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Notes on Night Themes

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Night Topic Tracking: Memory

Chapter 1

Memory 1: Although the whole of Night is a series of memories, there are many cases where either "forgetting" or "remembering" plays a significant role in the narrative. In the first chapter, Moshe the Beadle and all the foreign Jews of Sighet are expelled by the Hungarian Police. The Jews of Sighet are troubled but soon after the deportation, the deportees are forgotten and town life returns to normal.

Moshe returns to Sighet and recounts the horror stories of the Gestapo's extermination of the Jews. He tries to recall from memory, the stories of the victims' deaths: "He went from one Jewish house to another, telling the story of Malka, the young girl who had taken three days to die, and of Tobias, the tailor, who had begged to be killed before his sons...." (Chapter 1, pg. 4)

The German army sets up two ghettos in Sighet. The Jews of the "little ghetto" are deported first and just three days later, even as they move into the previous occupants' homes, the Jews of the big ghetto forget about them.

Chapter 2

Memory 2: During the train ride, the Jews try desperately to silence the maddening screams of Madame Schachter. They even go so far as to hit her. Just as the Jews are able to block Madame Schachter out of their minds, they see the flames of the furnace and smell the odor of burning flesh at Birkenau. There, they are reminded of Madame Schachter's visions.

Chapter 3

Memory 3: The first night of camp is forever etched into Elie's memory. Repeatedly, he uses the phrase "never shall I forget." Elie does not have to try to remember anything because even if he tries to forget, the memories are eternal, forever.

Upon arrival of Auschwitz, the SS officer in charge gives the new prisoners an introduction to the camp. He says, "'Remember it forever. Engrave it into your minds. You are at Auschwitz.'" (Chapter 3, pg. 36)

As the prisoners talk about God and wonder about their fate, Elie finds that only occasionally does he think about the fates of his mother and younger sister. The rigors of concentration camp life have dulled his sense of memory.

Chapter 4

Memory 4: At Buna, Elie is beaten by Idek the Kapo and a young French girl comes to his aid and tells him to keep his anger and hatred for another day. Years later, Elie Wiesel recalls running into her in Paris. They reminisce about the days in the concentration camp. Such memories are hard to forget.

Chapter 5

Memory 5: After the prisoners go through the selection process, they forget about it until a few days later when the head of the barracks reads off the numbers of those selected. Although the prisoners forget, Dr. Mengele, the one who makes the selections, does not forget.

Akiba Drumer, sensing that his death is near, makes Elie and others promise to remember him when he is taken away by praying the Kaddish. Due to the harsh treatment they receive, after only three days since Akiba Drumer is taken away, Elie and the others forget to pray the Kaddish for him.

Chapter 6

Memory 6: During the train ride in the dead of winter, the prisoners forget about everything-death, fatigue, and their physical needs. The unbearable sufferings that the prisoners undergo desensitize their senses-they are able to block everything from their minds.

Elie remembers that Rabbi Eliahou's son had tried to abandon his father during the winter march. That memory makes him pray to a God that he no longer believes in, to give him the strength not to do what the rabbi's son had done.

Memory 7: Elie cannot forget the smile his father shows him even in the midst of his suffering. "I shall always remember that smile. From which world did it come?" Chapter 6, pg. 86 Elie asks. These seemingly minor, death-defying gestures are particularly memorable.

Memory 8: Elie finds it hard to forget the last concert Juliek gives to an audience of dying men. The memory of the last concert is heightened by the lasting images of Juliek's dead body and his smashed violin. And whenever Elie Wiesel hears Beethoven's concerto, he remembers the face of his friend, Juliek, and his last concert.

Chapter 8

Memory 9: When he awakes from his sleep, Elie remembers that he has a father. Sleep and fatigue had gotten the better of him; the survival of his body overcomes him to the point of forgetting about his father.

At Elie's father's death, there are no prayers, no candles lit to his memory, no tears. In the depth of his memory, Elie admits feeling a sense of relief in not having to worry about his father anymore. He feels free from his father's physical presence, but not from the memory of his father, which remains with him forever.

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