Upon reading Night from the very beginning a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach began to form. Certainly knowing, the historical facts of what took place left an uneasy and ominous feeling as the book progressed. Throughout Night Wiesel and other individuals in the book take solace in instances where they are able to in a sense discredit people that have either first-hand experiences with what awaits them or whether they have what appears to be in some manner of speaking a foresight, first with Beadle at the very beginning of the book and again with Madame Schächter when they are in the cattle cars . As you read on throughout the book there are different and often occasions when anger and disgust seemed to form within my mind. The thought of how anyone could have done this, near the end of the book while Eliezer encounters a man, which he does not identify. This man says that he only has faith in one person anymore; “I’ve got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He’s the only one who’s kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people”. What must the reality have been like for this individual for him to feel so abandoned that the only person or entity that he seemingly has faith in is the man that is responsible for the mass genocide of nearly an entire people? The feeling of disappointment also resonated with me throughout the book; disappointment for humanity in that instance, the idea and the continual hope that the prisoners of camps such as Banu and Auschwitz seemed to give themselves almost on a daily basis it may seem is disheartening knowing that it took so long for it to come to light in the world.
Throughout the course of human life, each person experiences different events that we can and often do classify as a ‘suffering experience’. More specifically it was some point in time in our lives that we felt that we had in a sense been unjustly or in some cases justly punished for something that had or had not taken place whether it be good or bad. Through a variety of circumstances, it would be near impossible to put into context the suffering experienced by individuals like Eliezer. If you are to compare it to someone that has experienced the loss of a loved one, then on that level that feeling of loss can be shared. If it is through leaving a homeland, other individuals can share that heartache. But to say that in any instance that the suffering that most people would experience in their lifetime is comparable to that of someone who experienced and lived through something such as genocide to me, seems ludicrous. Having personally had the opportunity and what I viewed as an extreme pleasure and honour to have walked the grounds of both Auschwitz and Birkenau and having first hand seen the buildings, barracks, names, crematoria, furnaces, ponds with ashes strewn at the depths it is mortifying to think back to what once was. Having stood on the steps of the barracks and seen the sign above the gate to Auschwitz say “Work will set you free” it is hard to say that in my life I have truly experienced any real suffering. Being only twenty-five years old, I have not yet had to experience the loss of a parent or a sibling. I have not yet had to know the struggle of poverty or the ravishing’s of war and destruction. It is hard to say that things throughout life that I struggled with have not left an indelible mark on me much like the stain of original sin they have changed my being intentionally or not, but fortunately not to the point where I look at myself in the mirror and see a lifeless corpse staring back at me much unlike Wiesel at the end of the book, “One day I was able to get up, after gathering all my strength. I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me”.
Certainly, parts are comparable, but to say that on a personal level, this book spoke to me about my own experiences of suffering would seem to me to be an insult of comparison. Growing up in middle-class Canada the struggle or struggles have been minimal. While my faith life and my belief in God or understanding of the existence of a supreme deity has at times be severely misguided or lacking. When you view Canadian culture so much is placed now on the dignity of each and every individual. It would seem to me that this ideal has stemmed from the misguided ways of history. While the dignity of the living and breathing human person remains, the dignity of the unborn is still stripped away, we have individuals that want to die, that want to end their lives early. When I think of the way in which the medically assisted dying bill has been put into practice I can’t help but think of all the men, women, and children that needlessly and senselessly were murdered. How they had no choice, how they had to watch their families and their loved ones wither away into nothing in some cases. Would they have wanted this early death? There are accounts in Wiesel’s book of individuals that had once been the bullies of the camp that now, near the end had given up. Had surrendered to death. I cannot help but wonder if as a society we are almost returning to a culture that is afraid of suffering, that is afraid of watching our family suffer instead of trying to conquer like Eliezer did. Death in society today, when it suddenly seems to drive one to prioritize your life. In the Church today we often hear that we are to remember our death, it is to focus on what really matters and remembering your death is a great way to reprioritize your life. As Catholics, we in a sense seem to embrace death as a friend in a weird way but has a human being when we confront the fear of death we often think of the beautiful things that we would miss. No living creature wants to die, we often try it seems to adopt a philosophy of indifference towards things, much like the stoics throughout history. If we look at the words of St. Paul in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”, it is hard to reconcile this idea from St. Paul with the human attachments that we have, to leave these things that we find so wonderful behind especially if it is a slow death. But again we read in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” you know that everything you love on earth will be in Heaven, glorified, perfected, amplified because it is just a fragment of a reflection of God’s glory. If you read Night and you see the constant theme of faith, this priority of placing God before yourself, it was the night of Yom Kippur “Should we fast? The question was hotly debated. To fast would mean a surer, swifter death. We fasted here the whole year round. The whole year was Yom Kippur But others said that we should fast simply because it was dangerous to do so. We should show God that even here, in this enclosed hell, we were capable of singing his praises”
Throughout reading Night it is hard to say if it had an effect on the interior of my life and my relationship with Jesus Christ, again as I mentioned previous knowing the history of what took place, the number of people that were killed, not just Jews, but other denominations, civilian innocents, and military personnel fighting for what they each believed in numbering more than fifty million people. The stories and accounts that are given in Night about the individuals and their faith lives bring hope, renewed courage, and strength. There are instances throughout the book where the prisoners continually celebrate their faith. The beginning of chapter 5 is on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the last day of the year. Eliezer is narrating the time in which they use to recite the prayers,
“Blessed be the Name of the Eternal! Thousands of voices repeated the benediction; thousands of men prostrate themselves like trees before a tempest… Why, but why should I bless him? In every fiber, I rebelled. Because He had had thousands of children burned in His pits? Because He kept six crematories working night and day, on Sundays and feast days? Because in his great might He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Banu, and so many factories of death? How could I say to Him: “Blessed art Thou, Eternal, Master of the Universe, Who chose us from among the races to be tortured day and night, to see our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, end in the crematory? Praised be Thy Holy Name, Thou Who hast chosen us to be butchered on Thine altar?”
I thought this quote from the beginning of Chapter 5 interesting to highlight. It speaks to the faith in the suffering of humanity. Even with going through the atrocities still, these faith-filled Jewish men had the courage, the strength, and the wherewithal to keep going even in the face of an unending evil. Much like the quote above from page eighty speaking about fasting during Yom Kippur the Jewish men in the story hold fast to their continued commitment to the tradition.
Thinking drastically about humanity and the way in which we suffer or view suffering it seems trivial and disheartening the way society progresses towards a disillusioned and disenfranchised notion of being and how they respond to one another. We chose to end our own lives rather then to try to grow in relationships with Christ opening welcoming the end of our time when it is, in fact, our time rather then giving in much like Akiba Drumer “if he could have gone on believing in God, he could have seen a proof of God in this Calvary, he would not have been taken by the selection. But as soon as he felt the first cracks forming in his faith, he had lost his reason for struggling and begun to die. How many times in our lives have we succumbed to temptation and felt the cracks in our faith forming, how have we suffered because of it?