A Poem That Relates to Night by Elie Wiesel

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One of the themes in Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night, is man’s inhumanity to man. During the Holocaust, Elie experienced a terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns him into an agonized witness to the death of his family, innocence and God. A poem by Ruth Dykstra, “What I Don’t Know”, reflects Elie’s situation and beliefs. This poem expresses Elie’s struggles as a young Jew who has lost his faith and hope.

In the beginning of the poem, the speaker questions: “Did they know? / How awful, how hateful? / The ghettos, the camps, the chamber, the stars?” This illustrates Elie’s emotions and how he felt about his life when the Nazis intruded. Did the Jews know? Did the Germans know how “awful” the Nazis treated the Jews; and how “hateful” the Jews would feel toward the Nazis? Especially how Elie and his family were forced into the ghettos and wearing the stars which states “I’m a Jew.” Elie hated it when he and his family were sent to the camps and learned about the gas chambers. Later in the poem, the speaker ponders “As if, you weren’t human anymore/ the lives taken, those spared/ will be changed forever…” This definitely reflects upon Elie and his father in the camps. They were treated inhumanely by the Nazis and other prisoners in the camps. They were treated like rats and had to act like savages to be able to survive; but most lost hope. Many lives were taken and Elie witnessed his father’s death. Some lives were spared along with Elie. But those experiences and memories will change his life forever; like the memories have been carved into his brain.

Elie Wiesel’s memoir was well reflected by Ruth Dykstra’s poem. The ideas and questions of the poet were very similar to those of Elie’s. The poem expresses Elie’s struggles and hopelessness in the camps and states how morbid and gruesome people can be.
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