When you see the footage of the Rebbe’s meetings with Wiesel, you are impressed by the Rebbe’s reaction on seeing Wiesel every time. The Rebbe looked on Wiesel as on his own son or grandson, his feelings are palpable; and Wiesel’s smile every time when he sees Rebbe is the smile when one sees his beloved uncle. The Rebbe spoke with Elie in a way which was neither formal, or distant, it was a family talk. I will always remember how the Rebbe was minding Wiesel ‘not to be angry in his books, "because you are affecting so many of your readers that way”. The Rebbe read what was in the Elie’s books and went straight into Wiesel’s heart. What could be more merciful than that?..
These criticisms aside, Mauriac’s foreword insightfully points to the true strengths of Wiesel’s work. Night is a terrifyingly personal account of horrific events. As Mauriac points out, the Nazi atrocities were so unimaginable and inconceivable that, merely by bearing witness, Wiesel is performing an invaluable service to humanity. As Mauriac illustrates with the anecdote about his wife, we cannot always see firsthand the horrible suffering of the world, but it is imperative that we are told about it and recognize its horror. As he notes, “It is not always the events we have been directly involved in that affect us the most.” By bearing witness, by sharing his incredibly painful and personal story, Wiesel enables us to better understand a horrific historical moment that is impossible to imagine in the abstract.
In 1944, in the village of Sighet, Romania, twelve-year-old Elie Wiesel spends much time and emotion on the Talmud and on Jewish mysticism. His instructor, Moshe the Beadle, returns from a near-death experience and warns that Nazi aggressors will soon threaten the serenity of their lives. However, even when anti-Semitic measures force the Sighet Jews into supervised ghettos, Elie's family remains calm and compliant. In spring, authorities begin shipping trainloads of Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. Elie's family is part of the final convoy. In a cattle car, eighty villagers can scarcely move and have to survive on minimal food and water. One of the deportees, Madame Schächter, becomes hysterical with visions of flames and furnaces.