The drastic change from Wiesel’s rendition of his experiences during the Holocaust, Night, portrays many themes throughout the entirety of its pages, with one of the most prominent themes being Elie’s own faith and its vicissitude over time, of which is seen in the early years of his life where he was devout to his religion, to the train ride and arrival at Auschwitz where he begs God to help, ending in the death of his God as the children are hung, and the total rejection of a God altogether. As a child, before the Holocaust, Wiesel was a fervent and dedicated Jew.
Early in the pages of Night, Wiesel recalls a question that his father had asked him. “ ‘Why do you pray? ’ he asked me, after a moment. Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe? ” (Wiesel 2). Wiesel’s life is centered around his religion; he finds it completely abstruse for his father to question his praying, because praying is what he does. Praying, faith, Judaism; all these things are his toys. Wiesel doesn’t just worship to worship, he worships because that is the thing he gets to play with.
Imagine if these toys were taken away from him? These are just any toys, these toys are essential to his sanity and well-being. He compares his faith and prayer to his breathing. Not only does he need them, but losing them would be a debility that Wiesel isn’t sure he can face. Despite the necessity to retain this, they ignore the warnings and threats that the Nazis pose, and he and his family remain almost blissfully ignorant of the fact that there is the threat of their toys being ripped away and everything they know languishing into little more than a memory.
This threat is sitting right in their front yard, and they have no idea of the vicissitude that will come and change their lives when the threat walks onto the porch, rolls up its sleeves, and knocks on the door. “Anguish. German soliders— with their steel helmets, and their emblem, the death’s hand. ” (Wiesel 7). Everybody had denied it, but there they were. The Germans had come to Elie’s home of Sighet despite everyone’s belief. The Germans seemed nice at first, but this view would be ephemeral.
The Germans first housed themselves inside the homes of the Jews, but this soon cascaded into constantly forcing them to give up their valuables, pushing them away from their homes until one day they were loaded onto the train and all Elie had left were the clothes on his back, his family, and God. The events leading up to his arrival were periods where he begged for God. He begged to God, whom he had dedicated his life, to save him and his family from the abrasive fist of the concentration camp. Once at the reception center, this is where he the game changes.
When he watches the people around him pray for their lives, he just wonders “Why? ” Why should he bless His name, when He has gone mute? In just a few short weeks, everything that he ever based his life on he questioned and went against. This changes his view on the world entirely. He now knows that God, the one who has always been beside him, can turn away from the torture of millions of people like it were nothing. He went from wholeheartedly giving his life to God, to eventually abjuring him altogether and getting angry at him.
This is totally different for him; he’d never felt any distain for him until then. This shatters him, but at least his God is still there; still existent even though he looks away from the destruction. Unfortunately, this can’t last long. Wiesel had endured a lot during his time in concentration camps. Knowing that his God had turned his back on him was painful; without God the conditions made him extremely vulnerable and blighted. The Germans were persistent in crushing every one of them.
They were determined to teach those who stepped out of line a lesson, and give an example of punishments to everyone else. And so, thusly, there were hangings. And, at one of these hangings was a child, who had been accused of something by the Germans and was thusly hanged. You can tell that all of Wiesel’s hope in God is lost when he says, “ ‘Where is He? Here He is— He is hanging here on this gallows…’ ” (Wiesel 62). Whilst everyone is looking for God, he already knows where he is. He is dead; he has been hanged just like everyone else. Before, he just rejected his God.
God was just a figure who had ignored him in a time of need. But when he witnessed those hangings, he realized that God had not turned his back on him. God had tried to enter and was murdered. The safety of God and the sanctuary that comes with it was dead inside all of them. It was not God who had turned his back; it was the Germans who had forced him away. Wiesel went through many treacherous experiences during his time in concentration camps, but one of the worst was the change in is faith. Judaism used to be his world, he used to dedicate his life to it.
It says early on in the book that every day he would study the Talmud in the first half of the day, and then he would go to the synagogue in the other half. One day, this was all ripped away from him. He used to be faithful, but soon afterwards he was left with the dawning realization that the God he was begging for help would no longer listen. He wouldn’t listen because his God couldn’t listen anymore. The Nazis made sure that anything having to do with Judaism was punished and murdered, and that goes for his God too.
His toy was faith, the God that lay inside him where he could go for hope. But the Nazis took it away from him. At first, it would seem as if God had betrayed him. This was not the case, God had not betrayed him. The God that he held inside him, the God he loved and lived with and the God who had always been there had been beaten out of him and killed. This toy was a piece of him he can never have back. All because someone came up, took it, and crushed it. The toy became broken, and just like that, so did Wiesel.