Elie Wiesel's Night: Discussion Questions

"We do not demand answers, God. But if this is the last page of the human chronicles, assure us that we had the right to ask."
--The Six Days of Destruction

"In our society, it is becoming increasingly difficult for modern man to pray. . . .He has conquered space, but forgotten his prayer."
--Boston University lecture, "Why Pray?" (9/05)

  • Consider Wiesel's reflections in his preface to the new translation: What do the contrary questions suggest about the state of Wiesel's attitude and mind towards his suffering?
  • What role does memory play in Wiesel's motivation for writing Night? Why is it important to him?
  • What does it mean to be a witness? How does Wiesel function in this role? How is it both an individual and communal responsibility?
  • What are we to make of the Sighet Jews' response to Moishe and others' attempts to warn them?
  • How is Wiesel altered by the experience of the death-camps?
  • What are the various ways that the Jews try to come to terms with God and what is happening to them? How does Wiesel respond? How should they have responded?
  • What are we to make of the scene with the boy upon the gallows?
  • What does Wiesel stress about the forced march and the loss of his father?
  • What is significant about the young man who plays his violin at his death?
  • Why does he end his memoir contemplating his emaciated body in a mirror?

from Lamentations

How lonely sits the city
   that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
   she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
   has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
   with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
   she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
   they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
   and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
   and finds no resting-place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
   in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
   for no one comes to the festivals;
all her gates are desolate,
   her priests groan;
her young girls grieve,
   and her lot is bitter.

Her foes have become the masters,
   her enemies prosper,
because the Lord has made her suffer
   for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
   captives before the foe.

From daughter Zion has departed
   all her majesty.
Her princes have become like stags
   that find no pasture;
they fled without strength
   before the pursuer.

Jerusalem remembers,
   in the days of her affliction and wandering,
all the precious things
   that were hers in days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the foe,
   and there was no one to help her,
the foe looked on mocking
   over her downfall.


"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding