In the novel, Night, by Elie Wiesel, Elie betrayed himself, his religion, customs, values, and even his father, if only in his own mind. Betrayal was a major aspect of life for Jews in the Holocaust, especially Elie. Elie felt betrayed by the Germans for treating Jews like they weren’t humans and taking away the Jew’s self-worth. Elie also felt betrayed by his own god, who allowed Elie and his fellow Jews to be treated the way they were by the Germans. Betrayal started the sequence of poor events in Elie’s life and affected him during the Holocaust and from then on.
Betrayal was introduced to Elie when the Germans took over the Jew’s homes and towns and forced them into concentration camps (90). The Germans betrayed Jews by taking away their lives and stripping them of their humility, self-worth, and values; changing who they were completely. Germans took everything of value from the Jews and only allowed them to keep objects of no value or importance. Germans took valuables, shoes, and gold filings, from the Jews (8, 35, 49).
Germans not only took tangible items, but also pride, respect, values, strength, and health from Elie and the Jews. Elie also felt betrayed by his God. Elie felt abandoned because his god allowed Germans to exploit, torture, overwork, burn, and kill the Jews, who were so loyal to their god. On page 64 Elie said, “Why, but why should I bless Him? In every fiber I
rebelled. Because He had had thousands of children
burned in His pits? Because He kept six crematories
working night and day, on Sundays and feast days?
Because in His great might He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau,
Buna, and so many factories of death? How could I say to
Him: ‘Blessed art Thou, Eternal, Master of the Universe,…” Elie clearly showed that he felt betrayed and alone. This betrayal also caused Elie to betray his own religion.
Elie betrayed religion because of all the horrors he faced at the concentration camps. When he betrayed his religion, he betrayed himself because religion had played such a large role in his life. He had been dedicated to the Jewish religion his whole life, but due to the acts imposed on him by the Germans he felt that he could no longer support the religion which had betrayed him and the other Jews so much.
After Elie faced so much betrayal, he thought of a betrayal himself, a betrayal that would haunt him forever. Elie contemplated leaving his own father, who had been there to help him from the time that they arrived at the camps. Elie had been so betrayed that he thought of this betrayal as the only way to help himself survive. Even though he only thought of leaving his father in his head and never announced it out loud, he instantly felt ashamed and so guilty that the guilt would forever haunt him.
After Elie had contemplated leaving his father on page 101 he said, “Immediately I felt ashamed of myself, ashamed forever.” That one thought proved that Elie, if only for a moment, had truly betrayed his values and his own life by thinking of leaving behind the only person he had left in his life.
Jews felt so betrayed that eventually betrayal became second nature to many of them. Jews felt that with all the betrayal and circumstances they faced, that they themselves would have to betray their families and values just to survive. For example, on page 87, Elie remembered that while running to a camp, Rabbi Eliahou’s son, Zalman, had left his father behind in order to try to survive.
Zalman had lost his values and betrayed his father but he himself did not make it and his father did. In some cases Jews were forced to give up their values, beliefs, and customs in order to survive while the Germans forced them to live in the camps. Some Jews, like Elie, chose to give up their beliefs because they felt that they had been betrayed by the things they believed in.
In conclusion, Elie lost his family, values, customs, religion, and sense of self due to betrayal in his life, which was a major theme in Night. The Germans betrayed the Jews by treating them like pests and taking away all they had. That betrayal led to further betrayal throughout the Jew’s lives. This caused the Jews to give up or lose all they had, tangible as well as non-tangible. Elie may have survived the concentration camps physically, but mentally he would be scared for life by the decisions he made and the experiences he faced.
After the Holocaust Elie was no longer himself, for he as well as many other Jews had lost their sense of self by giving up things that were most near and dear to them, such as religion and family values. Throughout the novel the theme of betrayal stood for much more. Betrayal acted as a gateway for suffering and loss of self. That loss of self was a main point addressed by Elie many times throughout the novel and was a main theme in his work.