There are No Limits in the Brutality of Humankind
“The Terrible Truth is that brutality is part of human nature, and all the laws in the world can’t neuter it” (Greg Iles,https://www.azquotes.com/quote/1080371). In Elie Wiesel’s personal account of the Holocaust, Night, the brutality towards human beings seems to be immeasurable. Through many horrific events in the concentration camps, we fear the dreadful and fierce actions of both the fascists and Jews in Wiesel’s eyes. The loss of humanity among the victims during the Holocaust is represented in Wiesel’s story of how many father-and-son relationships that were corrupted in the story, the casualties from the events that occurred. And lastly, how people were treated in the concentration camps. Thus, Wiesel’s account of the Holocaust shows that there are no limits in the brutality of humankind.
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Throughout the story, readers came across many father-and-son relationships that were later crushed under the brutality of the Holocaust. Although Elie and his father’s bond strengthen as they strive forward to survive, others couldn’t make it. One of the examples is on the train across Germany, another family was also on that train. An image of a father, begging for forgiveness from his son for a piece of bread, is terrifying. Still, he died and his son didn’t mourn for him. Instead, “His son searched him, took the crust of the bread, and began to devour it”(Wiesel 101). It seems to be the brutality of the Holocaust became contagious. One must ask, how can someone become this sadistic after this kind of pain and torture was inflicted on them? In Night, Wiesel creates a visual image of a father dying under his son. This shows that not only did the Nazis show brutality towards the Jews, but some Jews demonstrated such brutality too. In the end, those who survived could only tell a partial story of what they had experienced, witnessing the crematories, blood, and death of innocent people.
With a death toll of almost 6 million Jews in 12 years, the Holocaust was truly a traumatic event to those who had died and to their ancestors left behind. The brutality did not stop at killing people in the ordinary way of shootings, though. It’s beyond furious of what the Nazis decided to do with their victims: public executions, extermination, death camps, hangings, and burning them alive. In chapter three, readers encountered a new character named Dr. Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death. This character’s cruelty was known for what he did to the Jews, especially to children. He performed live-dissections of people and experimented on children, gypsy twins and more. Many SS soldiers under Dr. Mengele’s power were ordered to execute the Jews, shoot them against the wall, beat them to death, etc. Their cruelty, however, didn’t stop there. The hanging of the young Pipel was probably one of the events that neither Wiesel or the reader would ever forget. Wiesel states, “But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes” (65). His death represented the cruelty and brutality of a society that Wiesel was living in; no one could do anything but watch the boy dying. The Holocaust was truly one of the most terrifying genocides that have ever existed in mankind’s history. “As a human document, Night is almost unbearably painful, and certainly beyond criticism” (A. Alvarez, Commentary). Wiesel himself made it out of the Holocaust; however, he also became one of the casualties. He felt empty, like a hollow tree. In the end, he states, “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me”(Wiesel 115). Thus, Wiesel felt dead and empty inside as a result of the brutality of humankind.
In Night, Wiesel shows how the Jews were treated poorly in the concentration camps. At the beginning of the story, Madame Schachter yells, “Fire! I can see a fire! I can see a fire!” (Wiesel, 22). This forebodes many unfortunate events that took the life of millions of Jews. When Wiesel gets off to Auschwitz, people of all ages were burned, dead or alive. The horrific scene that the writer drew in one’s mind shows how badly the Jews were treated. They were inspected and selected, families were separated, and it was just the first night in Auschwitz. Wiesel comments, “In the air, the smell of burning flesh.”(28), “Never shall I the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky” (34). In today’s society, one rarely sees things like that anymore. The actions of the Germans towards the Jews back then was tremendously horrific. The narrator noted, “Humanity? Humanity is not concerned with us. Today anything is allowed. Anything is possible, even these crematories”(Wiesel 30). One must consider that the Jews were destroyed financially, physically, and emotionally. It is no wonder they felt that humanity no longer existed. Things get worse as the readers follow Wiesel’s story. Men are killing men, there are poor living conditions in the camps, and not enough food or medical care, and yet the Jews are expected to work like machines. Their daily meal consisted of some soups and a small piece of bread. The Germans took the rights and names of Jewish people, replacing them with tags and numbers. In the story, Wiesel became known as “A-7713!” (57). The Jews were literally considered no more than livestock. They were disinfected, made to run naked in the cold, and were sent to other barracks where they tried to sleep while standing. The Kapos were usually sentenced criminals who were given power over the other prisoners. They were known for their brutality towards people, yet the Jewish were too afraid to think of their families, as they couldn’t afford to expend any thought on people they couldn’t help. Sexual harassment and the rape of young boys is another example of the Germans’ brutality that was revealed during Wiesel’s time in Buna camp. Wiesel noted, “there existed here a veritable traffic of children among homosexuals, I learned later” (48). At one point in the story, when Wiesel’s block marches into the darkness, the reader can now recognize the author’s use of pathetic fallacy. Snow fell heavily in the “pitch darkness”, mixed with the cursing and prodding sounds of the SS. This is when the prisoners were running miles and miles in bone-chilling conditions. For anyone who couldn’t keep up with the pace, their life ended in an instant. Wiesel comments on the SS by saying, “Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure” (85). Wiesel portrays the SS as heartless monsters who enjoyed killing the Jews. As the Jews stumbled over each other to move on; they were too afraid and had to forget all the moral values of a human being. The brutality of what they had suffered is what pushed them to erase their moral ground. Night, again, is represented as a literal and symbolic time of despair. Passing through the German towns, the Jews got treated like animals. They were abused and made fun of while starving and dying against each other. The climax is when a piece of bread was thrown into the wagon. Wiesel wrote, “There was a stampede. Dozens of starving men fought desperately over a few crumbs. The worker watched the spectacle with great interest” (100). It is upset to see one having fun while watching others killing themselves over a piece of food.
Night by Elie Wiesel is a well-written reflection of what a society would look like without morality. Every time the story stopped at a brutal event, another happened. Freddie Knoller, another Holocaust survivor, stated, “I could cry nonstop, even now”(https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11370513/Holocaust-survivors-70-years-of-trauma-I-could-cry-nonstop-even-now.html). Brutality has developed from time to time and has never stopped. It’s terrifying of what a man can capable of being ruthless and viciousness. The Holocaust is a significant example occurred in the past showing mankind will never stop treating others with cruelty, as it’s a part of human nature, to be brutal.
- Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Hill and Wang, 1958. Print.
- Routledge, Julia. “Night: Elie Wiesel’s Memoir and How It Preserved the Jewish Identity.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 25 Aug. 2014, www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/aug/25/elie-wiesel-night-jewish-identity-amnesty-teen-takeover-2014.
- “The Holocaust Death Toll.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 26 Jan. 2005, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1481975/The-Holocaust-death-toll.html
- Minster, Christopher. “Who Was Dr. Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz ‘Angel of Death’?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 12 Oct. 2017, www.thoughtco.com/ten-facts-about-dr-josef-mengele-2136588.
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