I'm not sure there are enough words in the English language to describe the horror, sadness, and desolation that is contained in the 109 pages of Night, Elie Wiesel's memoir of his time in the concentration camps.
In 1944, Germany is clearly losing World War II, and Hitler has escalated his plan to exterminate the Jews. German troops begin to go into areas previously left pretty well alone, and round up Jews from the small towns in the countryside. Wiesel's family, along with all of their neighbors, are rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. Being loaded into boxcars, traveling for days with little food and water, watching the weak die, and being separated from this mother and sister, while terrible enough, was nothing compared to the horrors that confronted him and his father at the camp.
The most striking thing about this book was the spare language that Wiesel uses, and the complete heartwrenching sadness I felt while reading it. Wiesel packs a lot of emotional wallop into a small number of pages. I think that the fact that he writes about his experiences in the way that he does only adds to the mood of devestation and tragedy. Frankly, the horrors of the camp don't need elaborate language or vivid metaphor. A stark retelling is all that is needed to see the terrible price that those in the camps paid for the world's inability to stop the evil that was Hitler before he became powerful enough to wreak such destruction. Perhaps the most chilling thing about Wiesel's story is how quickly the men he was imprisoned with became used to the deplorable conditions in which they found themselves. Every day that they were not sent to the furnaces was a relief-they only had to go to their physically demanding and dangerous jobs where they were forced to work on little or no food, sick or injured, in the heat or freezing cold, to be abused and demeaned by the guards. In the end I was left feeling that had the Russians not liberated the camps when they did, Wiesel and the rest of the prisoners would have eventually been worn away by brutality to nothing-no emotion, no intellect, no humanity left.