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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the late Elie Wiesel's Night is one of the most widely read and accaimed Holocaust memoirs. Wiesel was 15 when he, his three sisters, and his parents were sent to Auschwitz. In spare prose, Wiesel recounts the unimaginable horrors of life in Auschwitz and Buchenwald and the loss of his deeply held religious faith. "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.” While Night is assigned reading in middle and high schools around the world, parents should be aware that the violence and brutality in the book are shocking and often unceasing. For speaking out against injustice, violence, and repression, Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
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What's the story?
As NIGHT begins, Wiesel is living with his family in Sighet, a town which was then part of Hungary. Deeply religious, he spends his mornings studying the Talmud and his evenings in the local synagogue. For most of Sighet, the war seems far away and there is confidence that the Russian Army will arrive before the town falls to the Nazis. But in the spring of 1944, the Germans arrive and the entire Jewish population is soon loaded onto the cattle cars that will transport them to Nazi death camps. After they arrive at Auschwitz, Wiesel and his father are separated from his mother and sisters but manage to remain together during the nightmare months that follow. As the Russians approach Auschwitz, the prisoners are forced on a deadly march through winter snows before being taken by train to Buchenwald. It is there that Wiesel's father dies, in circumstances that will forever haunt him.
Is it any good?
Harrowing, heartbreaking, and brutal, this unforgettable memoir of a teenage survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald is essential reading for anyone studying the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel tells his story in a voice that is quiet and spare. Only the most essential words are needed to describe the horrors he witnessed. Wiesel has stated that Night begins where Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl ends. For teens whose knowledge of the Holocaust goes no further than the young Dutch girl who wrote, "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart," Night may be hard to process emotionally. For all readers, it could help begin difficult discussions about the nature of good and evil in the world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk how books like Night help us to better understand history. What can you learn about this period in history from a personal memoir that you can't learn from a textbook?
Have you watched any movies or TV shows about the Holocaust? How accurately do you think they portrayed what is was like to be a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp?
Author Elie Wiesel and his family had a chance to escape before being transported to Auschwitz. Why do you think they decided against it? What would you and your family have done?
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