NIGHT Banned Book Review — For the Book and Against the Ban

Author Testimonial about Night

In high school, the biggest impact any book had on me was the memoir Night by Elie Wiesel. Reading about the experience of a survivor of the Holocaust was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but at the same time, Wiesel’s style of writing was beautiful. It was hard to read and hard to look away. This memoir is important to read since it is about a real person's life during a gruesome event in history. A lot of the entertainment and media I have consumed about the Holocaust did not have a person’s survival story. It usually contained the general events that lead to the rise and fall of the genocide. Even if other books and movies did showcase the people’s experiences, the characters were usually fictional. Wiesel’s story gave me a new insight into the emotional and mental trauma the victims went through because it was 100% real. After reading his novel, I felt like I had a newer and more powerful knowledge of the effects of the Holocaust.

When, Where and Why Night Has Been Banned

The famous memoir Night has recently been removed from some schools’ curriculums and libraries in the United States. The administrators and staff believe the memoir to be too explicit about the Holocaust for the students. Evelyn Frick in Kveller stated, “Night has been banned in classrooms in North Carolina’s Pitt County Schools and is banned pending investigation in Katy Independent School District in Texas.” These districts believe that its graphic writing could disturb or trigger any negative responses from the students. Many are angry about this because they believe the kids will learn best by reading a person’s experience from the event. 

Plot Synopsis / Summary

The memoir begins with the 15-year-old, Elie Wiesel, in his hometown Sighet which is in the Transylvanian region of Romania. News strikes out that the Nazis are coming soon so they all have to evacuate quickly. On their run, the Nazis lure them into cattle cars and they are taken to Auschwitz. When they arrive, the men and women are separated into different lines, one to step into a gas chamber and the other to live in the building. At first Wiesel believed he was being directed to the fire only to find out that wasn’t the end of his journey. We follow the pain he experiences in the camps (Auschwitz and Buchenwald) and the tense environment the Nazis built.

Selected Excerpts that Epitomize Why Night is a Valuable Contribution to Our Culture

A significant scene is when Wiesel’s family first arrived at Auschwitz. After the Nazis order the women to line up on the right and the men on the left, Wiesel sees children and babies being thrown into a gas chamber. “Not far from us, flames, huge flames, were rising from a ditch. Something was being burned there. A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes … children thrown into the flames”. This critical scene highlights the Nazis’ lack of morality and emphasizes the horror of the Holocaust. Not teaching the true inhumanity of it is not teaching the true reality of it. Without that, it is more likely for something similar to occur again.

Another important part of the memoir is the ending, in which Wiesel sees himself in the mirror for the first time since he was taken away. He described his appearance as a corpse. This scene acts as a depiction of just how far the torture went; what Wiesel endured left him with the inability to recognize his own body. “I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.” 

Book Structure / Details

The genre of Night could be classified as an autobiography, historical novel, memoir, and/or personal narrative. The age demographic is anyone who is 12 or older. The author has written nine chapters and 116 pages (the New York version) in total. The company, Les Éditions de Minuit, published it in 1958, when it was originally written in French. In 1960, Hill & Wang from New York released the English translated copy. 

Content warnings for religious persecution, abuse, death of children, and genocide. 

Recommendations on Best-Match Audience for Night

Night would be a great fit for anyone who is interested in learning about the darker, more hidden side of history. It makes a harder and heavier read, but it also is significant in our past, and present, society. It tells the story of what the Jewish population (among many other targeted groups) faced. Taking this story away would also silence their voices. All of this can further enable prejudiced behaviors in our society. For those who want to start reading more nonfiction, it is a great starter novel for readers who do not usually consume stories about the past to get into them. The writing style is narrative which plays more into the creativity and imagery of Wiesel’s experience, having it read more as a story than a textbook. Even the fans of the thriller genre who are looking for a book with an impactful punch could also find interest in Night, because it holds a lot of strong material that you can take away from. 

Night Study Guide: Recommended Discussion Topics & Questions

  • Do you feel that Night taught anything different about the Holocaust than other books, movies, TV shows, etc.? 
  • What did you think of the lady in the cattle car who said she saw a fire when they were being taken to the camp? 
    • Do you think she had a premonition about what was coming to them? 
  • For those who enjoy fictional thriller/horror books, does reading a nonfiction with similar heavy material influence you to see those fictional books differently? 
  • Did you find that there was a scene so unsettling that you had to put it down?
    • Did you find the explicit descriptions made the story better or worse?

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