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.