The Nazi’s Crimes Against Humanity As Depicted In Elie Wiesel’s Night

It is no secret that the Holocaust was a period of countless human rights violations; prisoners of the state were subjected to cruel punishments and forced to reside in horrid living environments. The Nazis, who were loyal party members and regulators of Hitler’s dictatorship, tortured, burned, starved, worked, and altogether put their prisoners through unimaginable suffering. Nazis would take everything away from their prisoners - their belongings, families, friends, and even their names. This happened to 16 year old Elie Wiesel and his family during WW2 in his autobiography, “Night,” as they were plucked from their simple lives and thrown into the horrors of concentration camps and Nazi rule.

To begin, just how extensive were the Nazi’s crimes against humanity? Some of the most horrendous human rights that were broken during this time and in Wiesel's book, included the following: “Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” and “Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.” and finally, “Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (UDHR, United Nations.Org) Jewish people, in Elie’s experience, were not treated with the same respect as non-Jewish people during this time, nor were they given any freedom or say in the things SS officers made them do, like being transported to concentration camps/ghettos and giving up all their belongings. They were subjected to very inhumane forms of slavery, like being forced to work in factories, construction sites, or mines. Elie and his father were also the victims of incredibly degrading punishments, like having to survive on a slice of bread a day or sleeping in below freezing temperatures. It is no secret that Hitler’s regime violated many human rights during this period in time.

To elaborate, these victims were being targeted for a simple reason: they didn’t fit in with Hitler’s idea of a perfect society. Hitler wanted his third reich to have a pure race, which included only those with blonde hair and blue eyes, those in perfect health (mentally and physically), and who were non Jewish. In the preface of his book, author Elie Wiesel describes it as so: “-the evidence shows that in the early days of their accession to power, the Nazis in Germany set out to build a society in which there simply would be no room for Jews.” He describes that the Nazis wanted to erase any evidence of Jewish existence, leaving behind a world in ruins in the process.

Additionally, the perpetrator's agenda was to remove all enemies of the state. The Nazi party was responsible for the utter disregard and destruction of human rights during the holocaust, and they executed this in their concentration camps. We have a look inside the concentration camps through Elie’s eyes, as he details the horrors brought upon himself and his family inside once they were brought there. His family had spent the day without food or water, forced to travel a long journey in a cattle car packed with 80 people. Elie was soon separated from his mother and sister at a Nazi’s command, and witnessed countless men, women, and children being burned alive in fiery ditches, “Yes, I did see this, with my own e y e s ... children thrown into the flames.” To say these crimes were substantial would be an understatement, and the executioners of these callous injustices were the Nazis, Hitler, and those who stood by in solidarity.

Perhaps one of the worst things about the Holocaust, and something that still leaves us scratching our heads today, was the fact that many citizens of Hitler’s occupiable empire went along with his inhumane agenda. They would turn a blind eye to the millions of people suffering, and in some cases even help the Nazi party in any terrible way they could - like the police force of hungary removing the Jews of Sighet. One explanation could be a mob mentality these people took on. The Nazis after all rose from a place of poor leadership; they were willing and able to give their full devotion to anyone even remotely resembling a leader - stage enter Hitler. The conjoined belief in Hitler most likely lead to the belief in his more radical ideas, which extended to other nations and peoples in Hitler’s empire. We see an example of this when Elie and the other Buna inmates are on a convoy to a new camp, when a German worker begins to mess with them, “-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.” The worker didn’t see suffering humans, he saw entertainment. Besides this, Elie later says the citizens of Germany would look at the prisoners without surprise, and certainly without a sign of sympathy. These people may not have caused the holocaust, but their collective support fueled it’s fire.

The victims of the Holocaust are significantly less to blame for their suffering, but there were precautions they could have took to avoid their dim situation. An example of this would be Moishe the Beadle telling the Jews of Sighet about what the Germans would do to them once they reached this territory, and the Jew’s complete disregard of his words. “But people not only refused to believe his tales, they refused to listen. Some even insinuated that he only wanted their pity, that he was imagining things. Others flatly said that he had gone mad.” The Jewish people didn’t believe Moishe, they thought him insane and went back to their normal lives. Another example would be when a maid offered Elie’s family refuge in her village - not only did she offer, she begged them to come with her. Elie’s father made the decision to stay in Sighet. If families like Elie’s had instead packed up and left the country, they may have never suffered in the Holocaust.

Amidst the hardships inside Hitler’s empire, there of course were many resistors against Nazi rule and agenda. In the camps, Elie mentions their existence multiple times, one organization even liberated the camp Elie was in towards the end of the book- “The battle did not last long. Around noon, everything was calm again. The SS had fled and the resistance had taken charge of the camp.” However, the resistance didn’t seem to play a very prominent role in this war against human rights violations, I suppose there’s not much you can do when Hitler’s empire is so heavily armed and dedicated. Even still, the resistance in Nazi Germany, no matter how small, shows us that not all traces of humanity and sameness inside this empire was lost.

To summarize, human rights are the foundation for any well functioning society, and when they were completely disregarding during the holocaust, we learned just how important they are. These rules were broken by the Nazis and allowed to be broken by countless supporters in some sick, collective delusion. Elie Wiesel has taught us how terrible it feels to lose your rights, as they should be the one thing a human can retain after everything has been taken from you. However, it’s from these ashes of demolished lives, broken laws, and disregarded ethics that emerged a new appreciation for each other, our rights, and our quality of life.


  • “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations,
  • Wiesel, Elie. Night, Elie Wiesel. Spark Publishing, 2014.              
16 December 2021
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