Elie Wiesel

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Night | Symbols



The book's title also serves as a symbol. The worst things that happen to Eliezer occur at night. Eliezer learns that the Jews of Sighet are to be deported at night. The death march begins at night. Eliezer's father is presumed dead and taken away at night. Most significantly, Eliezer first enters a concentration camp around midnight. His first moments in the camp overwhelm him, and the impact is one he will never forget. He says the nighttime experience "turned my life into one long night seven times sealed"; night comes to symbolize death and despair.

Night also symbolizes the absence of God. Eliezer once had great faith in God. However, as his experiences of the Holocaust drag on, his faith wavers regarding the existence and power of God. One of God's first acts was the creation of light and with light came life. About his loss of faith Eliezer says, "My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man." Hope has been lost and the darkness has prevailed.


Fire represents death, destruction, and the pure evil of the Nazis. As Eliezer and the Jews of Sighet are approaching Auschwitz, they have no idea of their fate or even what a concentration camp is. Madame Schächter, a woman whom they believe is mad, tries to warn them of their fate, crying, "Look at the fire! Look at the flames! Flames everywhere." Madame Schächter's premonition is about the crematorium, where millions of Jews, including Eliezer's mother and little sister, will lose their lives. Eliezer detects the smell of burning flesh the second he arrives at Auschwitz.

Even for those who escape the crematorium upon arrival, the threat of it is ever present. To make sure the prisoners remember this, Eliezer and the others are warned, "Here, you must work. If you don't you will go straight to the chimney."

Fire also symbolizes the death of Eliezer's faith and dreams; he describes "those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes."


Silence represents the fate of the Jews, their powerlessness, and the absence of God. Elie Wiesel wrote Night after breaking his personal vow of silence about the Holocaust. One of the reasons he did so was to be a voice for those who died. In addition, he felt the story needed to be told to encourage people to speak up in the face of evil. As Wiesel said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, "Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

In the book, Eliezer wonders, "How was it ... that men, women, and children were being burned ... [and] the world kept silent?" While Eliezer and the Jews of Sighet had some warning of the concentration camps, the information was not clear or from believable sources. Preoccupied by war, the world did little to stop the Holocaust.

Eliezer silences himself as a form of self-preservation. After his father slaps him so hard he falls over, Eliezer says, "I had watched and kept silent ... All I could think was: I shall never forgive them for this."

To humanity's silence Eliezer adds God's, asking, "What are You, my God?" With no satisfying response, Eliezer concludes God has gone silent and left the people to suffer their terrible fate.

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