Night Summary By Elie Wiesel | Full Book Summary

This full book night summary is concise, but it has important details that other summaries lack.

It takes just as long to read as other summaries, but you will get a better understanding of Elie Wiesel’s experience in Night.

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Night Summary

Night, by Elie Wiesel, is about a teenage Jewish boy’s experience during World War Two. In the beginning, Elie lives in the town of Sighet (in modern-day Romania).

Elie is a devoted Jew and wants to learn Kabbalah from a Jewish man named Moishe the Beadle. 

One day the Hungarian police expel all foreign Jews from Sighet. Moishe the Beadle and all the other foreign Jews are carted away like cattle.

A few months later, Moishe returns and tells Elie that the Jews were carted to Poland and the Gestapo took over and forced them to dig their own graves. Moishe escaped after he was shot in the leg and left for dead. But no one believes Moishe and everyone calls him a lunatic.

Eliezer, his family, and the Jews in Sighet received many warnings about the German’s plan for the Jews. But they fail to leave when they have the chance because they don’t want to start over again. The Jews continued their lives as normal.

The Nazis occupied Hungary in the spring of 1944. The Jews in Sighet heard rumors of Nazi atrocities in Hungary, but they didn’t believe they would reach them. 

When the Germans arrived, they seemed polite. But over time, the Jews received harsher and harsher restrictions. Eventually, the Jews in Sighet are forced into a small ghetto. They adapt to living in the ghetto, but soon after they’re forced into cattle cars. 

On their nightmarish journey, they are crammed, exhausted, and nearly starved. A woman keeps yelling “fire!” Everyone thinks she’s crazy until they arrive at Birkenau where they see the flames in the dark sky.

Upon arrival, Elie and his father are separated from Elie’s mother and sister, whom they’ll never see again.

Elie and his father go through the first “selection” which determines whether they should be killed immediately or they are able to work. They seem to pass the selection. But afterward, they are led past an open pit furnace where babies are burned by the truckloads. Elie doesn’t know if they will be thrown in the furnace. But they are led past to the prisoner’s barracks.

The Nazi captors take everything from the Jewish arrivals but their life. First, the Jews were forced to abandon their homes and anything they couldn’t carry with them. Now they are robbed of the rest of their worldly possessions. The Jews are stripped, shaved, and disinfected. If they have decent clothes, they are taken and replaced.  They even give them a number and take away their name. Elie was now known as “A-7713,” which was tattooed on his left arm.

They have to sleep in cramped barracks with minimal blankets and barely enough food to stay alive. 

Next, the Nazi captors march the Jews from Birkenau to Auschwitz. They eventually arrive in Buna, a work camp. In Buna, Elie works in an electrical-fittings factory under slave-labor conditions. When Elie witnessed Idek a Kapo, (a Kapo is a prisoner given special privileges for supervising forced labor), fooling around with a young Polish girl. Elie couldn’t help but laugh at how Idek moved a hundred prisoners so he could “copulate with this girl!” Before the work day ended, Idek whipped Elie 25 times. 

Elie has avoided giving up his gold filling. But a vicious foreman threatens to keep beating his father until he lets him have it. After letting his tooth be pried out of his mouth with a rusty spoon, the beatings ceased. But soon after, the foreman is replaced.

The Nazis hung some of the prisoners in the courtyard and forced the other prisoners to watch. They even hung a young boy who was associated with some rebels in Buna. They forced the prisoners to walk past the victims. The two men died instantly, but they had to wait half an hour to watch the young boy suffer. Because of the cruel conditions and this injustice, Elie and many of the prisoners were losing faith in God and humanity. Many prisoners now only concerned with survival, become cruel to each other.

After a few months in the camp, Elie had an operation on his swollen foot. While he is still in the hospital, the Nazis decide to evacuate because the Russians were on the verge of liberating Buna. Finally, Elie could decide his own fate. He could stay in the infirmary or evacuate. Because he didn’t want to risk being separated from his father he decided they should evacuate. Elie found out after the war that those who stayed in the infirmary were liberated two days after the evacuation.

The evacuation is a death march. The prisoners are forced to run more than 50 miles in a snowstorm to the Gleiwitz concentration camp. The guards have orders to shoot any prisoner who can’t keep going. Many of the prisoners die from exhaustion or cold exposure.

After a short rest at Gleiwitz, the prisoners are herded into cattle cars again. They are so skinny that one hundred people fit in his car, but only twelve survive the journey. Spectators threw pieces of bread into the cars to prisoners who were “ready to kill for a crust of bread.” Sons turned on their fathers, but Elie remains loyal.

At camp Buchenwald, Elie’s father is sick with dysentery. Elie tried to give his ration of bread and soup to his weak father. He resisted the temptation to take both his and his father’s rations for himself. Elie trades a ration for a cot near his dying father. His father tries to tell him where he buried the gold and silver in their cellar. But Elie didn’t care about that, he tried to convince him that it wasn’t over yet.

The other prisoner patients beat his father because he was no longer able to go outside to relieve himself. And they steal his rations.

When Elie’s father shouts for water, an officer beats him. Elie was too scared to help his father. A week later, Elie woke up to find another prisoner in his father’s bunk. He never his father again.

On April 11, 1945, the American army liberates the camp. The free men’s first thought was food, not revenge or parents. Three days after liberation, Elie becomes very ill and spends “two weeks between life and death.”

Finally, Elie looks into a mirror. He will never forget the look in the eyes of the corpse that looked back at him.

 

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