Night is a must read story. It is the true story of Elie Wiesel’s experience as a Jew in concentration camps in Germany during WWII. It’s heart wrenching and real. It begins before Elie and his family believed that anything was going to happen, moves through their doubts about clear warning signs, moves forward into the ghetto, the march to the cattle cars, the separating of prisoners at the camps, the slave labor and malnutrition, and ends in a place that leaves you feeling the weight of the evil of these events.
This story is masterfully written, you feel like you are there, your mind will race with images that now seem unimaginable, and in the end you’ll feel a small portion of the despair felt by so many at the end of WWII. You see the anguish of a Jew who lost his faith in the pits of evil.
I should end the review here, that’s all you need to know to want to read this story; except I will warn you not to read the intro until after you’ve read the book, there are some spoilers in there that are best avoided. However, I can’t end here. It’s impossible to read this story without your mind reeling with thoughts of human nature, evil, and vileness of the events that took place. I want to take a moment to share one of the things that impacted me. There’s no spoilers here, but if you plan on reading the book in the next little while, I might suggest you hold off on reading further. The thoughts below will make more sense and perhaps impact your heart more, if you’ve read the story.
When the story ends, there is an added chapter with the text of Elie’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s a great glimpse into the what Elie learned through this heart breaking story, and it is full of great insight into our hearts and the thoughts and actions we ought to be taking to protect the vulnerable and innocent around us. Consider this quote:
“And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”
What a gut punch. Elie directly says that concentration camps happened via indifference; they happened via silence. He also said “to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.” Is he wrong? Do you find yourself bucking against his words?
I can think of many situations today where Christians are indifferent. They hear someone clamor with an issue in our culture or our world and their response is to ignore that issue and, often, point to another one. Instead of getting fired up about things that Jesus hates, they sit on the sidelines in complete apathy. This should not be! Christians have the most reason to get fired up over injustice. We know the God of justice, the God of love and compassion who desires that none should perish. We know the weight of our sin and the surety of how much we deserve hell. But we also know the great relief and joy of grace and the lifting of a due and just punishment. That relief should push us to act.
Don’t be lukewarm in indifference. Stand up for the victim, the abused, and the down trodden. Stand in the way of those that would cast stones against them, protect them and show them what it truly means to know love and grace. That’s the kind of good works Jesus called us to in Matthew 5. That’s what Newsboys talked about in the song Shine:
Let it shine before all men
Let ’em see good works, and then
Let ’em glorify the Lord
The seriousness and weight of this book cannot be underestimated. You’ll find your thoughts forever changed by the shear horror and evilness humanity presented in this book. I can’t recommend it more.
Overall, I give this book 5 stars.
Up next: In the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Side note: If you want to see the worst music video I’ve ever seen, go check out the Newsboys music video for Shine here.