I came across Night by Elie Wiesel while in middle school. I found it at my school library and the barbed wire and shadow of a boy on the cover immediately caught my attention. I was captivated from the very first page and read the entire book that evening. I did not fully understand the power and life lessons of the work at twelve years old but I felt awe and knew it was special.

I have read Night several times since then and am reminded each time of its importance. One of the main themes is the struggle of faith. As a boy, Eliezer valued his faith but began to struggle once he was sent to Auschwitz as a teenager in 1944. He questioned why God did not intervene on behalf of the Jews and why he would allow such evil. Eliezer did not stay long at Auschwitz but it was the last place he saw his mother and younger sister alive. He was in three different concentration camps between the time he left Auschwitz and his liberation, and he became angrier and more spiritually broken as time went on. Eliezer’s anger was the result of the atrocities committed to him, his family, and all others with him in the concentration camps. The death of his father, which came three months before the liberation, was the final straw that destroyed his will to survive. He was so emotionally, physically, and mentally defeated by the time he was liberated that he no longer felt human and could not even fathom revenge. He just needed to eat, heal, and begin the process of learning how to feel human again.

Night is haunting, real, and relevant. I was introduced to dehumanization the first time I read it, which affected me greatly. As a middle schooler, I knew bad things happened but it was hard for me to relate. My world was not perfect but I did not truly grasp that some people intentionally treated others inhumanely. This opened my eyes and it was the first time I really thought deeply about the experiences of others. Night helped me begin to learn empathy. It also awakened a desire to learn and understand more about human experiences, both past and present. In many ways, my interaction with Night helped shape the social and cultural historian I am today.

Night is relevant in the world today. The hate and dehumanization that is happening in American and around the world is not new. So often people look away when injustices occur because they are not affected, do not care, or hate the particular people of group. Wiesel’s work stands as a reminder that we are all equal and that no one should be unempathetic to the suffering of others.

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” ~ Elie Wiesel

– Samantha Lack (PhD Candidate)