Dan Sandman

35: Night by Elie Wiesel

In Autobiography, Books, Non-Fiction on 29/08/2014 at 12:00 pm

Night by Elie WieselIt’s 1941 in Hungary, a country who have joined the Axis and imposed a number of anti-Jewish laws. Elie is a deeply observant Jew, committed to religious study. As the story swiftly moves to 1944, with the inevitable German occupation of Hungary, Elie is sent with his family to Auschwitz as a child. After being crammed into a hermetically sealed train, he sees a tall chimney and smells burning flesh. With all illusions destroyed, Elie is separated from his mother and sister, and then imprisoned with his father. Upon arriving at the Birkenau zone of the concentration camp, he witnesses babies and small children being thrown into huge flames. From this moment on, he knows that his life will never be the same again.

Through the art of storytelling, Elie Wiesel achieves what many history books struggle to achieve: empathy. As he writes about his painful past, with sensitivity and clarity, we are shown the Holocaust from a survivor’s perspective. By writing his personal history, Wiesel gives us a deeply emotional and poignantly intellectual insight into these horrifying events. His powerful story encourages us to imagine history as seen through the eyes, ears and nose of a survivor. Like a piece of barbed-wire encased in snow, this book is painful and nearly perfect.

Recently, my family visited the new-look Imperial War Museum, where I picked up Night. We all would recommend a visit to the fourth floor, which is dedicated to the Holocaust. My family would also recommend the Jewish Museum in Camden Town, whose collection includes oral testimony from an Auschwitz survivor. I am grateful to such museums for reminding me of what humanity is capable of. May, one day, maybe in my lifetime, but probably not, all such things be merely curated by museums and found between the pages of books such as this.

Elie Wiesel is worthy of the Nobel Peace Price he won in 1986.

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