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Father and Son Relationship in Elie Wiesel’s book “Night”

The World War II Holocaust denotes the systematic genocide of approximately six million Jews by the German Nazi regime when Jews were seen as “undesirable” therefore should be annihilated. The Nazis deprived the Jews of their civil rights, confined them to ghettos, and deported to concentration camps. Those who did not die of starvation and brutality were executed by firing squad or in gas chambers in the most horrible camps to include Auschwitz in southern Poland and Buchenwald in central Germany.

This was patterned to the Biblical holocaust which meant a sacrificial animal completely consumed by fire. “Night” is an autobiographical narrative of the author/narrator Elie Wiesel’s life dating from 1941, when he was 12 years old, to 1945 after three and a half years of struggle, during World War II. Its central character is Elie Wiesel himself who was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and soon separated from his mother and sisters. It traces how Elie and his father struggled and survived the brutality and inhuman treatment of prisoners by the Nazis.

This book proves how effective the Nazis in executing their will, not only in murdering millions of people mostly Jews but also losing human identity and emotions as they turn son against father and father against son. (Stern 56) The book is generally a description of a portrait of evil of the Holocaust. It begins in a small town, Sighet, in Transylvania. Elie, as the main character, is a child and a fairly devout Orthodox Jew during the time of World War 2. Although the central target of the Nazis is the Jews, Elie shares this horrible fate with other ethnicities.

In the 1940s, Hitler has begun to invade Hungry and slowly takes over Sighet, and deports Elie and his family. (Crowder 1) Initially and throughout the book, father and son relationship between Elie and his father is a strong bond. But as they go through hard and even harder times together, this relationship transforms as Elie begins to feel that his father is a burden towards the end of the book, and eventually feels guilty about it. Elie’s father is a respected member of the Jewish community in Sighet and this stature justifies Elie’s high regard to his father in the beginning of the book.

As established in any Orthodox Jewish families, Elie and his father’s relationship is based on respect, and there is no indication of that his father is sentimental. His father refused to be Elie’s mentor in his decision to study mysticism. His father is not in favor of it as his father said, “Your to young for that. Maimonides said it was only at thirty that one had the right to venture into the perilous world of mysticism. You must first study the basic subjects within your understanding (1-2). ” But though Elie’s father seldom shows his emotion, his fatherly concern surfaced when the two arrived at the camp.

The train arrives at their destination, at Birkenau, which is the reception center for Auschwitz where the air smells of burning flesh. This is when the first sign of Elie’s decline in faith discloses. (Crowder 1) He sees everyone around him recite the prayer for the dead as his feeling revolts. He revolts in his own mind against God, yet he breaks down and blesses his God. “Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for? (Wiesel, 31). Here, Elie is separated from his mother and sisters.

At this point, Elie and his father realize the importance of being together. But as they enter the camp, they see a ditch where babies are thrown into a burning flame. Elie cannot imagine that this is actually happening and feels like he is sleeping in a nightmare he cannot forget. He relates, “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed…. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.

Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never. ” (Wiesel 32) His father began to weep as he told Elie that he would have him go with his mother rather than witness what they were going to do to Elie. At this point, Elie begins to realize and feel his father’s love for him and this is probably one of the moments Elie sees his father cry. Their relationship which in the beginning of the book based on respect turned into a father and son bonding that is based on love and emotion.

After years of separation, Elie learns that his mother and Tzipora had been taken straight to the gas chamber upon arrival. He remembers; “For a part of a second I glimpsed my mother and my sisters moving away to the right. Tzipora held Mother’s hand. I saw them disappear into the distance; my mother was stroking my sister’s fair hair … and I did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever. (Wiesel 18) Father and son relationship is challenged as the book goes when Eli is transferred to Block 17, where which later, his father is also put into.

(Stern 84) This time, father and son rely on each other for survival. But the cruel environment they are in challenged the strength of their bond as Elie, at his age, witnessed a 13-year old child beating his father to death. This event brings warning to Elie not lose his compassion towards his father so their closeness will remain and continue to support each other. But this becomes a challenge, to survive in a place where a child to worst, kills his own father. He narrates, “When they withdrew, next to me were two corpses, side by side, the father and the son. I was fifteen years old. ” (Wiesel 96)

After the Jewish New Year, Elie is separated from his father since he passes the selection and his father does not. At this point, Elie is upset by the result of the selection because he gets the will to survive from his father, and he does not want to let his father down. After several days, a second selection occurs and his father passed. Their relationship remains intact but Elie beginning to see his father as a burden. Yet, Elie still maintains his dedication to his father as he successfully saved his father from death by sneaking him back to the side of those who will continue working.

Soon after this, another scene of wickedness between father and son they have witnessed as they are inside a train herded through German towns. Locales throw food to them. Eli witnessed a man killed by his son for grabbing a piece of bread from him. This scene changes Elie’s attitude towards his father. He totally sees his father as a burden. A final blow to his father came when Elie’s father finds his dear friend Meir Katz dead and once they are off the train his father just wishes to sit in the snow and rest. Elie leaves his father as the alarm sounds for air raid.

After the raid, he searches for his father but does not care anymore, he feels that his father is better off dead rather than to struggle more to survive. He finds his father in the hospital bed where his father slowly dies. This may be the most compelling section of the book wherein elie speaks of his father’s decline and eventual death. He vividly describes the shame he feels as he refuse to respond to his father’s requests for help. He also describes the emotional void and feelings of self-interest which the camp instills in him.

The camp also had bred in him inability to regain his humanity and emotional connection to the world around him. Upon the death of his father, Elie cannot deny his feeling of guilt and depression. He feels that it is his fault that his father died. He feels even more guilt being relieved rather than cry and be saddened as his father’s corpse is delivered in the crematory. At this point, Elie lost whatever shred of faith he had left. He is untouched by emotion, his mind blank. About three months, Elie is free at last. And so he says,

“After my father’s death, nothing could touch me any more. ” (Wiesel 107) It is no wonder that Elie Weisel questioned his faith and because of this he is able to endure the sight of his dying father. The Holocaust is truly effective in its cruelty not only in destroying family ties but also the very human person. Elie’s relationship with his father could have been strong and he could have had good memories of his father if not the Holocaust destroyed his personality and human emotions. References Crowder, Alicia. Discussion of the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel.

(2010) retrieved 22 May 2010 from < http://hubpages. com/hub/Discussion-of-the-book-Night-by-Elie-Wiesel>. Emmett, Kelin. If this is a Man (2001) pdf. The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity: New York. pp 1-12. Estess, Ted. Elie Wiesel. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. , 1980. Marth, A. R . Book reviews: Night, by Elie Wiesel (2010) retrieved 22 May 2010 from <http://www. helium. com/items/269971-book-reviews-night-by-elie-wiesel> Stern, Ellen. Elie Wiesel: Witness for Life. New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc. , 1982. Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

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