by Elie Wiesel
In A Nutshell
When Elie Wiesel was liberated from the Buchenwald concentration camp in April 1945, he decided to wait for ten years before writing his memoirs of the Holocaust. Night is the story of Elie Wiesel surviving Nazi concentration camps as a teenager. The original Yiddish publication of Night was 900 pages and titled And the World Remained Silent. Despite low sales originally, Night has now been translated into thirty languages and has become a classic. Night is the first book in a trilogy—Night, Dawn, and then Day, probably referring to a transition in state of mind. That is, in this first book, he is in a state of darkness. Of Night, Elie Wiesel says, "If in my lifetime I was to only write one book, this would be the one."
Why Should I Care?
We could tell you why you should care, but it’s so much better to hear it from Elie Wiesel himself. Pretend we’re asking Wiesel, "Why should shmoopers care about your book, Night?" (And also pretend that we’re not just lifting his words from his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech):
"[…] [T]he world did know [about the suffering of the Jews during WWII] and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.
There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism and political persecution […].
Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. How can one not be sensitive to their plight? Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.
There is so much to be done, there is so much that can be done. One person—a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, a Martin Luther King Jr.—one person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.
Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately."