AtchleyHonors English II (4th)
The Demise of a Man’s Once Fortified Faith
During the Holocaust, several Jewish communities were invaded by German forces. These communities were shattered. The towns were safely settled one day. The next day they were being deported to concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. In 1944, this is precisely what occurred to the community of Jews in Sighet, Transylvania, including a boy named Elie Wiesel. Wiesel depicts the story of his time during the Holocaust in his novel, Night. In Night, Elie was taken from everything he knew, his home, his family, his friends, and his spiritual mentor. The time spent at the camps transformed him into someone he could not recognize. He lost his family by both emotional and physical separation. The faith Elie once had in humanity, God, and himself slowly slipped through his thin fingers as time passed in the camps, and Elie would never be the same. Elie lost his faith in humanity when he arrived in Auschwitz. A man told him, “You are in Auschwitz…work or the crematorium, the choice is yours”(Wiesel 38-39). However, the choice was not his. Men from a society that displayed nothing but pure hatred towards the Jews chose their fate for them. Their fate was life or death, work or the crematorium. Elie did not understand how the rest of the world could be aware of the massacre of the Jewish population and allow it to continue. Elie saw things he would give anything to forget. “Not far from us, flames, huge flames…children being thrown into the flames”(Wiesel 32). These experiences made forgiving mankind impossible. Elie came to the disheartening conclusion that the craven world would not try to spare them. Elie saw many horrific scenes that immediately caused him to question his God’s character and his faith in God. Having to view babies being thrown into a ditch burning like waste and a child hung, still gasping for his last breaths were the things that destroyed his belief in God the most. “For God’s sake, where is God? And from within me… This is where, hanging from this gallows”(Wiesel 65). Elie couldn’t imagine how a just and merciful God could allow such suffering to continue. He was not denying that God existed, but doubting his goodness and mercy. After some time in the camp, others continued to praise God. He could not comprehend why they would worship and praise a God who allowed so many lives to be reduced to ashes. “Blessed be God’s name? Why, but why would I bless him…Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on thine altar?” (Wiesel 67) Elie found himself in disbelief and anger at those who continued to be rooted in their belief that God would carry them through because his faith in God was destroyed. Elie’s dignity and identity were shaken to the core throughout his horrid experiences in the concentration camps. “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me”(Wiesel 115). Elie felt lifeless inside. The camps had demolished the beliefs, compassion, and joy that had once filled him. Elie’s compassion and perception of himself was polluted by his will to survive. “…all that mattered to me was my daily bowl of soup…I was nothing but a body, perhaps even less, a famished stomach. The stomach alone measured time”(Wiesel 52). Surviving became his one and only goal. He no longer felt the presence of his heart and soul. All he had to look forward to was his daily bowl of soup, his only constant, his lifeline. Elie lost all faith in himself during the camps and was unsure that he would ever have the capability to regain it. Elie Wiesel went from a naive young man with strong beliefs, a family whom he loved, and a positive perception of himself to a man who found himself with no known family, horrifying memories, and most significantly, his own faith in tatters. He was faced with the ultimate trial of his time at the camps, which pushed him and his faith to the breaking point. He did not like what those difficult times brought out in him, a man who turned against his former beliefs in man, God, and himself. He watched his faith slowly die along with thousands of other innocent Jews. He saw things he claimed he would never forget, “even if he was condemned to live as long as God”(Wiesel 34); though it seems that erasing those memories is something he would like the most. At the end of the Holocaust, Elie is left with nothing but the ashes of his once fortified faith in humanity, God, and himself.