You may have heard that Elie Wiesel passed away last week. As a tribute to this amazing author and Nobel Peace Prize winner, this week’s book review will not be your traditional review. Instead, this will be an encouragement to go out and read his books, which have the potential to rip your heart into a billion tiny pieces.
Eliezer Wiesel was born in Transylvania and was just a teenager when his family was taken to two of the most horrific concentration camps run by the Nazis: Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Wiesel was separated from his mother and sisters when he arrived at Auschwitz and never saw them again. He managed to stay with his father throughout most of his imprisonment, but his father too, eventually passed away. Night, the first book in his well known series, follows Wiesel’s deportation, imprisonment in Auschwitz, the death march to Buchenwald, and his eventual liberation by the American army in April of 1945.
Wiesel’s story of survival is a gut wrenching tale to say the least. Throughout the narrative, he does not hold back in his descriptions of camp life, the hideous journeys he was forced to endure, or his emotions when he lost his father. The story is told so well that, even though the reader knows that Wiesel will survive the Holocaust, there is a constant seed of doubt. Thankfully, Wiesel does give the reader a sense of relief from time to time. He describes the friendships he made in the camps, stories of compassionate guards, and always, there is an overwhelming sense of hope. What would I change about this narrative? Absolutely nothing.
Just after high school, I visited Buchenwald. That experience proved to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because when Wiesel described the Children’s Camp at Buchenwald, I could picture in my head exactly the location that he was describing. A curse, for exactly the same reason. It took Wiesel ten years after the end of World War II to be able to talk about what he endured in the camps. I can understand why. This short book will rip your heart out, and it definitely isn’t easy to read. However, I do believe it is important for us never to forget the genocide that occurred during the Holocaust, and the genocides that are happening around the world as we speak. As Wiesel tried to do for the rest of his life, let us never forget what happened.
Emily Hash is a student of history as much as she is a voracious reader. She put together this review at the request of the editor, but would have probably done so without being asked because it is such an important book.