is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked. ..
For more than half an hour [the child in the noose]
stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony
under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was
still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still
red, his eyes were not yet glazed.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“Where is God now?”
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
“Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows.
. . .”
This passage occurs at the end of the
fourth section, as Eliezer witnesses the agonizingly slow death
of the Dutch Oberkapo’s pipel, a young boy hanged
for collaborating against the Nazis. This horrible moment signifies
the low point of Eliezer’s faith in God. The death of the child
also symbolizes the death of Eliezer’s own childhood and innocence.
The suffering Eliezer sees and experiences during the Holocaust
transforms his entire worldview. Before the war, he cannot imagine
questioning his God. When asked by Moishe the Beadle why he prays,
Eliezer replies, “Why did I pray? What a strange question. Why did
I live? Why did I breathe?” Observance and belief were unquestioned
parts of his core sense of identity, so once his faith is irreparably
shaken, he becomes a completely different person. Among other things, Night is
a perverse coming-of-age story, in which Eliezer’s innocence is
cruelly stripped from him.