Elie Wiesel

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Having and Losing Faith in God Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Having and Losing Faith in God Theme Icon
Inhumanity Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Guilt and Inaction Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Night, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Having and Losing Faith in God Theme Icon

One of the main themes of Night is Eliezer's loss of religious faith. Throughout the book, Eliezer witnesses and experiences things that he cannot reconcile with the idea of a just and all-knowing God.

At the beginning of the narrative, Eliezer declares, "I believed profoundly." He is twelve years old and his life is centered around Judaism—studying the Talmud during the day, praying at the synagogue at night until he weeps with religious feeling. He wants to study the cabbala (Jewish mysticism), but his father says he's too young. Despite this, Eliezer finds a teacher in town, a poor man named Moché the Beadle, and the two of them pore over cabbalistic questions. Eliezer's faith in God is shared by many of his fellow Jews in the town of Sighet. On the trains to the concentration camps, people discuss the banishment from their homes as trial sent from God to be endured—a test of faith.

But Eliezer's belief in God begins to falter at the concentration camps of Birkenau-Aushwitz. Here the furnaces are busy night and day burning people. Here he watches German soldiers throw truckloads of babies and small children into the flames. The longer he stays in the concentration camps, the more he sees and experiences cruelty and suffering. People treat others worse than they would livestock. He can no longer believe that a God who would permit such nightmare places to exist could be just. The fact that many Jews do continue to pray, to recite the Talmud, and to look for comfort in their faith while in the concentration camp amazes and confounds Eliezer. That people would still pray to a God who allows their families to be gassed and incinerated suggests to Eliezer that people are stronger and more forgiving than the God they pray to. Later, as more people die, and others around him lose hope, starve, and succumb, Eliezer ceases to believe that God could exist at all. He is not alone in his disillusionment. Akiba Drumer (whose faith helps Eliezer endure for a while) as well as a rabbi whom Eliezer talks to, also eventually come to believe that God's existence is impossible in a world that contains such a large-scale, willful horror as the Holocaust. The final nail in the coffin, for Eliezer's faith, comes at Buna, where the prisoners are gathered to watch the hanging of a young boy. A man in the crowd asks, "Where is God now?" Eliezer's internal response is that God is that boy on the gallows. The boy dies slowly as the prisoners are forced to watch.

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Having and Losing Faith in God ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Having and Losing Faith in God appears in each chapter of Night. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Having and Losing Faith in God Quotes in Night

Below you will find the important quotes in Night related to the theme of Having and Losing Faith in God.
Chapter 1 Quotes
I was twelve. I believed profoundly. During the day I studied the Talmud, and at night I ran to the synagogue to weep over the destruction of the Temple.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:
"I have been saved miraculously. I managed to get back here. Where did I get the strength from? I wanted to come back to Sighet to tell you the story of my death. So what you could prepare yourselves while there was still time… I wanted to come back, and to warn you. And see how it is, no one will listen to me…"
Related Characters: Moché the Beadle (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Night. No one prayed, so that the night would pass quickly. The stars were only sparks of the fire which devoured us. Should that fire die out one day, there would be nothing left in the sky but dead stars, dead eyes.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire, Night
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes
Humanity? Humanity is not concerned with us. Today anything is allowed. Anything is possible, even these crematories.
Related Characters: Eliezer, Chlomo
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire, Night
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Some talked of God, of his mysterious ways, of the sins of the Jewish people, and of their future deliverance. But I had ceased to pray. How I sympathized with Job! I did not deny God's existence, but I doubted his absolute justice.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"Where is God now?"
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
"Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows. . . . "
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes
"Yes, man is very strong, greater than God. When You were deceived by Adam and Eve, You drove them out of Paradise. When Noah's generation displeased You, You brought down the Flood… But these men here, whom You have betrayed, whom You have allowed to be tortured, slaughtered, gassed, burned, what do they do? They pray before You! They praise your name!"
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
That day I had ceased to plead. I was no longer capable of lamentation. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes were open and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God and without man. Without love or mercy. I had ceased to be anything but ashes, yet I felt myself to be stronger than the Almighty, to whom my life had been tied for so long. I stood amid that praying congregation, observing it like a stranger.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
"I've got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He's the only one who's kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people. "
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes
Hundreds of cries rose up simultaneously. Not knowing against whom we cried. Not knowing why. The death rattle of a whole convoy who felt the end upon them. We were all going to die here. All limits had been passed. No one had any strength left. And again the night would be long.
Related Characters: Eliezer (speaker)
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis: