesn't Emery have something wrong with his hand now?

Stacy said...

So about the book review - didnt really ready it actually...lol - i like reading when I find time to sit down with a good book (and at the moment I have no good ones) but I dont enjoy war books and jew books and stuff...i like something with love, sex and romance - sometimes a little mystery too thrown in there. I would like to read the book by the guy that wrote The Notebook that Jill and Sara talk about - there were a few good ones i believe. Lastnight there was nothing on TV, i did see the OC on - was it a repeat of last weeks? Ricky and I were playing Super Bingo til 10 - and we were both pretty tired and we didnt even win!!
Hope everyone is having a wonderful day
Oh - Jill - you have to read the article on the front page of the equity (www.theequity.ca) - its regarding Cathy Lapointe's accident but its a writeup from Wilbur - i just laugh when he signs off saying "I'll always remember to squuze with my legs" - it just seems funny.

Priscilla said...

Too bad you didn't have any luck with the Bingo Stacy. Apparently my uncle Benny Kluke and my aunt Gail won some money, and so did my aunt Joan. She got a free card from somebody who couldn't play, and she never had played Bingo before. So she got my cousin to help her dab half. I think they won the full card, but there were 2 other winners.

Jill said...

Stacy: You make me laugh! I'm not a big fan of "war books & jew books" either, but it really was good, just a bit more of a serious read. The author you were talking about is Nicholas Sparks - and yes, I've enjoyed all fo his books. Are you going to be home tonight? I'll come visit you after Curves and bring you some of his books if you want. (And maybe catch a bit of the Sens game, if Ricky would allow that to happen???? ) As for The O.C. - yes, it was a repeat from last week. I've heard that the show didn't get great ratings for its premiere last week, and that they're moving it to Wednesday nights in a less competitive timeslot, but I don't know if that comes into effect tonight or not. And I'll have to check out that article by poor ol' Wilbur...What a doofus. As if he wrote that he'll always remember to squeeze his legs.
PK: Yeah, Ray Emery is hurt, something with his wrist...Which kinda sucks, but I think it will be good for Gerber. HE's the one being paid the big bucks, and he hasn't had much of a shot at playing in consecutive games, so now is his time to prove he can do it. If he fails...well, we'll be in a deeper hole than we already are. But at least then we'll know...
As for the Dylan concert - didn't hear any reviews, but on the Bear they played the live version of "There Goes My Hero" from the concert by the Foos, and it sounded really cool.
Oh, and on the topic of music - guess what, everybody - I'm SO excited to announce that last night I taught myself to play "Who Says You Can't Go Home" by Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles. I was so impressed with myself, and I think it actually sounds good! Anyways, that's just me, tootin' my own horn...lol
Kathleen: Thanks for weighing in with your thoughts on the Holocaust, etc. It's a pretty scary world to live in. It's easy to just turn away and pretend that the world is a happy, hunky-dory spot, but upon digging a little deeper, it's actually a mess. It was back then when Hitler was wiping out the "threats", and it still is now, with terrorists and Bush and everything else that's going on. As I said, I tend to stick my head in the ground and try to block it all out, but after reading Night, I'm going to make an effort to pay more attention to this stuff; educate myself a little better with current events and what's going on in the world. Elie's anguish over the fact that people just remained silent when they knew what was going on in Nazi Germany really struck a chord with me, and it all ties in with Remembrance Day and everything else...We can never forget, or else "they" win.

RICKY said...

Hey jill you can always come over and watch the sens i like them too but as you said yesterday and would i have love to read it it all earlier because i would have had a few comments to say..... you have to stick with your team through thick and thin.... they will get better but just not friday night i hope......

Jill said...

LOL...Well, I really hope by Friday night we're ready to go on a 2-game winning streak, but that might be too much to hope for being up against Atlanta tonight...If we can't beat the Caps, I don't know who we will be able to beat!
So maybe I'll drop in tonight with those books for Stacy and watch some hockey with ya! ;o)

Stacy said...

No problem Jill - stop by, Top model is on at 8 though....haha so there will be no hockey during that time...
This day is going by so slowly, i just wanna go home! Anyone have plans for the weekend? Looks like I'm not doing anything again because Ricky will be hunting. Sunday, my mom is having a baby shower for me, so i guess i have to show my face there...i hate crowds! Anyways have a good day

Sharon said...

Yeah I am not much into serious books. I am a big fan of Chick Lit... Stacy, something to read for you would be Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and the follow up Something Blue. As Jill and Sara. They loved those books as did Lizzie!

I am reading Soap Suds by Finola Hughes... but I have fallen out of it, I have to get back into it!

I hope they don't move the OC to 8:00 on Wednesdays, that's Top Model night... if they would have told everyone it was on at 7:00 it might have had better reviews... but they didn't. I will definetly watch at 7:00 tomorrow night!

Jill said...

Don't worry, I won't interfere with Top Model - I'll have to get home to do the Blog & watch One Tree Hill.
By the way, just read the Equity & I noticed Johnny K has a band called Foundation playing there this weekend - any idea if this is Chris & Quentin's new band? Or are there now 2 bands called Foundation? 'Cause that could get friggin' confusing...
Oh and as for the weekend - I think I'm going to try and get some Christmas shopping done on Saturday and get pictures developed...If you'd like to come with, just let me know! And Sunday I'm going to a shower for Ralph's Mandy, and I'm going to try and stop in at yours too, since I was officially invited by Shannon the other day...LOL...And yes, my dear, if your mother is having a shower for you, I guess you'd better show your face! hahaha...

Jill said...

Sharon's right - those books by Emily Giffin were AWESOME. Lindsay (if you're out there, HI!!) just told me recently that she's reading Something Borrowed, and she's loving it too. But honestly, guys, this book Night is very powerful. No, there's no romance or fun, but it had a really strong impact on me. And that's why I shared my thoughts on it. If you ever get the chance to read it, I recommend it.

Sharon said...

Oh, P.S. remember that bagelwich idea Jill... well add two thin cuts of marble cheese... or any cheese... makes for a great lunch... the cheese needs to go against the inside of the toasted bagel so that it slightly melts.

Anonymous said...

There must be 2 Foundation bands now. The band we had at the golf tournament 2 years ago was called Foundation... Chris' band copied them!!!!

Luke

Priscilla said...

Melissa told me about Foundation playing at Johnny K's before, she was mad she missed the last Steve Agnew night, so I told her about the new band and that's when she told me that they play there. But she doesn't know Chris and Quentin to be able to tell me if they were in that band or not. I'm sure all those bar bands know of each other and I can't see them having the same name as another band.

Jill said...

Either Chris & Quentin have joined the original Foundation, or there are now 2 bands, or Steve made a mistake when he told us they were called Foundation. PK, if Melissa is going out this weekend, tell her to watch for a hot bass player with spiky hair and a big..ummm...package. And he'll probably be wearing a white, blue, or black t-shirt. (Although their last weekend at Gavan's, he did seem to have some new shirts...lol)

Sharon: Thanks for the bagelwich idea!

Stacy said...

Yes Chris and Quentin's band is called Foundation because i saw it advertised at River View that weekend after Gavans that they were playing. That could get confusing - however, Rob did say that we must have heard this band before so maybe they have replaced people. I dont know. I have heard of Something Borrowed and Something Blue - Enjo has read it and told me that I should read it. I have been to Chapters and had it in my hand to purchase but put it back for some reason.

Priscilla said...

Maybe he stuffs??? I guess you could just ask Jodi.

Jill said...

I don't think Chris stuffs. Although, back in the day, he did used to joke that it was rolls of toonies down there. Oh my dear Lord, I hope he never stumbles upon this in his Internet surfing...

Priscilla said...

Don't you have Chris' email or am I making this up? Maybe you could just email him and ask if it's their band at Johnny's this weekend.

Stacy said...

Yea Jill - like PK said, email him (or Jodi) to see when the band plays and get it cleared up - come on Jill - get on top of that!!

Jill said...

LOL...The thought had crossed my mind to email him. Anyone wanna go to Atko's this weekend?? hahaha...

Stacy said...

Atko's really isnt my spot, i remember when i was younger (haha younger) and Gavans would be boring and we would take a trip up there - i dont know - i didnt like the atmosphere, i didnt like the people - i find it small and crowded - you can hardly dance...so i think i'll skip going to Atko's!

Jill said...

Believe it or not, I've never been there. All my years of ripping around in the Pontiac, and I've never been to Johnny K's. (OK, so basically I've just been to Gav's and the odd trip to RVI...lol) And I guess I won't be starting this weekend.

priscilla said...

Yeah, that's the "Shawville People" bar. I was only there once, years ago. We went to Killarney's after. Can't really remember what it was like.

Sharon said...

It's not very impressive, I went after a hockey game during the hockey tournament. I was not impressed.

Anonymous said...

Jill, agreed about the world we live in. It wasn't a critisism of anyone in general I just don't understand how anyone can sit in judgement of the Germans during WWII. I just read this Mordecai Richler novel, Son of a Smaller Hero and he says the same thing, how could they know even if it was staring them right in the face? Who would want to face that?
ok so Dylan...my third time seeing him. The Foo Fighters were boring as. Just cause its acoustic doesn't mean everyone has to sit down. You're in a fucking arena for crying out loud. A lot of the instrumentals felt like they weren't part of the songs. Was just sorta blah. Dylan...his Royal Bobness...what can I say? My third and final show. the whole thing left me feeling very cold and thats the last thing I want to feel like after a concert. Not to mention his singing was worse than usual. Its like he'd build a bit of momentum and then he'd tone it down. Like A Rolling Stone is supposed to build dumbass. Not to mention he drags them out too long. My friend beside me summed it up when she said "the first 15 minutes of this song had promise, now he's lost me." Bah.