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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.


  1. […] However, the sharp attention of the author of the Scrapbookpages Blog picked up on this and wrote about Wiesel’s failure to know that real coffee was not served in the camps. My apology to […]

    Pingback by How true to life is Wiesel’s description of Buchenwald in Night? « Middle East atemporal — September 15, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  2. I have been “blessed” with two different copies of Elie’s masterpieces, which I have been reviewing when my sons were in HS. The difference is apparent. He has never been around any SS officers, and he might never been in the camps, he claimed.
    The book was claimed originally as a “novel” and should be treated as such. All his claims MUST be dismissed, based on the fact, that he is a “fiction writer” not a historian.
    And we don’t need to see his tattoos anymore.

    Comment by Gasan — July 19, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

  3. I believe Wiesel was in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, then France.

    Here’s the question Waltzer –

    – Where is one image of Wiesel’s alleged tattoo A-7713 ??

    How strange that there is no such image anywhere to be found!

    How bizarre that video from the camps which show him rarely with sleeves rolled up show no visible tattoo!

    Comment by Eric Hunt — July 19, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

    • Elie Wiesel claims that he was in the Auschwitz III camp, aka Monowitz. Primo Levi was also in Monowitz and he wrote that the prisoners had to show their tattoo at meal time in order to get their food. How did Elie Wiesel get around this rule if he had no tattoo? He swore under oath that he still has the tattoo, but photos don’t show it.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 19, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    • You believe? On what do you base your belief? Not on the tattoo that you point out Wiesel does not have from Auschwitz. He writes in Night that he was tattooed shortly after arrival. But no one has ever seen it. What does that suggest? If you are a real revisionist who works systematically and not by mere hunches or appearances, you must have reasons why you believe he was at Auschwitz.

      And why address Waltzer here? He is not here. Why not address him in an open letter on your website?

      Comment by sceptic — July 19, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

    • I believe that Carolyn Yeager is right: if Elie Wiesel had actually been in Buchenwald, he would have given at least some description of it. The most unique thing about the Buchenwald camp is that it was surrounded by trees; it was in the middle of the woods. Another thing is that the Small Camp, where the Jewish inmates were imprisoned, was at the bottom of a hill. They could look up and see the nice brick buildings and the better barracks where the political prisoners were. But the political prisoners would not let the Jews come into their nice part of the camp, unless they were bribed. If he had been there, he would have mentioned something about that.

      If Elie had been at Auschwitz-Birkenau, he would have mentioned the gas chambers. He would have described the vastness of Birkenau, which is the most amazing thing about the camp. Buchenwald is tiny, in comparison to Birkenau.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 19, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

      • Elie was 16 years old, his father was dying of dysentery. He was exhausted and starved nearly to death- do you think he cared to look at the buildings and the surroundings? Especially the few months after his father died he clearly says he has no idea how he survived, he was probably in a state of mental shock! All he thought of was food…
        If the premise of your argument is the small details of his book (like saying coffee instead of substitute coffee, not noticing his surroundings and painting a clear picture of a camp where his father died mercilessly) then rpevisionism is definitely a very bad joke.

        Comment by Nonhlanhla — December 15, 2012 @ 2:52 am

        • When I read “Night” for the first time, many years ago, I was struck by the fact that he didn’t seem to care about his father dying. In fact, he seemed to be glad that his father was gone; his father was put out of his misery and more importantly, Elie did not have to take care of him anymore. It was not because his father was dying that Elie didn’t describe the Buchenwald camp. I agree with Carolyn Yeager that Elie Wiesel was never in Buchenwald, nor Auschwitz, and the proof is in the details that are missing in his book. When I read the book for the first time, I had not studied the Holocaust yet.

          Comment by furtherglory — December 15, 2012 @ 5:32 am

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