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July 19, 2011

Elie Wiesel’s description of Buchenwald in his book “Night.”

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Health — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 8:08 am

Carolyn Yeager has put up a new article on her web site which addresses the issue of Elie Wiesel’s description of the Buchenwald concentration camp in his book “Night.”  You can read the full article here.

Ms. Yeager does not believe that Elie Wiesel was ever an inmate at Buchenwald.  One would think that a highly acclaimed writer like Elie Wiesel would have painted vivid word pictures of the Buchenwald camp.  But that is not the case, as Ms. Yeager points out.  She has come to the conclusion that he was not at Buchenwald because he did not describe the camp at all.

This quote is from

I have to say Wiesel doesn’t describe Buchenwald at all. You don’t know anything about Buchenwald from reading Night. You don’t learn much about Eliezer or anyone else. You are given an impression of suffering, without rhyme or reason, so Buchenwald becomes synonymous with suffering, that’s about it. We don’t know what it looks like.

In the few pages in which Wiesel described his suffering at Buchenwald, he tripped up twice.  The first time was when he wrote “Then I came to a block where they were distributing black coffee.”

In every Holocaust survivor book that you will ever read, you will learn that the morning beverage that was always served in every camp was a coffee substitute, which was called “ersatz Kaffee” in German.

Coffee was very expensive in Europe during World War II.  Keep in mind that coffee beans do not grow in Europe, so coffee had to be imported, and in wartime, there were more important uses for ships. Even in America, coffee was expensive and lots of people drank Postum, a coffee substitute.  My family drank real coffee, but my mother made it so weak that I hated the taste of it.  To this day, I have such bitter memories of her light brown coffee that I never drink coffee.

One might argue that Elie Wiesel was only 16 years old when he was in Buchenwald and he may not have been familiar with the taste of real coffee, so he didn’t recognize that he was drinking a coffee substitute.  However, back then it was common for very young children to drink coffee.  I started drinking coffee at such a young age that I don’t even remember how old I was at the time.

Besides that, Elie wrote that he had previously been in Auschwitz; according to numerous Auschwitz survivors, ersatz coffee was the only drink ever served.  At Auschwitz, the water wasn’t fit to drink, so it had to be boiled and the foul taste disguised with coffee flavor.  How could Elie have thought that the Germans were serving real coffee to thousands of prisoners in war time?

Ms. Yeager also quotes Wiesel as writing this:  “we had not eaten for nearly six days except for a few stalks of grass and some potato peels found on the grounds of the kitchen.”

This was his second big mistake.  Potato peels found on the grounds of the kitchen?  Has Elie Wiesel ever been to Germany?  The German people do not throw potato peels on the ground — ever.  Except maybe on a compost pile.  But in the camps, the potato peels were put into the soup.

Heinrich Himmler, who was in charge of all the concentration camps, was a health nut.  One of the main foods in all the camps was potatoes, which were put into the soup with the peeling still on.  Himmler knew that the prisoners had to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals from a small amount of food, so he would not have allowed the potatoes to be peeled and the peelings thrown on the ground.  Many Holocaust survivors and Prisoners of War have written that the peelings were left on the potatoes that were in the daily soup.

The health movement started in Germany and back then, people in America were not yet eating potato peels.  As far as I know, the utensil known as a potato peeler did not yet exist back then.  Potatoes were peeled with a paring knife.  Knowing that Americans did not eat potatoes with the peeling on during World War II, all the Holocaust survivor books, that I have ever read, describe the potato peelings that were in the daily soup.  This was one of the greatest crimes of the Holocaust according to the survivors, who interpreted being forced to eat potato peelings as being treated like animals.  The POWs were especially critical of the Germans for serving soup with the peeling still on the potatoes.

Elie Wiesel probably heard a survivor of Buchenwald talk about eating potato peelings and assumed that they ate peelings that had been thrown away.

The Buchenwald camp was built on a hillside so that, from the roll call square, a prisoner could look out over the entire camp.  The orphan’s barrack in block 66 was in what was called “the Small camp,” which was at the bottom of the hillside.  Elie Wiesel claimed that he was put into the orphan’s barrack after his father died.

Buchenwald was mainly a camp for political prisoners, but the prisoners in “the Small camp” were mostly Jewish.  That’s because the Jews didn’t arrive at Buchenwald until late in the war when they were marched out of Auschwitz and brought to Germany.  “The Small camp” was used as a quarantine camp for new prisoners.

At first, the newly arriving Jewish prisoners had to be kept in quarantine at Buchenwald, so as not to spread any diseases that they might have brought from Poland.  Yet, Elie Wiesel described how the Jewish prisoners were allowed to enter the barracks on their first day without taking a shower.

Elie also wrote in Night that he and his father were taken to the former Gypsy barracks on their first night in Auschwitz — without taking a shower. According to his book Night, Elie and his father were not put into the quarantine barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which are the barracks near the Gate of Death that are now shown to tourists.

The problem is that Elie wrote Night before other Holocaust survivors wrote their books and gave little details about the camps that are so important if one is going to write a fake Holocaust book. On his own web site, Elie called Night a novel, but then Oprah had to ruin everything by selecting his book as her Book of the Month.  A new edition, translated by Elie’s wife Marion, was put on the market and it was classified as a true story.