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Dehumanization in Elie Wiesel's 'Night'

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In ‘Night’, Elie Wiesel provides his story about his experience in the Holocaust to show, the theme of how horrible people were treated in the Holocaust and how they were dehumanized. The book centers around a young Jewish boy named Elie. In the book Elie tells his experience of what he faced throughout the Holocaust. He talks about the problems and hardships he faced throughout his life when he was in the concentration camp. When Elie was in the camp, he faced a bunch of problems, one being dehumanization. Dehumanization is that the German soldiers treated the Jews as if they were animals, they didn’t get treated like people.

In the story Elie provides us with some examples how the Jews were dehumanized. Wiesel (1958) provides, “Nor shall I ever forget the world for having pushed me against the wall, for having turned me into a stranger, for having awakened in me a beast, most primitive instincts” (p.12). Elie talks about how he feels like he was a stranger, or a beast. Being in this camp made Elie no longer feel as if he was human, he felt like an animal. He lost the ability to feel human and feel what normal people felt. Wiesel (1958) says “I became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name” (p. 42). When Elie was at the camp, he got a marking on his arm, from now on Elie wouldn’t be known by his real name anymore but by something on his arm. He lost meaning to himself and anything that had to do with him just became numbers on his arm. Wiesel (1958) also provides, “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me”. Elie says this at the end of the story. He has been in the camp for so long that he no longer sees himself as ‘Elie Wiesel’, but he sees himself as just a corpse that has been hurt and treated poorly.

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Elie provides us with more examples of dehumanization throughout the whole story. When the Jews were in these camps the Germans treated them very poorly. Wiesel (1958) tells us that “strange-looking creatures, dressed in striped jackets and black pants, jumped into the wagon” (Wiesel, 28). Elie notices men in striped jackets when he comes into the camp. He witnessed the men and women who have already been there working and suffering. He sees these men and women and this could be used as foreshadowing to Elie to show him what will happen to him in these camps. Wiesel (1958) gives us an example of something he witnessed from the camp he was in: “One day when we had come to a stop, a worker took a piece of bread out of his bag and threw it into a wagon. There was a stampede. Dozens of starving men fought desperately over a few crumbs. The worker watched the spectacle with great interest” (p. 100). Elie witnessed a worker toss bread into a wagon, the people stampeded and this could represent a group of ducks at a park, a person could be sitting on a bench and throws a piece of bread and all the ducks, which are animals, stampede each other and fight for this piece of bread. Elie could be telling us this because he could be referencing the people fighting for food to animals. Wiesel also gives us this example: “Men were hurling themselves against each other, trampling, tearing at and mauling each other. Beasts of prey unleashed, animal hate in their eyes” (Wiesel, 101). Back to the quote above when the Jews were fighting over bread. For the most part the Jews didn’t have much excitement they were all people being controlled and having everything ripped from them, they were like zombies, the walking dead, but all of a sudden when someone showed food, they all turned into wild beast and started attacking each other because they were that desperate, this leads to them being ‘animals’ or ‘not human’ because it labels them as beast and they were acting like beasts.

Lastly, Wiesel (1958) talks about the cattle cars and what he experienced in them “climb into the cars eighty persons in each one” (p. 22). “Shoved us inside a hundred per car we were so skinny!” (p.97.). “We had been a hundred or so in this wagon. Twelve of left it” (p.97). Wiesel gives us some examples of what happened in the cattle cars. He tells us how there were many people in them 80, maybe even 100. He also talks about how twelve didn’t make it anymore, probably because they were starving or disease. The Germans shoved them in cattle cars, it even says it in the name, they were shoved into the train cars like cattle. That can be used as a form of dehumanization.

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Dehumanization in Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/dehumanization-in-elie-wiesels-night/
“Dehumanization in Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/dehumanization-in-elie-wiesels-night/
Dehumanization in Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/dehumanization-in-elie-wiesels-night/> [Accessed 24 Feb. 2024].
Dehumanization in Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Feb 24]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/dehumanization-in-elie-wiesels-night/
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