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March 6, 2010

“Night” — Did Elie Wiesel really write this book?

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 7:33 am

There is a bit of a controversy going on, regarding Elie Wiesel’s book Night. This book was first published in Paris in 1955, and it has sold over 10 million copies. For years, Night has been assigned reading for students in almost every High School in America.  Now, a famous revisionist historian, Carlo Mattogno, has written an article in which he suggests that Night was actually written by a man named Lázár Wiesel, and that Elie Wiesel is an imposter who stole the identity of Lázár Wiesel.

You can read the article by Carlo Mattogno on this blog.

For what it’s worth, my opinion, and it’s just an opinion, is that Lázár Wiesel is not the author of Night.  My opinion is not based on any research, but on common sense. Elie Wiesel has written around 50 more books since Night was published.  How many books did Lázár Wiesel write after he allegedly wrote Night?  None, that I know of.

After World War II ended, Elie Wiesel studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in France; then he became a professional journalist, writing for newspapers in France and Israel. Was Lázár Wiesel a professional writer with a college education?  Not that I know of.

Night is not just a Holocaust memoir — it is a work of literature.  It was written by someone who had most likely taken a course in creative writing.  The book is full of literary devices such as symbolism, anaphora (the repetition of phrases like “Never shall I forget…”) and parallel structure (the similar grammatical structure of adjacent phrases or clauses that show equality of importance).

This quote from Night illustrates parallel structure:

The night was gone. The morning star was shining in the sky. I too had become a completely different person. The student of the Talmud, the child that I was, had been consumed in the flames… A dark flame had entered my soul and devoured it.

In the above quote, the author used parallel structure in order to draw attention to the two equal things which died, his religious faith and his childhood.

This quote from Night illustrates anaphora:

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

Using the phrase “Never shall I forget” three times in the same paragraph highlights the main theme of Night which is “Never forget the Holocaust.”

Then the author repeats the same phrase again in the next passage:

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.

Literary devices are used to get across several themes in the book.  For example, in the book, “the last night” is mentioned many times to call attention to one of the important themes.  The last night at home, the last night in the ghetto, the last night on the train to Auschwitz, and the last night in the Buna (Monowitz) camp are all part of a theme.

There are 400 or more Holocaust memoirs in print, but only one Night. This book is studied in English class, not history class.  It is not supposed to be a historical account of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  If Lázár Wiesel had written it, Night would have exact dates and accurate descriptions of Birkenau.  For example, the gas chambers at Birkenau are not even mentioned in Night.  Instead, there are burning pits which are much more horrible and have a greater impact on the reader.

In real life, the burning of bodies at Birkenau took place outside Krema IV, and especially outside Krema V, after the ovens in these crematoriums broke down.  But in Night, the author sees the burning pits as he is walking down a road at night, after getting off the train at Birkenau.  At the last minute, the prisoners are ordered to turn left.  Later, in the book, the author mentions that there was a Gypsy Kapo in the section of the camp where he and his father entered the barracks.  I am not positive, but I think that all the Gypsies were gone from Birkenau by 1944, but that doesn’t matter since this is not a history book.  The Gypsy camp was nowhere near Krema IV and Krema V; it was to the left of the road that bisects the camp, going from the women’s camp to the new section called Mexico.  The exact location of the burning pits might be important in a memoir, but it is not important when you are doing creative writing.  The burning pits are symbolic.

Before Oprah Winfrey selected Night for her Book Club, it was classified as a novel on Elie Wiesel’s own web site.  This was changed when the book became an Oprah Book Club selection.

Schindler’s List is classified as a novel because, although it is based loosely on history, it is fiction.  Night is  fiction, that is loosely based on history, and it should also be classified as a novel.