"Night" by Elie Wiesel, Sections 1–3

In this unflinching memoir, Elie Wiesel describes his experience as a young man imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Here are links to our lists for the memoir: Sections 1–3, Sections 4–5, Sections 6–9

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. beadle
    a minor parish official who serves a ceremonial function
    They called him Moishe the Beadle, as if his entire life he had never had a surname.
  2. penury
    a state of extreme poverty or destitution
    He was poor and lived in utter penury.
  3. redemption
    the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
    He sang, or rather he chanted, and the few snatches I caught here and there spoke of divine suffering, of the Shekhinah in Exile, where, according to Kabbalah, it awaits its redemption linked to that of man.
  4. esteem
    the condition of being honored
    The Jewish community of Sighet held him in highest esteem; his advice on public and even private matters was frequently sought.
  5. err
    make a mistake
    After a long silence, he said, “There are a thousand and one gates allowing entry into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. He must not err and wish to enter the orchard through a gate other than his own. That would present a danger not only for the one entering but also for those who are already inside.”
  6. despair
    a state in which all hope is lost or absent
    “You don’t understand,” he said in despair.
  7. annihilate
    kill in large numbers
    Annihilate an entire people?
  8. dispersed
    distributed or spread over a considerable extent
    Wipe out a population dispersed throughout so many nations?
  9. diplomacy
    negotiation between nations
    And thus my elders concerned themselves with all manner of things—strategy, diplomacy, politics, and Zionism—but not with their own fate.
  10. regent
    someone who rules during the absence of the monarch
    The regent Miklos Horthy was forced to ask a leader of the pro-Nazi Nyilas party to form a new government. Yet we still were not worried.
  11. edict
    a legally binding command or decision
    First edict: Jews were prohibited from leaving their residences for three days, under penalty of death.
  12. prominent
    conspicuous in position or importance
    Some prominent members of the community came to consult with my father, who had connections at the upper levels of the Hungarian police; they wanted to know what he thought of the situation.
  13. bleak
    offering little or no hope
    My father’s view was that it was not all bleak, or perhaps he just did not want to discourage the others, to throw salt on their wounds: “The yellow star? So what? It’s not lethal...”
  14. bitter
    very difficult to accept or bear
    We were stunned, yet we wanted to fully absorb the bitter news.
  15. rescind
    cancel officially
    My father was running right and left, exhausted, consoling friends, checking with the Jewish Council just in case the order had been rescinded.
  16. strew
    spread by scattering
    Valuable objects, precious rugs, silver candlesticks, Bibles and other ritual objects were strewn over the dusty grounds—pitiful relics that seemed never to have had a home.
  17. surreal
    characterized by fantastic and incongruous imagery
    His very presence in the procession was enough to make the scene seem surreal.
  18. wield
    have and exercise
    Policemen wielding clubs were shouting: “All Jews outside!”
  19. hasten
    speed up the progress of; facilitate
    I looked at my house in which I had spent years seeking my God, fasting to hasten the coming of the Messiah, imagining what my life would be like later.
  20. morale
    a state of individual psychological well-being
    People’s morale was not so bad: we were beginning to get used to the situation.
  21. deport
    expel from a country
    Tragically for those who had already been deported, it would be too late.
  22. conflagration
    a very intense and uncontrolled fire
    No one was praying for the night to pass quickly. The stars were but sparks of the immense conflagration that was consuming us. Were this conflagration to be extinguished one day, nothing would be left in the sky but extinct stars and unseeing eyes.
  23. expulsion
    the act of forcing out someone or something
    Saturday, the day of rest, was the day chosen for our expulsion.
  24. horrendous
    causing fear or dread or terror
    The twenty-four hours we spent there were horrendous.
  25. irrevocable
    incapable of being retracted
    The doors were nailed, the way back irrevocably cut off.
  26. pious
    having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity
    Her husband was a pious man who spent most of his days and nights in the house of study.
  27. abyss
    a bottomless gulf or pit
    Some pressed against the bars to see. There was nothing. Only the darkness of night. It took us a long time to recover from this harsh awakening. We were still trembling, and with every screech of the wheels, we felt the abyss opening beneath us.
  28. suffocate
    deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
    The heat, the thirst, the stench, the lack of air, were suffocating us.
  29. invective
    abusive language used to express blame or censure
    Another inmate appeared, unleashing a stream of invectives: “Sons of bitches, why have you come here? Tell me, why?”
  30. tolerate
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    Still, I told him that I could not believe that human beings were being burned in our times; the world would never tolerate such crimes.
  31. infernal
    characteristic of or resembling Hell
    We were coming closer and closer to the pit, from which an infernal heat was rising.
  32. transformed
    given a completely different form or appearance
    Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
  33. lucidity
    a clear state of mind
    In one terrifying moment of lucidity, I thought of us as damned souls wandering through the void, souls condemned to wander through space until the end of time, seeking redemption, seeking oblivion, without any hope of finding either.
  34. harangue
    address forcefully
    He harangued us from the center of the barrack: “You are in a concentration camp.
  35. ascertain
    learn or discover with confidence
    As if he wished to ascertain that the person addressing him was actually a creature of flesh and bone, a human being with a body and a belly.
  36. remorse
    a feeling of deep regret, usually for some misdeed
    Remorse began to gnaw at me.
  37. compulsory
    required by rule
    These were the showers, a compulsory routine.
  38. humane
    marked by concern with the alleviation of suffering
    At the start of the third week, our Blockalteste was removed; he was judged too humane.
  39. veritable
    not counterfeit or copied
    The new one was ferocious and his aides were veritable monsters.
  40. deny
    refuse to accept or believe
    I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.

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