The Effects of the Holocaust
On Wiesels Faith
In early 1944 the town of Sighet, Transylvania was overran by the Nazi war regime as it rapidly expanded across Europe and parts of Asia. In this town a young religious man named Elie Wiesel was questioning the intent of the German army and the rumors that were circling about them. Although he had heard that the Germans were planning mass genocide of the Jewish race, the common feeling throughout the town was that Hitler could never exterminate every Jew. Early in Wiesels Night, he recounts his experiences in the Holocaust and he expresses his undying faith and belief that god would never allow Hitlers regime to run its course. When the Nazi army finally reached the town of Signet, the Jews were forced from their homes and relocated into the towns gettos. It was the seventh day of Passover, and according to Wiesel, the race towards death had begun.1 The Jews were slowly removed from the large getto of Sighet and shipped to the smaller, holding getto where they were separated according to sex, age, and physical ability, and prepared for shipment to Auschwitz. The day that Wiesel and his family were to be moved to the smaller getto of Signet, Wiesel demonstrates his faith in God by awaking early to perform his daily prayers. As he prepared to leave his home he said, I looked at our house, where I had spent so many years in my search for God; in fasting in order to hasten the coming of the Messiah; in imagining what my life would be like. Yet I felt little sorrow.2 This passage is symbolic of his first parting with his faith in God. Yet he still believed in God, he was beginning to understand that a God should not let mass extermination happen to his people. While he was sub-consciencly loosing his faith in God, he still felt that there was strength in humanity and that human morals would never allow the burning of Jews. Upon Wiesels arrival at Auschwitz he caught his first glimpse of the crematories he exclaimed to his father, I do not believe that they can burn people in our agehumanity would never tolerate it.3 Yet after his father convinced him of the horrible truth his faith in god could never be restored.
Wiesels father, after fully realizing the full horror of the concentration camps, said a small prayer to God, and to this Elie reacted with utter defiance. For the first time, I felt revolt rise up in me. Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for?4 Although Wiesel still believed in the presence of God, he felt that in Gods silence he was defying the Jews and their faith in him. How could someone you are so devoted to be absent in your greatest time of need? Wiesel said that he sympathized with Job, and I feel that the similarities between Wiesel and Job are numerous. Both were very religious men who put their faith before all other, and yet both found that their faith brought them nothing but suffering. Both felt that they deserved a more peaceful and humane existence because of their undying devotion, yet both lived in the cruelest situations for some time. Wiesel felt that man was stronger that god because throughout the Holocaust his fellow prisoners continued to praise God and believed that God allowed the Holocaust in order to benefit the Jews in some strange way. Wiesel felt that because of all the torture that the Jews were subjected to their continued praise proved that they were ignorant to the fact that God was not a source of supreme justice. Wiesel continued to despise God for the remainder of the Holocaust, yet from this new independence he found power. I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accusedI was terribly alone in a world without god and without man.5