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Full Book Summary
Night is narrated by Eliezer , a Jewish teenager who, when the memoir begins, lives in his hometown of Sighet, in Hungarian Transylvania. Eliezer studies the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the Cabbala (a doctrine of Jewish mysticism). His instruction is cut short, however, when his teacher, Moishe the Beadle , is deported. In a few months, Moishe returns, telling a horrifying tale: the Gestapo (the German secret police force) took charge of his train, led everyone into the woods, and systematically butchered them. Nobody believes Moishe, who is taken for a lunatic.
In the spring of 1944, the Nazis occupy Hungary. Not long afterward, a series of increasingly repressive measures are passed, and the Jews of Eliezer’s town are forced into small ghettos within Sighet. Soon they are herded onto cattle cars, and a nightmarish journey ensues. After days and nights crammed into the car, exhausted and near starvation, the passengers arrive at Birkenau, the gateway to Auschwitz.
Upon his arrival in Birkenau, Eliezer and his father are separated from his mother and sisters, whom they never see again. In the first of many “selections” that Eliezer describes in the memoir, the Jews are evaluated to determine whether they should be killed immediately or put to work. Eliezer and his father seem to pass the evaluation, but before they are brought to the prisoners’ barracks, they stumble upon the open-pit furnaces where the Nazis are burning babies by the truckload.
The Jewish arrivals are stripped, shaved, disinfected, and treated with almost unimaginable cruelty. Eventually, their captors march them from Birkenau to the main camp, Auschwitz. They eventually arrive in Buna, a work camp, where Eliezer is put to work in an electrical-fittings factory. Under slave-labor conditions, severely malnourished and decimated by the frequent “selections,” the Jews take solace in caring for each other, in religion, and in Zionism, a movement favoring the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, considered the holy land. In the camp, the Jews are subject to beatings and repeated humiliations. A vicious foreman forces Eliezer to give him his gold tooth, which is pried out of his mouth with a rusty spoon.
The prisoners are forced to watch the hanging of fellow prisoners in the camp courtyard. On one occasion, the Gestapo even hang a small child who had been associated with some rebels within Buna. Because of the horrific conditions in the camps and the ever-present danger of death, many of the prisoners themselves begin to slide into cruelty, concerned only with personal survival. Sons begin to abandon and abuse their fathers. Eliezer himself begins to lose his humanity and his faith, both in God and in the people around him.
After months in the camp, Eliezer undergoes an operation for a foot injury. While he is in the infirmary, however, the Nazis decide to evacuate the camp because the Russians are advancing and are on the verge of liberating Buna. In the middle of a snowstorm, the prisoners begin a death march: they are forced to run for more than fifty miles to the Gleiwitz concentration camp. Many die of exposure to the harsh weather and exhaustion. At Gleiwitz, the prisoners are herded into cattle cars once again. They begin another deadly journey: one hundred Jews board the car, but only twelve remain alive when the train reaches the concentration camp Buchenwald. Throughout the ordeal, Eliezer and his father help each other to survive by means of mutual support and concern. In Buchenwald, however, Eliezer’s father dies of dysentery and physical abuse. Eliezer survives, an empty shell of a man until April 11, 1945, the day that the American army liberates the camp.
Night SparkNotes Literature Guide
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by Elie Wiesel
Section 1 Summary
Last Updated on April 27, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 476
As a child in Sighet, Hungary, Elie Wiesel lives with his shop-owner father, his mother, and three sisters. Elie wants to study the kabbalah, the mystical studies of the Jewish traditions. When he asks permission from his father, he is told that he is too young, that it is not until the age of thirty that one is considered mature enough to take on this extensive course of study. But Elie decides that he will find a teacher for himself. When he is twelve, at the end of 1941, he encounters Moshe the Beadle, who works at the synagogue. Moshe questions him, telling him that man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks. Yet man cannot understand the answers that God gives him. Moshe states that it is only within oneself that one can find the answers. Moshe thus prays that God will give him the strength to ask the right questions. And so Elie begins his study of the kabbalah with Moshe.
One day it is announced that all foreign Jews are expelled from Hungary. Moshe and the others are crammed onto cattle cars and transported out of the city. After some months, Moshe is back in Sighet. He tells the story that he and the others were brought into a forest where they were made to dig huge graves. Then they were killed, including the small babies, who were used as target practice. Moshe had only a wounded leg. Eventually he escaped and returned home. When he tells of what is happening to the Jews, no one believes him.
In the spring of 1944, there is news that the Germans are being defeated. Then the Fascist party rises to power. Soon, German troops enter the village. They are housed in the homes of the residents, even the Jews. They are well behaved until the week of Passover. It is then announced that every Jew must wear a yellow star, and their rights are placed under severe restrictions. Elie’s father does not see any harm in wearing the yellow star. “You don’t die of it,” he said. Then the Jews are rounded up into two ghettos. Elie’s family is in the larger one. The Jews form their own council of self-government. The word then comes that all the Jews in Sighet are to be deported. Thinking that perhaps it is only to protect them from the advancing troops, the Jews do not yet panic. Street by street, the Jews are driven out of the large ghetto and crammed into the smaller one. An old servant, Martha, tells the Wiesel family to come to her village for safety. Elie’s father refuses to leave his wife and baby, and the other children refuse to be separated. On the Sabbath, they are herded into the synagogue. The next morning they are loaded onto trains.
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Section 2 Summary
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Summary. Chapter 1. In 1941, Eliezer, the narrator of the story, is a preteen boy from Sighet, a Transylvanian town annexed by Hungary but now part of Romania. The 12 yea... Read more. Chapter 2. The Jews are loaded into cattle cars and subjected to unbearable conditions.
Night is a memoir by Elie Wiesel that was first published in 1960. Read a plot overview of the entire book or an in-depth analysis of Eliezer . Summary Read one-minute Sparklet summaries, the detailed section-by-section Summary & Analysis, or the Full Book Summary of Night . Sparklet Chapter Summaries Summary & Analysis Foreword Section One
Night is narrated by Eliezer, a Jewish teenager who, when the memoir begins, lives in his hometown of Sighet, in Hungarian Transylvania. Eliezer studies the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the Cabbala (a doctrine of Jewish mysticism). His instruction is cut short, however, when his teacher, Moishe the Beadle, is deported.
Night Summary Next Chapter 1 At the start of the memoir, it's 1941 and Eliezer is a twelve-year-old Jewish boy in the Hungarian town of Sighet. He's deeply religious and spends much of his time studying the Torah (the Bible) and the Talmud and praying.
An old servant, Martha, tells the Wiesel family to come to her village for safety. Elie’s father refuses to leave his wife and baby, and the other children refuse to be separated. On the...
Summary Analysis Eliezer is twelve in 1941. He lives in a town called Sighet, in territory then controlled by Hungary. His father is respected in the Jewish community. As a boy, Weisel studies the Torah (the Jewish Bible) and the Talmud (rabbinical teachings), while his sisters Hilda, Béa, and Tzipora help his parents run a shop.