Night by Elie Wiesel Timeline

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  • 0:04 Night Introduction
  • 0:28 Sighet and the Beginning
  • 2:09 Auschwitz and Buna
  • 4:30 Buchenwald and Liberation
  • 5:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Elie Wiesel's widely-read book 'Night', follows one young man's dark time spent in concentration camps during the Holocaust. In this lesson, we will map the book's timeline of major incidents experienced by the main character, Eliezer.

Night Introduction

In this lesson, you're going to follow the journey of Eliezer, the protagonist and narrator of Elie Wiesel's Night, as he endures the horrors of multiple Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. You'll learn about the major events in Eliezer's life, to help you navigate the story, characters, and major themes of the book. This type of thing is called a timeline, and can be helpful, especially when you're dealing with a book about a historical event.

Sighet and the Beginning

1941: The book begins in Eliezer's hometown of Sighet, part of Transylvania, in 1941. So far, everything's quiet. Although the war has been raging for two years, the Jewish population of this town is not yet concerned. Eliezer is only 13 years old, a naive and faithful boy. He befriends a strange old man who teaches him about the mystical Jewish faith of Kabbalah.

June 1941: The foreign Jews are expelled from Sighet, including Eliezer's tutor and friend Moishe. Nobody thinks anything of this, and life goes on.

Late 1942: Moishe returns to Sighet, telling anyone he can find about how he escaped from the Nazis. They took the Jews to Poland in cattle cars and then walked them into the woods, where they were forced to dig their own mass grave. The Nazis shot them all except for Moishe, who was wounded in the leg and left for dead. This is how he managed to make it back to Sighet. Nobody believes Moishe.

March 1944: The Germans arrive in Sighet. At first, things go smoothly, and the troops even treat the townspeople with respect and politeness.

April 1944: Elders and town leaders are arrested. All Jews must wear yellow stars on their clothing. They are soon transferred to ghettos, temporary quarters with miserable living conditions.

May 1944: The Jews are forced to leave Sighet in cattle cars. Eliezer and his family have no idea where they're going. While on the train, the prisoners must stand, crammed together in horribly close quarters. One woman screams over and over that she sees fire in the distance, a premonition of the death and destruction that is to come.

Auschwitz and Buna

At this point in the book, specific dates become fuzzy. You can only ascertain approximate dates for major events like prisoner transfers because those can be tied to real-life events. This isn't the case with the day-to-day events related by Eliezer, things like beatings and deaths.

May 1944: The cattle cars containing the Sighet Jews arrive at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camp sometime in May. The prisoners are immediately sorted by guards after disembarking. Women and girls go to one side, and men and boys to the other. Eliezer and his father are separated from Eliezer's sisters and mother; only two of Eliezer's three sisters survive. His mother and younger sister do not. Those prisoners deemed too weak to work are killed in the gas chambers.

May-August 1944: Eliezer and his father wait before they are assigned to a work unit. During this time, he witnesses acts of cruelty and inhumanity that will haunt him. He sees the bodies of children being burned, and he even considers killing himself with a shock from the electric fence. Eliezer loses his hope in humanity and begins to lose his faith in God.

August 1944: Eliezer and his father are moved to Buna, the work camp where they are forced into slave labor. Their lives become hellish; Eliezer is beaten often, and food is scarce. Death is everywhere. This makes up the bulk of the book. Eliezer again witnesses more horrors that completely shatter his faith in God. Here he watches many, many prisoner hangings, and children being executed.

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