Elie Wiesel’s Night is one of the most impacting books I have ever read. When I first read it in 1995, I saw a face of the Holocaust for the first time. I knew the facts of it, but Night helped me to see the human element of it. And, for the first time, I started to think about the idea of how a good God could allow such atrocities and evil. After reading the book in one sitting on the couch on my apartment, I had new categories opened to the world and to my faith.
Night chronicles Elie’s struggle not against Hitler or Mengele or Himmler, but rather with God Himself. Wiesel’s book captures the human questions of theodicy, justifying a good God with evil in the world. It brings up questions that I’m sure I’ll think about for the rest of my life.
This book also showed me the way to God as well: how can we call Hitler or the extermination camps evil unless there is such a thing as absolute goodness? To condemn the Nazis is to say that there is a principle of goodness that they did not meet. If good and evil are only products of society, why do we consider the Nazi German society evil? Who are we to say that what they did was wrong unless a universe principle was trespassed? If there is a universal good, then there is a universal author if that principle, as well. In this way, the Holocaust points a way to a good God in the universe.
After Night, I read many of Wiesel’s books. In 1998, I attended Boston University and took a class with Professor Wiesel: The Literature of Albert Camus. That semester was the best educational experiences that I’ve had. (Ask me about my office meeting with Wiesel when we discussed C. S. Lewis or the failed card trick I attempted to show him in class).
I am currently teaching Night in my Honors 10th grade literature class, and students enjoy it. It strikes me as particularly important now as kids are prone to hold the “whatever works for you” principle of morality. Night shows that morality is not something that society can simply create and the rest of the work should accept blindly. Isn’t that how the Holocaust happened?