In our society, there comes a time in one's life when innocence is lost as a result of an experience or a gain of knowledge. Unless you are a saint, this catharsis in one's life is unavoidable, but can be prolonged with isolation from the world. In some cases, innocence may be lost in one's life before it is meant to be lost. In children and young adults who survived the holocaust in concentration camps, their innocence was lost as soon as they walked through the gates into captivity. In Elie Wiesel's book Night, he depicts himself as an innocent teenager, a child, whose innocence was taken from him as a result of the atrocities performed by Hitler's Germany in World War Two.
Before Elie was forced into a concentration camp, he was a young and innocent child immersed in his faith from birth. He was a strong believer in Judaism and knew he had a purpose in life, and even studied mysticism and the texts of their sacred books. However, once the Nazis came into his hometown of Sighet, in present-day Hungary, the entire Jewish population of his town was forced into cattle cars and forced into Auschwitz and Birkenau. There, his family was torn apart, leaving him with his father, and his sister with their mother. Once they were split, he began to slowly lose his innocence. "Yet that was the moment I left my motherâ€¦ In a fraction of a second I could see my mother, my sisters, move to the rightâ€¦ I didn't know that this was the moment in tome and the place where I was leaving my mother and Tzipora foreverâ€¦My hand tightened its grip on my father. All I could think about was not to lose him. Not to remain alone" (Wiesel 29-30). Elie was only fifteen when he lost more than half of his family. At that age, one is not fully matured yet to handle the loss of his family's structure. However, Wiesel realized that at that exact moment in time, he lost his family. When he realized it, he clung to his father like grim death because he wanted to be with what is left of his family. Even at his age, he began to realize how cruel the world actually was.
Although Elie began his loss of innocence when he lost his sisters and mother, his innocence was not finally lost until the death of his father. Elie was not even an adult when he lost his mother and sisters. He was torn apart from them, and was tortured and held in captivity due to his faith as a Jew. Even though he knew the world was cruel, he did not fully realize the seriousness of it all until he lost his father. "No prayers were said over his tomb. No candle lit in his memory. His last word had been my name. He had called out to me and I had not answered. I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep. But I was out of tears" (Wiesel 112). When he lost his father, he could not weep over the grave. At his young age, the action of not crying in mourning of a relative, much less a parent is astounding. Crying is a way to release emotions, no matter what someone's age is, they cry. However, Wiesel did not cry. This lack of expression shows that he sunk into an abyss. Elie began to realize the gravity of his current predicament, the cruelty of the Nazis and the world, and even loss his faith. This moment of realization shows that he has finally lost his innocence, and discovered that all humans have a cruel side. Nazis killed his brethren, the Jews, because they were thought of as scum. Even as people, they were tortured and starved for the amusement of the Nazis, and just for making them suffer greatly, but not enough for them to die in some cases. In the loss of his father, he realized he lives in a cruel world, and not everything can go according to what one person wants to happen.
Elie Wiesel was fifteen when he entered the death camps, and realized a side of the world that should unveil itself when one grows to be mature enough to not be fearful of the situation of the world. Elie lost his innocence at a young age, and was ignorant to many things that were happening all around him. He wasn't just blinded by fear of the Nazis; he was blinded by fear of the entire world. In the beginning of the text, Elie was a young boy who grew up immersed in Judaism and a love for his monotheistic ruler. When the atrocities of the Holocaust reached him, he lost everything dear to him and was forced to come to the realization that the world is a cruel and dark place. This matters because in the process, he didn't just lose his innocence: he lost his belief in God. The first sight of the crematorium, the first impression they received of their captors was shock and complete repulsiveness of the Nazi Regime. "Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith foreverâ€¦ Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never" (Wiesel 34). In his mind, the flames consumed not only children and the elderly, but also lit a fire in him which destroyed his belief in the God himself. Because of his original obsession with learning the theology of his faith and the teachings of his God, this demonstrates his realization of the cruelty of the world, and that God has abandoned him. "The Almighty, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for" (Wiesel 33)? Essentially, he lost his faith in God when he encountered the flames. The flames are symbolic because they are the symbol of destruction and despair, but also for knowledge. The flames ate away his belief in God and his hope for being united as a family, but replaced it with a realization of cruelty and mercilessness in the world he lives in. His disbelief in God is shocking because if someone with such an infatuation for the study of Him loses their interest and faith in God, it shows that God is not meant to be believed, and people will lose hope without some belief or ideal to cling on to.
Since his entry into the concentration camps of the Third Reich, he began a slow catharsis which snowballed into a total loss of innocence and even a belief in God. He lost his family, his friends, and his faith in the flames of the Nazi's cruelty. He survived death camps with a shred of hope in him to tell his story. Overall, he is a hero and a close reminder of what the human spirit can endure. Although everyone at some point loses their innocence, their age and degree of loss is not written in stone. Sometimes, it just takes a push to move forward in life, to mature and understand their place in the world better.