• Study Guide

Section One

Summary Section One

If one of Wiesel’s goals is to prevent the Holocaust from recurring by bearing witness to it, another is the preservation of the memory of the victims. Eliezer’s relationship with his father is a continuous theme in Wiesel’s memoir. He documents their mutually supportive relationship, Eliezer’s growing feeling that his father is a burden to him, and his guilt about that feeling.

On a larger scale, Wiesel also hopes to preserve the memory of the Jewish tradition through his portrayal of his father. When news of the deportations comes to Sighet, Eliezer’s father, a respected community leader, is among the first notified. He is in the middle of telling a story when he is forced to leave. Wiesel notes, “The good story he had been in the middle of telling us was to remain unfinished.” In a metaphorical sense, this “good story” symbolizes the entirety of European Jewish tradition, transmitted to Eliezer—and to Wiesel himself—through the father figure. Night laments the loss of this tradition, of the story that remains unfinished. In writing this memoir and his other works, Wiesel is attempting to complete his father’s story, honor the memory of the Holocaust victims, and commemorate the traditions they left behind.

The first section of Night also establishes the groundwork for Eliezer’s later struggle with his faith. At the start of the story, he is a devout Jew from a devout community. He studies Jewish tradition faithfully and believes faithfully in God. As the Jews are deported, they continue to express their trust that God will save them from the Nazis: “Oh God, Lord of the Universe, take pity upon us….” Eliezer’s experience in the concentration camps, however, eventually leads to his loss of faith, because he decides that he cannot believe in a God who would allow such suffering.

Later in the memoir, Eliezer suggests that, for him, one of the most horrible of the Nazis’ deeds was their metaphorical murder of God. Since the Holocaust, Judaism has been forced to confront the long-existent problem of theodicy—how God can exist and permit such evil. Night chronicles Eliezer’s loss of innocence, his confrontation with evil, and his questioning of God’s existence.