Eliezer, a character based on the author himself, is a Jewish teenager living in Hungary during the Second World War. When he is shipped to death-camp Auschwitz, he must rely on grit, determination, and luck to survive the horrific tragedies of the Holocaust. Will Eliezer survive, and what will his experiences teach us about the horrors of war?
As you work through the study guide for Night, you’ll also practice these skills, which will help you when you read novels in the future, for school assignments or just for fun.
Although not technically a memoir, Night is based on the exact experiences of Hungarian Jewish author, Elie Wiesel. Wiesel has stated that minor details have been altered, but for the most part, this is the true story of what happened to him during the Holocaust. Like Eliezer, Wiesel grew up in Sighet, Hungary. In May, 1944, Wiesel and his family were deported to Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death-camp. Auschwitz was the murder site of 1.3 million Jews, including Wiesel’s father, mother, and sister. Wiesel was the only survivor from his family, and upon liberation by American troops in January 1945. Nearly 15 years later, Wiesel became an American citizen and moved to New York City. Night remains one of the most widely read and taught texts on the Holocaust.
It is important to remember that while Night is clearly based on Wiesel’s own experiences, it Is not a memoir. Wiesel changed seemingly insignificant details about Eliezer’s experiences and his own – Eliezer injures his foot at Auschwitz while Wiesel injured his knee – perhaps to create an emotional distance from his past. Although Wiesel has published widely on his experiences at Auschwitz, the subject matter remains unimaginably painful to relive. Discussing his experiences through the eyes of a fictionalized narrator allows Wiesel to hold the memories at a distance, and process the events of his survival as if he were an outsider.
When the Nazi movement reaches Hungary, Eliezer’s life takes a terrible and tragic turn. Do you think Eliezer will survive the Holocaust? What do Eliezer’s experiences teach the reader about the horrors of war? As you read Night, fill in the boxes for each element of the novel’s plot.
|Plot Element||Point||Your Notes|
Throughout Night, the reader is exposed to a variety of haunting characters whose stories – whether real or fictional – will be impossible to forget. Use the space below to help organize your thoughts on each character. In the second column, write or type the lesson readers learn about life, death, and faith through this character’s story.
|Moshe the Beadle|
|Dr. Josef Mengele|
Night could only be told in one place: Auschwitz the death camp during World War Two. All of the novel’s themes, conflicts, and characters are directly related to the setting. Understanding the setting is one of the keys to understanding the novel as a whole.
Use the spaces below to describe the setting of Auschwitz and the events that take place there. In the first column, type or write direct quotes from the novel—phrases and sentences that are used to show what it’s like in a barrio throughout the story. In the second column, explain in your own words what these details show or suggest about the novel’s themes and characters. Remember your description should include details about the historical, political, and physical setting of Night.