Night Study Questions

-Chapter 1-
Describe Moshe the Beadle. Explain his relationship with the Jews of Sighet, particularly Eliezer.
Moshe the Beadle is a poor, foreign Jew who lives in Sighet. He is awkward and shy. The people of Sighet are kind to him, even though he is a little bit odd at times. Moshe helps teach some Kabbalah to Eliezer.
How does the deportation change Moshe? How do others’ feelings toward him change?
When he returns, Moshe is loud and outspoken about his experiences away from Sighet. He tells all the Jews to beware of the Germans. The others now believe that Moshe is crazy, so they don’t pay much attention to his rants. Now, Moshe does not speak of God anymore.
Why are spirits among the Jews of Sighet relatively high at the beginning of Night?
The spirits of the Jews of Sighet are high because they do not see the deportation of the foreign Jews of their town as a threat to their own futures. Instead of believing that the Germans will make it all the way to their small town of Sighet, they believe that the Germans will not advance further than Budapest. But, Germans arrive in Sighet. This is not all that bad at first because the Jews are treated kindly by the Germans. The Germans’ kindness towards the Jews causes the Jews to fell optimistic.
Describe life in the Sighet ghettos.
All of the Jews are forced into one of two ghettos (either a small one or a large own). They are surrounded by barbed wire, they can’t leave their homes for three or more days, they can’t keep valuable items in their homes, they must wear the yellow star, but they ARE allowed to have their own Jewish republic in each ghetto. Regardless of these restrictions, the Jews of Sighet remain optimistic.
Explain the opportunities for escape that the Wiesels miss before evacuation.
First, an inspector of the Hungarian police knocked at a window of the Wiesels’ to try to talk to them and help them escape. But, they missed the opportunity because they did not get to the window quickly enough to talk with him. Next, the Wiesels’ former maid, Maria, offers a hiding place for them. Mr. Wiesel declines the offer himslef, but his lets his children decide what they personally want to do. They choose to stay together because they do not want to be separated. Lastly, Eliezer suggests to his dad that they flee to Palestine. But, his dad refuses to go because he says that he is too old.
-Chapter 2-
Describe the ghetto evacuation and journey to Auschwitz.
The Jews of Sighet go to the synagogue and wait there for a day to de deported. They get loaded into small and crammed cattle cars that are sealed and barred shut to prevent the Jews from escaping. During the journey, it is hard to sit down because there is so little room in the cattle car. It is very hot, and they all yearn for water and food. Mrs. Scachter often screams about a fire, and the others try to calm her down soothingly at first. When that does not work, they begin to beat her to make her quiet. Eventually, they arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and they see fiery somestacks in which Jews are burned. (Where have we heard of fire before? Hmmmm…..)
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Identify the first signs of ability of humans to act inhuman under tremendous stress.
An example of an inhumane act is when the Jews are in the cattle cars, and they try to quiet Mrs. Schächter very severely (and in front of her son) because they are under tremendous stress from not knowing where they are headed.
Interpret the significance of Madame Schächter’s insane warnings.
The Sighet Jews arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau, see the smokestacks of the crematoria, and smell the scent of burning bodies. This event conincides with the screaming of Mrs. Schächter during the previous few nights in the cattle cars. Her warnings turn out to be prophetic.
-Chapter 3-
Describe the first selection.
When they arrive, the men are sent to the left (life), and the women are sent to the right (*not life*- to put in kindly). Some Jews are already being shot and killed as they arrive. The male prisoners are then questioned to find out who will work and who will be immeadiately sent to the crematoria.
How do Eliezer and his father survive the first selection?
Before Eliezer and his father are questioned by Dr. Mengele, they are approached by a prisoner. The prisoner (whose name we neither know nor find out) asks them their ages, and, upon hearing their ages, tells them to tell Mengele that Eliezer is 18, and his father is 40 (two ages that are more fit for work than the truth: Eliezer-15 and his dad-50). Also, he tells Eliezer to say that he is a farmer instead of a student. They are sent to work after they survive the questioning.
Explain the purpose of Birkenau.
Birkenau was a part of the largest death camp (Auschwitz-Birkenau) of the Holocaust. It was made to ease the congestion at the main camp (Auschwitz). Birkenau was more of the extermination camp of the two, while Auschwitz was more of the work camp. Additionally, Birkenau was the place where the Jews arrived to be selected upon arrival.
What ultimately causes the dramatic change in Eliezer’s religious faith at Birkenau?
After they are directed away from the fire (that is used to scare the Jews), they are assigned to labor units. Eliezer and his dad endure a long first night. During this first night, Eliezer loses faith in God.
Describe Eliezer’s plan if he is selected for death at Birkenau.
If he is selected to die, Eliezer would rather run into the electrified wire because it is a quicker and less painful death than that of the crematoria.
Describe the prisoners’ indoctrination into concentration camp life.
While at the concentration camp, the prisoners are randomly beaten, searched, told to march, run, and stand in lines of five for roll call, and ulimately treated like dogs. They are given a speech by an officer who tells them that they are not at a comfy, cozy home and that they must work if they wish to live. They are all forced to have their heads shaved and to wear matching prisoner clothes (to humiliate them and to make them realize that they are all equal and are therefore subject to the same torment). The prisoners are not allowed to do anything other than what is required of them.
How does the prisoners’ indoctrination benefit the Nazis?
Their indoctrination benefits the Nazis because the indoctrination scares the prioners into always obeying orders. It forces them to realize that they are slaves and that they are dictated by the Nazis. The prisoners know that death is imminent if they step out of line in any way. This thought forces them to work to try and save their lives.
For the most part, humanity was lost in the camps. Note acts of kindness and signs of hope in the midst of the bestiality.
Acts of kindness include:
1. The man that tells Eliezer and his dad to change their ages and Eliezer’s “occupation” (job)
2. The nice Polish prisoner who was put in charge of Eliezer’s and his dad’s unit for a time
3. Stein- hopes for his own family’s safety and the safety of Eliezer, Eliezer’s dad, and the rest of their family. Brings food for Eliezer from time to time and tells Eliezer and his dad to eat all that they can while they can to try and save their lives.
-Chapter 4-
What is Buna? What does Eliezer do there?
Buna is another concentration (work) camp in Poland. It was a section of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. At Buna, Eliezer and his father work in a warehouse (sorting electrical equipment) with other Jews.
What does the hanging of the child who looks like a sad angel symbolize for Eliezer?
The hanging of the child who looks like a sad angel represents the absence of God for Eliezer. To him, it meant that God truly was not present. If God was present, Eliezer believes, this sad occurrence would not have happened.
Describe the Kapos.
The Kapos were prisoners of concentration camps who were assigned to supervise other Jewish prisoners. Out of fear for their own lives (since they too were prisoners), they were harsh and brutal to the other Jews to show the Germans that they (the Kapos) were not worthy of being killed with the other Jews.
What is ironic about the prisoners’ feelings about air raids?
Even though they are at risk of dying from the air raids, the prisoners are happy during the air raids because they would not have to suffer through a painful death in the camps. They like the air raids because revenge is being taken on their captors.
Explain the prisoners’ attitude toward death.
The prisoners’ view of death is that it is unavoidable at this point. The deaths that they have seen have taken such a toll on them that they believe they will have the same fate, also. They realize that death is everywhere, and it is only a matter of time until they are next. They except this fact and give up whatever they have left of their already depleted hope. They would rather die on their own terms than from the hands of their captors.
-Chapter 5-
Describe Eliezer’s feelings as the prisoners observe the Jewish New Year.
Eliezer refuses to bless God’s name because he does not know where God is and because of all the death and suffering. He now believes that man is stronger than God. Also, Eliezer refuses to ask for forgiveness because he is the accuser, and God is the accused. Eliezer decides not to fast to mock God. He doesn’t know how the others can still praise God. Without God, Eliezer feels a void in his heart.
How do the prisoners in Eliezer’s block survive the New Year’s selection?
With the help of their block leader, the prisoners survive the selection. Their block leader advises them to look strong, don’t be scared, and run when called (to get color in their faces and so they can’t see the number on their arms). They adhere to his advice, and they survive the selection.
Describe the exchange of possessions between father and son when it appears that the elder Wiesel has been selected for death.
Eliezer’s father gives Eliezer a knife and a spoon (the family inheritance). Eliezer refuses to take them because he doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact that his father may be about to die. Finally, Eliezer takes them, but he gives them back to his father when he realizes that his father did indeed survive the selection.
Why is Eliezer admitted to the camp hospital? What dangers face him there?
Eliezer’s foot begins to swell in January. It becomes so swollen that he decides to see the doctor. The doctor tells Eliezer that his foot needs surgery. While at the hospital, Eliezer fears that he will be selected. The operation goes smoothly, and Eliezer must rest for two weeks. Eliezer feels as if his leg was amputated (ultimately meaning selection). It was not, so Eliezer is fine.
Discuss and evaluate Eliezer’s decision to leave the hospital early.
Eliezer decides to leave the hospital early because the hospital was going to be liquidated before the Russians were to arrive there. Even though his foot is still healing, he leaves the hospital because of his fear of being killed in the hospital. He goes to find his father because he doesn’t want them to be separated. Eliezer didn’t know it at the time, but the Russians liberated the hospital two days after the evacuation. They leave Buna, as Eliezer’s foot hurts and starts to bleed.
-Chapter 6-
What keeps Eliezer going during the brutal march?
Eliezer’s desire to survive keeps him alive during the march. Also, he was trying to survive so that he would still be able to be there for his father.
How does the realization that the Rabbi Eliahou’s son purposely abandoned the Rabbi affect Eliezer?
Eliezer is shocked and addened when he realized what Rabbi Eliahou’s son had done. Eliezer hopes that he would never do such a thing to his father, so he prays to God to help him never abandon his father.
How does Eliezer save his father from the selection at Gleiwitz? Interpret what this reveals about Eliezer’s continued commitment to his father.
When Eliezer sees his father on the left side (the bad side), Eliezer manages to bring his father to the right side amid the confusion. This act by Eliezer shows his desire to help his father survive, even when Eliezer’s actions to keep his father alive jeopardize his own life (i.e.= Eliezer could have gotten shot for interfering with the selection.)
-Chapter 7-
Describe the tragic incident between a father and a son on the train. What might this event reveal about the fragile nature of humanity?
While the Jews are in the train car, a German workman throws some bread into the car. Because he is so hungry, a son attacks his father for a piece of the bread. His father later dies because of his son’s savage attack on him for the bread. This incident shows that, when burdened by stress during lie or death situations, humans will do whatever they can to stay alive even if it means killing others (even if it is family) in the process.
-Chapter 8-
Explain why Eliezer’s father is denied medical care at Buchenwald.
Eliezer asks a doctor to help his father. But, the doctor refuses to give him medical treatment because he says that he is a surgeon, and surgeons have nothing to do with dysentery. The doctor tells Eliezer and his father that they would we wasting a doctor’s time because Eliezer’s father will die whether or not he receives medical treatment.
Discuss Eliezer’s feelings of guilt as his father dies. Do you think his feelings are rational?
When his father dies, Eliezer is sad but also relieved because he no longer has to care for his father. Eliezer feels bad, but he knows that he now does not have the burden of having to keep someone else alive while he himself is trying to survive, also. I believe that his feelings are rational because he is trying to stay alive. Considering all of the things that he has been through, Eliezer is lucky to be alive up to this point when most of his attention so far has been directed towards his father instead of himself. Eliezer deserves to be grateful to still be alive.
Describe the events that lead up to the liberation of Buchenwald.
The Allies are quickly approaching Buchenwald. The Germans plan to liquidate the rest of the Jews. They put the children in separate blocks than the older men, and they start to execute them block by block. While this is going on, the Jews are forming an underground resistance group. This newly formed group manages to take control of Buchenwald, and the remaining Jews are later liberated by the Allies.
What do the liberated prisoners do first?
They eat.
Explain the irony of Eliezer’s nearly fatal illness after liberation.
After liberation, Eliezer eats as much as he can. But, he contracts food poisoning. This is ironic because one would think that he would have gotten diseases from NOT eating that whole time instead of when he started eating again. By eating, one would think that whatever diseases one would have had would go away.
Discuss Eliezer’s closing image of himself.
At the end of the book, Eliezer looks at himself in the mirror, and he sees a corpse looking back at him. He feels that his physical body is still there, but his spiritual being has died. That image will never leave him.