Places: Night

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Un di Velt hot geshvign, 1956; La Nuit, 1958 (English translation, 1960)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Autobiographical

Time of work: 1941-1945

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Sighet

*Sighet (SEE-get). Night Transylvanian village in which the novel’s opening section is set. Scenes in Sighet provide an introduction to life in the Jewish community by focusing on Wiesel’s introduction to his Jewish heritage and religion. The invading Nazi troops establish two ghettoes into which the village’s Jews are herded after being forced to give up all but what they can carry with them.

*Birkenau

*Birkenau. Polish town that is the site of the first concentration camp in which the Wiesel family is imprisoned. Following their stay in the ghetto, the family, along with their neighbors, are put onto trains and sent to concentration camps. Their first stop is Birkenau, where they are introduced to the horrors that follow. There they see families separated, mothers and children going in one direction and fathers and working-age sons in another. Wiesel’s mother and sister are taken from him and, as he learns later, murdered. At Birkenau young Wiesel witnesses people giving up on life and willing themselves to die. In fact, Wiesel himself contemplates suicide, but the religious teachings he receives at home and the dogged determination of his father keep him from killing himself.

*Auschwitz

*Auschwitz. Polish city that is the site of another concentration camp to which Wiesel, his father, and numerous workers from their first camp are later sent. There, Wiesel is briefly separated from his father. Although he is still in a concentration camp, Wiesel finds Auschwitz much more attractive than his previous prison because it is cleaner. Even though his job as a factory worker allows him to prove that he should be allowed to live, Wiesel becomes jaded and numb to the beatings he experiences and the deaths of those around him. About the time he becomes acclimated to his new surroundings, Wiesel is sent to Buna with his father.

The greatest adjustment that Wiesel makes at the new camp is to the smell of burning bodies. There, too, Wiesel undergoes surgery on a seriously injured foot. Acquaintances warn him that he must not remain in the hospital too long or he will be killed. At one point, while still recovering, Wiesel is forced to march in the prison yard with other prisoners to prevent Russian planes from bombing the camp. In fact, the weak and wounded prisoners are forced to make a forty-two mile march to another concentration camp, Buchenwald.

Upon reaching this camp, the prisoners are allowed to rest. However, as a result of their long march and a serious case of dysentery, Wiesel’s father dies, leaving his son to survive on his own. Elie is eventually among the few prisoners who are finally liberated from Buchenwald.

Scenes in the concentration camps become even more focused when Wiesel takes readers into the barracks, factories, hospitals, and death chambers that become the scenes of horror. He survived in part because of the strong religious faith that he had developed through his early education and the examples of his parents.

BibliographyBloom, Harold, ed. Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001.Cargas, Harry James. Conversations with Elie Wiesel. South Bend, Ind.: Justice Books, 1992. A collection of interviews with the author that cover his life, politics, and literary works. Wiesel speaks frankly and extensively about his childhood in Sighet and of his time in the concentration camps–events that formed the basis for Night.Estess, Ted L. Elie Wiesel. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. An analysis of Wiesel’s key literary works, including Night, Dawn, and The Accident. Night receives extended discussion in chapter 2.Fine, Ellen S. Legacy of Night: The Literary Universe of Elie Wiesel. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982. A critical study of Night and Wiesel’s other Holocaust works.Patterson, David, Alan L. Berger, and Sarita Cargas, eds. Encyclopedia of Holocaust Literature. Westport, Conn.: Oryx Press, 2002.Rittner, Carol, ed. Elie Wiesel: Between Memory and Hope. New York: New York University Press, 1990. A collection of seventeen essays on Wiesel’s life and literary works. Night receives an extended discussion in three essays and is mentioned in several others.Schwarz, Daniel R. “The Ethics of Reading Elie Wiesel’s Night.” Style 32, no. 2 (Summer, 1998): 221-243.Walker, Graham B., Jr. Elie Wiesel: A Challenge to Theology. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1988. Focuses on Wiesel’s religious dilemmas as they are reflected in his major literary works.Wiesel, Elie. All Rivers Run to the Sea. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.Wiesel, Elie. “Why I Write.” In Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology, edited by Jules Chametzky, John Felstiner, Hilene Flanzbaum, and Kathryn Hellerstein. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.
Categories: Places