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Wiesel by StamatyNight and the Holocaust: part II and conclusion [return to part 1]


Wiesel tells us in detail about witnessing two formal executions of prisoners by hanging. In both cases, all of the prisoners were assembled to witness the executions. In both cases, the Germans commanded the assembled prisoners to show their respect to the condemned by removing and replacing their caps both before and after the hangings. There is no information in Night that suggests that any SS-men at the Buna camp engaged in the random murder of Jewish prisoners.

About the first execution Mr. Wiesel writes: "The thousands who had died daily at Auschwitz and at Birkenau in the crematories no longer troubled me. But this one, leaning against his gallows -- he overwhelmed me." Clearly, Elie is telling us that he believed at that time that thousands of people were being exterminated daily in the crematory ovens, where his former neighbour, Bela Katz, had been assigned as one of the Sonderkommando. It is clear that Mr. Wiesel is telling us that the Jews were killed in the ovens themselves, he is not saying that the Jews were poisoned with gas or shot or strangled and then cremated. To kill someone in an oven is not the same thing as to kill someone and burn his body. But, remember, Mr. Katz told Elie that he had burned his father's body, he did not tell Elie that he had helped burn his father to death.

If either Mr. Katz or some other prisoner shared his knowledge about how "the thousands" had met their deaths "in the crematory ovens," Elie Wiesel does not tell us when, or where, or by whom he was told this horrifying information. At least, it does not appear in Night.

At the end of the Jewish Year, "the Germans gave us a fine New Year's gift." The German Jewish block commandant of the Wiesels' new block informed them that they were all confined to the barracks. Rumour spread that there was to be a medical "selection."

We knew what that meant. A SS man would examine us. Whenever he found a weak one, a musulman as we called them, he would write his number down: good for the crematory.

The prisoners were assembled by the German Jewish head of the block who "had never been outside concentration camps since 1933", a man who "had already been through all the slaughterhouses, all the factories of death." It would appear that with this Jewish prisoner who had spent about eleven years in the various concentration camps of Nazi Germany Elie would have found an excellent source for information about how "the thousands" were being exterminated in the crematories. If so, this information does not appear in Night.

Dr. Mengele re-appeared to make the medical examinations. Several days later the numbers of the "selected" prisoners are read out. Elie's father's number was on the selection list.

Elie was forced to leave his father behind with the prisoners who had been ordered to stay in the camp for a "decisive" second "selection". When he returns from work -- his father was still there.

Elie reports that the "selected" were taken away to Birkenau in ambulances. It is strongly implied that this was a very suspicious way to transport people who had failed a medical examination. The ultimate fate of the prisoners transported by ambulance to Birkenau is not contained in Night.

When the winter of 1944 arrived, the prisoners were issued "slightly thicker striped shirts" and on Christmas they were issued "a slightly thicker soup." They were also given Christmas Day and New Years Day as holidays.

In January 1945 Elie Wiesel himself became seriously ill. A "Jewish" doctor examined his foot and told him that an operation would be necessary. Elie was put into a hospital. He reports that the hospital beds were provided with white sheets, and that he was served "good bread and thicker soups." He even tells us that the rations in the hospital were so ample that he had extra bread that he was able to send to his father.

After a successful surgery, this unskilled Jewish labourer who had been separating parts in a warehouse was given two weeks to recuperate in the hospital.

By now the Germans are preparing to evacuate Auschwitz in the face of the advancing Soviet Army.

The Germans told the prisoners that those prisoners who were in the infirmaries will be abandoned to the Russians and that only the healthy prisoners will be required to leave Auschwitz. However, a rumour spread among the prisoners that the Germans were really going to kill all of the patients before they left.

Elie Wiesel tells us that he could have stayed in the hospital and that he also could have managed to have his father admitted to the hospital and then waited for the Russians. But he believed the rumours. He tells us that he persuaded his father to allow themselves to be evacuated with the healthy prisoners.

The rumours turned out to be false. The Germans did leave the patients behind unharmed in the camp infirmaries. The Russians liberated them.

The Wiesels joined the exodus of prisoners marching in the snow. The prisoners had been allowed to pile on extra layers of clothing before they left by the Germans.

The fleeing German guards urged the prisoners on with violence. Elie tells us that prisoners were frequently shot if they failed to keep up. He tells us that the guards had orders to shoot any prisoner who paused too long. He does not tell us how he knew what orders the guards had received.

He does report that some of the SS-men would shout encouragement to the prisoners: "Keep going! We are getting there!" And they were telling the truth. They arrive at Concentration Camp Gleiwitz.

Three days were allowed the prisoners to rest at Gleiwitz before resuming their march. Wiesel says that there was nothing there for the prisoners to eat or to drink. Since the prisoners had already marched more than fifty miles through the snow to Gleiwitz it is amazing that the Wiesels now had the stamina to resume the march. But they did.

But first they had to undergo another "selection." "The weak, to the left; those who could walk well, to the right."

When his father was sent to the left, Elie tells us that he caused a disruption that led to the deaths of some of the prisoners. However Elie did succeed in getting his father and himself back into the right-hand line. They were marched to a railway line, put into open-air cattle wagons. The train took them slowly into central Germany. At some stops the dead were removed from the car. Prisoners killed one another over scraps of food. The ultimate fate of the prisoners who had been too weak to walk the train is not contained in Night.

Finally the transport arrived at Buchenwald Concentration Camp near the city of Weimar.

A hot shower was demanded of each prisoner before admission to the camp. Elie's father was too exhausted or ill to go to the showers. Elie tells us that he abandoned his father and went to the barracks where the exhausted prisoners ignored "the cauldrons of soup" which the Germans had provided for them.

The next day Elie looked for his father. He found him in the block where prisoners were being issued black "coffee" -- probably an artificial coffee substitute, as Germany was by now cut off from countries in which coffee is grown. His father was burning with a fever.

Since Elie had abandoned his father because his father was ill and unable to move himself at that time, the question arises: How did his father get to the barracks where a hot beverage was being served? The other prisoners lying about his father had also been too weak to move themselves, therefore, the only likely explanation is that the Germans had organized the transportation of the weak and exhausted man to the barracks.

Elie Wiesel makes it abundantly clear that he shared the belief of many of the prisoners that prisoners who were no longer well enough to work were automatically subject to extermination -- especially Jewish prisoners. If it astonished him that the Germans would make an effort to save the life of an exhausted Jew, that is not mentioned in Night.

On the third day at Buchenwald all of the prisoners were ordered into the hot showers again: "even the sick."

Two doctors visited the block which housed Elie's father. . From their lack of identification by the author it can be deduced that they were German doctors. The first refused to look at Elie's father because he was a surgeon and Mr. Wiesel was suffering from dysentery. The second screamed at the prisoners that they were simply "lazy and want to stay in bed." The fact that the camp authorities continued to provide medical care at this late point in the war while German forces were being stretched to the limit as the final collapse of the Third Reich approached is noteworthy.

On January 29, 1945, Mr. Wiesel died after being knocked unconscious by a SS man who had become angry when the delirious man would not stop shouting . This blow is the first and only time in Night when either of the Wiesels was struck by a German.

When the Germans realized that Elie was both under 18 and no longer protected from the dangers that a young male would be subject to in the general prison population, he was transferred to the "children's block" along with 600 other children. There he waited until April 10 when an armed resistance group rebelled and took over the camp and the SS- men fled.

On the following day, some of the young men went to Weimar to get some potatoes and clothes -- and to sleep with girls. But of revenge not a sign.

This passage does not agree with the original Yiddish version of Night, Un di velt hot geshvign (And the World Kept Silent).

Yiddish is a language spoken and read almost exclusively by Jews. Things written in Yiddish are unlikely to be read by non-Jews.

The Yiddish says, in ranslation:

Early the next day Jewish boys ran off to Weimar to steal clothing and potatoes -- and to rape German girls. [un tsu fargvaldikn daytshe shikses, the word shikse is a highly derogatory term used by Jews for non-Jewish women, e.g. sluts]. The historical commandment of revenge was not fulfilled.

Translation of this passage and a fuller discussion of the differences between the Yiddish and non-Yiddish versions of the book Night can be found in Naomi Seidman, "Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage", Jewish Social Studies, December, 1966.

The Jewish boys stealing and raping in the original Yiddish version have become non-denominational young men getting food and encountering romance, and the Jewish commandment to get revenge has been suppressed in the version published in languages likely to be read by non-Jews.

The fact that Elie Wiesel did not considered the "rape" of German girls to be a violent action of revenge is suppressed.

We must remember that as late as his 1979 essay, "An Interview Like Any Other," Mr. Wiesel was telling the world that he had published his memoir La Nuit after a 10-year vow of silence and only at the urging of Mauriac, whose account of his meeting with the young survivor appears as a foreword to Night's French and English editions; but according to Wiesel's 1994 memoir, All Rivers Run to the Sea, the Yiddish version was composed and submitted for publication in 1954 -- four years before the French version that was subsequently translated into English as Night; therefore, the fact that our Night is not the original version has also been suppressed.

Wiesel's story that had broken his "10-year vow of silence" only at the urging of Mauriac is also a lie.

A careful reading of Night prompts several questions.

Upon their arrival at Auschwitz, the men were sent one way, the women, another. Elie Wiesel writes:

Yet it was at that moment when I parted from my mother. I had not had time to think, but already I felt the pressure of my father's hand: we were alone. For a part of a second I glimpsed my mother and my sisters moving away to the right. Tzipora held Mother's hand. I saw them disappear in the distance...I did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever.

In his book he tells us that his father, his mother, his two older sisters and his younger sister were deported to Auschwitz. Since his book omits a dedication to the "memory" of his two older sisters, we might well conclude that they survived their imprisonment. Why doesn't Elie Wiesel ever mention his older sisters again?

Later, Wiesel writes about his feelings on the very next day:

Those absent no longer touched even the surface of our memories. We still spoke of them -- "Who knows what may have become of them?" -- but we had little concern for their fate.

Clearly the future Nobel Peace Prize winner and his father did not manifest the level of concern that had been displayed by the "Stein of Antwerp" for news of his loved ones.

Elie Wiesel had told his readers that the Germans had announced that families would be kept together at Auschwitz. Elie and his father were always kept together in the men's camps. It is likely that Mrs. Wiesel and the three girls were kept together in the women's camps. It is logical that they could have told Elie Wiesel how his mother and Tzipora had perished.

Why doesn't Elie Wiesel tell us what his sisters told him?

Our author frequently refer to people being "exterminated in the crematories." He even asserts that people were being burned alive. Why doesn't our author ever tell us about the gas chambers that are nowadays believed to have been in the cellars of the crematories? He tells of a number of public executions by hanging, he tells us about some prisoners being shot during the forced march through the snow, he tells about his father dying of dysentery after arriving at Buchenwald; but he never tells us more than that "thousands ... died daily at Auschwitz and at Birkenau in the crematory ovens ."

Despite giving example after example of prisoners passing on false rumours, and giving example after example of prisoners surviving for years in Auschwitz, and example after example of the ease with which prisoners communicated among themselves and with outsiders; Mr. Wiesel never even once uses the words "gas chamber," "Zyklon-B," or "cyanide"; in the English version of Night when he writes about prisoners sent to the crematory.

There is an extremely vague and fleeting allusion to the concept of gassing in the English version of Night. Wiesel addresses God at one point, and says to Him: "But these men here, whom You have betrayed, whom You have allowed to be tortured, butchered, gassed, burned, what do they do? They pray before you!"

He does not tell how he knew that people were gassed, where they were gassed, when they were gassed, or what they were gassed with. Perhaps this is the reason that in the German translation of this book Die Nacht zu begraben (Ullstein, 1962), on 14 occasions the word "crematory" used in the English version of Night has been translated in German as "Gaskammer" ("gas chamber.)" There is no word in French that could be translated into English equally as "crematory" and as "gas chamber".

Six members of the Wiesel family were deported to Auschwitz. One died of dysentery or of a blow to the head, two died of unknown or unreported causes.

"Genocide" is defined as "the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group." "Exterminate" means "to get rid of by destroying completely." "Completely" means "absolutely," "totally," i.e., without exceptions.

There is no evidence presented in Night that the death of Elie Wiesel's father was part of a systematic planned extermination. The cause of the deaths of his mother and his sister Tzipora, if known, are withheld from us. The fifty percent mortality suffered by the Wiesel family while in German captivity is tragic, but it is not evidence that the Germans were following a policy aimed at their complete and total extermination.

 [return to part 1]

Relevant items on this website:

Christopher Hitchens asks in The Nation, "Is there a more contemptible poseur and windbag than Elie Wiesel?"
Elie Wiesel index . . . we need more, more, more!
Ron Jacobson asserts Hungarian Jews were dealt with at five locations at Auschwitz in 1944

Website footnote: Elie Wiesel even claims to be one of these prisoners at Buchenwald. The US Signal Corps picture was posed by US troops soon after they entered the Buchenwald camp near Weimar. Have readers any information on the picture? [Mail] Alan Heath (of Poland) responds (9.2.01): "The person in the top right hand corner whose face only is visible is Mel Mermelstein who recalls how it was taken in his book By Bread Alone." Our comment: Mermelstein and Wiesel both claim to have shared bunks at Buchenwald? Some people just want to be the corpse at every funeral and the bride at every wedding.
Buchenwald victims
Focal Point 2002  e-mail:  write to David Irving