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and the Holocaust: part II and conclusion
Wiesel tells us in detail about witnessing two
formal executions of prisoners by hanging. In both
cases, all of the prisoners were assembled to
witness the executions. In both cases, the Germans
commanded the assembled prisoners to show their
respect to the condemned by removing and replacing
their caps both before and after the hangings.
There is no information in
Night that suggests
that any SS-men at the Buna camp engaged in the
random murder of Jewish prisoners.
About the first execution Mr. Wiesel writes:
"The thousands who had died daily at Auschwitz and
at Birkenau in the crematories no longer troubled
me. But this one, leaning against his gallows -- he
overwhelmed me." Clearly, Elie is telling us that
he believed at that time that thousands of people
were being exterminated daily in the crematory
ovens, where his former neighbour, Bela Katz, had
been assigned as one of the Sonderkommando. It is
clear that Mr. Wiesel is telling us that the Jews
were killed in the ovens themselves, he is not
saying that the Jews were poisoned with gas or shot
or strangled and then cremated. To kill someone in
an oven is not the same thing as to kill someone
and burn his body. But, remember, Mr. Katz told
Elie that he had burned his father's body, he did
not tell Elie that he had helped burn his father to
If either Mr. Katz or some other prisoner shared
his knowledge about how "the thousands" had met
their deaths "in the crematory ovens," Elie Wiesel
does not tell us when, or where, or by whom he was
told this horrifying information. At least, it does
not appear in
At the end of the Jewish Year, "the Germans gave
us a fine New Year's gift." The German Jewish block
commandant of the Wiesels' new block informed them
that they were all confined to the barracks. Rumour
spread that there was to be a medical
We knew what that meant. A SS man would
examine us. Whenever he found a weak one, a
musulman as we called them, he would write his
number down: good for the crematory.
The prisoners were assembled by the German
Jewish head of the block who "had never been
outside concentration camps since 1933", a man who
"had already been through all the slaughterhouses,
all the factories of death." It would appear that
with this Jewish prisoner who had spent about
eleven years in the various concentration camps of
Nazi Germany Elie would have found an excellent
source for information about how "the thousands"
were being exterminated in the crematories. If so,
this information does not appear in
Dr. Mengele re-appeared to make the medical
examinations. Several days later the numbers of the
"selected" prisoners are read out. Elie's father's
number was on the selection list.
Elie was forced to leave his father behind with
the prisoners who had been ordered to stay in the
camp for a "decisive" second "selection". When he
returns from work -- his father was still
Elie reports that the "selected" were taken away
to Birkenau in ambulances. It is strongly implied
that this was a very suspicious way to transport
people who had failed a medical examination. The
ultimate fate of the prisoners transported by
ambulance to Birkenau is not contained in
When the winter of 1944 arrived, the prisoners
were issued "slightly thicker striped shirts" and
on Christmas they were issued "a slightly thicker
soup." They were also given Christmas Day and New
Years Day as holidays.
In January 1945 Elie Wiesel himself became
seriously ill. A "Jewish" doctor examined his foot
and told him that an operation would be necessary.
Elie was put into a hospital. He reports that the
hospital beds were provided with white sheets, and
that he was served "good bread and thicker soups."
He even tells us that the rations in the hospital
were so ample that he had extra bread that he was
able to send to his father.
After a successful surgery, this unskilled
Jewish labourer who had been separating parts in a
warehouse was given two weeks to recuperate in the
By now the Germans are preparing to evacuate
Auschwitz in the face of the advancing Soviet
The Germans told the prisoners that those
prisoners who were in the infirmaries will be
abandoned to the Russians and that only the healthy
prisoners will be required to leave Auschwitz.
However, a rumour spread among the prisoners that
the Germans were really going to kill all of the
patients before they left.
Elie Wiesel tells us that he could have stayed
in the hospital and that he also could have managed
to have his father admitted to the hospital and
then waited for the Russians. But he believed the
rumours. He tells us that he persuaded his father
to allow themselves to be evacuated with the
The rumours turned out to be false. The Germans
did leave the patients behind unharmed in the camp
infirmaries. The Russians liberated them.
The Wiesels joined the exodus of prisoners
marching in the snow. The prisoners had been
allowed to pile on extra layers of clothing before
they left by the Germans.
The fleeing German guards urged the prisoners on
with violence. Elie tells us that prisoners were
frequently shot if they failed to keep up. He tells
us that the guards had orders to shoot any prisoner
who paused too long. He does not tell us how he
knew what orders the guards had received.
He does report that some of the SS-men would
shout encouragement to the prisoners: "Keep going!
We are getting there!" And they were telling the
truth. They arrive at Concentration Camp
Three days were allowed the prisoners to rest at
Gleiwitz before resuming their march. Wiesel says
that there was nothing there for the prisoners to
eat or to drink. Since the prisoners had already
marched more than fifty miles through the snow to
Gleiwitz it is amazing that the Wiesels now had the
stamina to resume the march. But they did.
But first they had to undergo another
"selection." "The weak, to the left; those who
could walk well, to the right."
When his father was sent to the left, Elie tells
us that he caused a disruption that led to the
deaths of some of the prisoners. However Elie did
succeed in getting his father and himself back into
the right-hand line. They were marched to a railway
line, put into open-air cattle wagons. The train
took them slowly into central Germany. At some
stops the dead were removed from the car. Prisoners
killed one another over scraps of food. The
ultimate fate of the prisoners who had been too
weak to walk the train is not contained in
Finally the transport arrived at Buchenwald
Concentration Camp near the city of Weimar.
A hot shower was demanded of each prisoner
before admission to the camp. Elie's father was too
exhausted or ill to go to the showers. Elie tells
us that he abandoned his father and went to the
barracks where the exhausted prisoners ignored "the
cauldrons of soup" which the Germans had provided
The next day Elie looked for his father. He
found him in the block where prisoners were being
issued black "coffee" -- probably an artificial
coffee substitute, as Germany was by now cut off
from countries in which coffee is grown. His father
was burning with a fever.
Since Elie had abandoned his father because his
father was ill and unable to move himself at that
time, the question arises: How did his father get
to the barracks where a hot beverage was being
served? The other prisoners lying about his father
had also been too weak to move themselves,
therefore, the only likely explanation is that the
Germans had organized the transportation of the
weak and exhausted man to the barracks.
Elie Wiesel makes it abundantly clear that he
shared the belief of many of the prisoners that
prisoners who were no longer well enough to work
were automatically subject to extermination --
especially Jewish prisoners. If it astonished him
that the Germans would make an effort to save the
life of an exhausted Jew, that is not mentioned in
On the third day at Buchenwald all of the
prisoners were ordered into the hot showers again:
"even the sick."
Two doctors visited the block which housed
Elie's father. . From their lack of identification
by the author it can be deduced that they were
German doctors. The first refused to look at Elie's
father because he was a surgeon and Mr. Wiesel was
suffering from dysentery. The second screamed at
the prisoners that they were simply "lazy and want
to stay in bed." The fact that the camp authorities
continued to provide medical care at this late
point in the war while German forces were being
stretched to the limit as the final collapse of the
Third Reich approached is noteworthy.
On January 29, 1945, Mr. Wiesel died after being
knocked unconscious by a SS man who had become
angry when the delirious man would not stop
shouting . This blow is the first and only time in
Night when either of
the Wiesels was struck by a German.
When the Germans realized that Elie was both
under 18 and no longer protected from the dangers
that a young male would be subject to in the
general prison population, he was transferred to
the "children's block" along with 600 other
children. There he waited until April 10 when an
armed resistance group rebelled and took over the
camp and the SS- men fled.
On the following day, some of the young
men went to Weimar to get some potatoes and
clothes -- and to sleep with girls. But of
revenge not a sign.
This passage does not agree with the original
Yiddish version of
Night, Un di velt
hot geshvign (And the World Kept Silent).
Yiddish is a language spoken and read almost
exclusively by Jews. Things written in Yiddish are
unlikely to be read by non-Jews.
The Yiddish says, in ranslation:
Early the next day Jewish boys ran off
to Weimar to steal clothing and potatoes -- and
to rape German girls. [un tsu fargvaldikn
daytshe shikses, the
word shikse is a highly derogatory term used by
Jews for non-Jewish women, e.g.
sluts]. The historical commandment of
revenge was not fulfilled.
Translation of this passage and a fuller
discussion of the differences between the Yiddish
and non-Yiddish versions of the book
Night can be found in
Naomi Seidman, "Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of
Jewish Rage", Jewish Social Studies,
The Jewish boys stealing and raping in the
original Yiddish version have become
non-denominational young men getting food and
encountering romance, and the Jewish commandment to
get revenge has been suppressed in the version
published in languages likely to be read by
The fact that Elie Wiesel did not considered the
"rape" of German girls to be a violent action of
revenge is suppressed.
We must remember that as late as his 1979 essay,
"An Interview Like Any Other," Mr. Wiesel was
telling the world that he had published his memoir
La Nuit after a 10-year vow of silence and
only at the urging of Mauriac, whose account of his
meeting with the young survivor appears as a
foreword to Night's
French and English editions; but according to
Wiesel's 1994 memoir, All Rivers Run to the
Sea, the Yiddish version was composed and
submitted for publication in 1954 -- four years
before the French version that was subsequently
translated into English as
Night; therefore, the
fact that our Night is
not the original version has also been
Wiesel's story that had broken his "10-year vow
of silence" only at the urging of Mauriac is also a
A careful reading of
Night prompts several
Upon their arrival at Auschwitz, the men were
sent one way, the women, another. Elie Wiesel
Yet it was at that moment when I parted
from my mother. I had not had time to think, but
already I felt the pressure of my father's hand:
we were alone. For a part of a second I glimpsed
my mother and my sisters moving away to the
right. Tzipora held Mother's hand. I saw
them disappear in the distance...I did not know
that in that place, at that moment, I was
parting from my mother and Tzipora forever.
In his book he tells us that his father, his
mother, his two older sisters and his younger
sister were deported to Auschwitz. Since his book
omits a dedication to the "memory" of his two older
sisters, we might well conclude that they survived
their imprisonment. Why doesn't Elie Wiesel ever
mention his older sisters again?
Later, Wiesel writes about his feelings on the
very next day:
Those absent no longer touched even the
surface of our memories. We still spoke of them
-- "Who knows what may have become of them?" --
but we had little concern for their fate.
Clearly the future Nobel Peace Prize winner and
his father did not manifest the level of concern
that had been displayed by the "Stein of Antwerp"
for news of his loved ones.
Elie Wiesel had told his readers that the
Germans had announced that families would be kept
together at Auschwitz. Elie and his father were
always kept together in the men's camps. It is
likely that Mrs. Wiesel and the three girls were
kept together in the women's camps. It is logical
that they could have told Elie Wiesel how his
mother and Tzipora had perished.
Why doesn't Elie Wiesel tell us what his sisters
Our author frequently refer to people being
"exterminated in the crematories." He even asserts
that people were being burned alive. Why doesn't
our author ever tell us about the gas chambers that
are nowadays believed to have been in the cellars
of the crematories? He tells of a number of public
executions by hanging, he tells us about some
prisoners being shot during the forced march
through the snow, he tells about his father dying
of dysentery after arriving at Buchenwald; but he
never tells us more than that "thousands ... died
daily at Auschwitz and at Birkenau in the crematory
Despite giving example after example of
prisoners passing on false rumours, and giving
example after example of prisoners surviving for
years in Auschwitz, and example after example of
the ease with which prisoners communicated among
themselves and with outsiders; Mr. Wiesel never
even once uses the words "gas chamber," "Zyklon-B,"
or "cyanide"; in the English version of
Night when he writes
about prisoners sent to the crematory.
There is an extremely vague and fleeting
allusion to the concept of gassing in the English
version of Night.
Wiesel addresses God at one point, and says to Him:
"But these men here, whom You have betrayed, whom
You have allowed to be tortured, butchered, gassed,
burned, what do they do? They pray before you!"
He does not tell how he knew that people were
gassed, where they were gassed, when they were
gassed, or what they were gassed with. Perhaps this
is the reason that in the German translation of
this book Die Nacht zu begraben (Ullstein,
1962), on 14 occasions the word "crematory" used in
the English version of
Night has been
translated in German as "Gaskammer" ("gas
chamber.)" There is no word in French that could be
translated into English equally as "crematory" and
as "gas chamber".
Six members of the Wiesel family were deported
to Auschwitz. One died of dysentery or of a blow to
the head, two died of unknown or unreported
"Genocide" is defined as "the systematic and
planned extermination of an entire national,
racial, political, or ethnic group." "Exterminate"
means "to get rid of by destroying completely."
"Completely" means "absolutely," "totally," i.e.,
There is no evidence presented in
Night that the death
of Elie Wiesel's father was part of a systematic
planned extermination. The cause of the deaths of
his mother and his sister Tzipora, if known, are
withheld from us. The fifty percent mortality
suffered by the Wiesel family while in German
captivity is tragic, but it is not evidence that
the Germans were following a policy aimed at their
complete and total extermination. [return
items on this website:
Hitchens asks in The Nation, "Is there a more
contemptible poseur and windbag than Elie
Elie Wiesel index . . .
we need more, more, more!
Jacobson asserts Hungarian Jews were dealt with
at five locations at Auschwitz in 1944
footnote: Elie Wiesel even
claims to be one of these prisoners at
The US Signal Corps picture was posed by US
troops soon after they entered the Buchenwald
camp near Weimar. Have readers any information
on the picture? 
Heath (of Poland)
responds (9.2.01): "The person in the top right
hand corner whose face only is visible is Mel
Mermelstein who recalls how it was taken in his
book By Bread Alone." Our comment: Mermelstein
and Wiesel both claim to have shared
bunks at Buchenwald? Some people just want to be
the corpse at every funeral and the bride at