by Elie Wiesel
Night Freedom and Confinement Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
We had left the tents for the musicians' block. We now were entitled to a blanket, a washbowl, and a bar of soap. The Blockälteste was a German Jew.
It was good to have a Jew as your leader. His name was Alphonse. A young man with a startlingly wizened face. He was totally devoted to defending "his" block. Whenever he could, he would "organize" a cauldron of soup for the young, for the weak, for all those who dreamed more of an extra portion of food than of liberty. (4.44-45)
Basic survival is more important than liberty.
His back was to the gallows, his face turned toward his judge, the head of the camp. He was pale but seemed more solemn than frightened. His manacled hands did not tremble. His eyes were coolly assessing the hundreds of SS guards, the thousands of prisoners surrounding him.
The Lagerälteste began to read the verdict, emphasizing every word:
"In the name of Reichsführer Himmler … prisoner number … stole during the air raid … according to the law … prisoner number … is condemned to death. Let this be a warning and an example to all prisoners.
After a long moment of waiting, the hangman put the rope round his neck. He was about to signal his aides to pull the chair from under the young man’s feet when the latter shouted, in a strong, clear voice:
"Long live liberty! My curse upon Germany! My curse! My—"
The executioner had completed his work. (4.170-180)
The SS officers execute a young man for subversive activities, hoping show the other prisoners that the cost of fighting for liberty. Despite the punishment, the young man dies promoting freedom.
Our first act as free men was to throw ourselves onto the provisions. That’s all we thought about. No thought of revenge, or of parents. Only of bread.
And even when we were no longer hungry, not one of us thought of revenge. The next day, a few of the young men ran into Weimar to bring back some potatoes and clothes—and to sleep with girls. But still no trace of revenge. (9.22-23)
What does this show about what freedom means to the freed Jews? Maybe at first since they had been so deprived, freedom meant the ability to satisfy their physical needs, to eat. But why not think of revenge? Freedom seems to mean more than the ability to punish their enemies.