by Elie Wiesel
Night Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Anguish. German soldiers—with their steel helmets, and their death’s head emblem. Still, our first impressions of the Germans were rather reassuring. The officers were billeted in private houses, even in Jewish homes. Their attitude toward their hosts was distant, but polite. They never demanded the impossible, made no offensive remarks, and sometimes even smiled at the lady of the house. A German officer lodged in the Kahn’s house across the street from us. We were told he was a charming man, calm, likable, and polite. Three days after he moved in, he brought Mrs. Kahn a box of chocolates. The optimists were jubilant: "Well? What did we tell you? You wouldn’t believe us. There they are, your Germans. What do you say now? Where is their famous cruelty?"
The Germans were already in town, the Fascists were already in power, the verdict was already out—and the Jews of Sighet were still smiling. (1.59-60)
What more can we say after that last line? Wiesel says it all. Well, if you really want our extra thought: the Sighet Jews deceive themselves with optimistic hopes for the future, blinding themselves to present danger.
Little by little life returned to "normal." The barbed wire that encircled us in did not fill us with real fear. In fact, we felt this was not a bad thing; we were entirely among ourselves. A small Jewish republic … A Jewish Council was appointed, as well as a Jewish police force, a welfare agency, a labor committee, a health agency–a whole government apparatus.
People thought this was a good thing. We would no longer have to look at all those hostile faces, endure those hate-filled stares. No more fear. No more anguish. We would live among Jews, among brothers …
Most people thought that we would remain in the ghetto until the end of the war, until the arrival of the Red Army. Afterward everything would be as before. The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion. (1.1.79-82)
The Jews of Sighet together create for themselves an illusion to sustain them while they are in the ghetto. They deceive themselves into thinking that they now have self-rule and that life in the ghetto is better than life before.
At daybreak, the gloom had lifted. The mood was more confident. There were those who said:
"Who knows, they may be sending us away for our own good. The front is getting closer, we shall soon hear the guns. And then surely the civilian population will be evacuated …"
"They worry lest we join the partisans …"
"As far as I’m concerned, this whole business of deportation is nothing but a big farce. Don’t laugh. They just want to steal our valuables and jewelry. They know that it has all been buried and that they will have to dig to find it; so much easier to do when the owners are on vacation …"
This kind of talk that nobody believed helped pass the time. The few days we spent here went by pleasantly enough, in relative calm. People rather got along. There no longer was any distinction between rich and poor, notables and the others; we were all people condemned to the same fate—still unknown. (1.175-80)
While they await deportation, the Jews of Sighet attempt to maintain their self-deception and hope, at least externally; they don’t voice their dread of the unknown.