As he reflects upon his horrendous first night in the concentration camp and its lasting effect on his life, Wiesel introduces the theme of Eliezer’s spiritual crisis and his loss of faith in God.In its form, this passage resembles two significant pieces of literature: Psalm 150, from the Bible, and French author Emile Zola’s 1898 essay “J’accuse.” Psalm 150, the final prayer in the book of Psalms, is an ecstatic celebration of God.Furthermore, the fact that Zola’s transitive verb (“I accuse”) has been replaced by an objectless adverb (“never”) reflects the prisoners’ powerlessness to remedy their situation.Although Wiesel’s passage is directed toward God, it is not directed at any specific being; since the prisoners are powerless to strike back, their anger cannot take the form of a direct confrontation. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. .”This passage occurs at the end of the fourth section, as Eliezer witnesses the agonizingly slow death of the Dutch Oberkapo’s pipel, a young boy hanged for collaborating against the Nazis.Zola’s piece was an impassioned accusation that decried injustice and anti-Semitism; Wiesel’s passage is also an impassioned polemic, but its target is God Himself.Zola’s “j’accuse” is directed at corrupt officials who have betrayed an innocent Jew; here, Eliezer’s “jamais” (“never”) is directed toward God.Zola heightened the aggressive tone of the letter by repeatedly stressing the refrain “J’accuse” (“I accuse”).The similarities between Wiesel’s passage and Zola’s—the French words of the refrain, the anti-Semitic context, and the defiant tone—invite comparison between the two texts.
Whereas Psalm 150 praises God, this passage questions him.A trail of indeterminate light showed on the horizon. It succinctly describes the prisoners’ godless worldview, which holds survival to be the highest principle and all other morality to be meaningless.In Jewish prayer, God is often referred to as “Master of the Universe.” At this point, the prisoners have replaced God in that role; they themselves are the masters of nature and the world.As we see when he discusses the death of Akiba Drumer, Eliezer acknowledges that faith gives a person a sense of being and a reason to struggle.
By this point in his experience, he is deeply cynical about faith; for him, it is a mere illusion, a deluded belief in an omnipotent creator who doesn’t exist.
[Rabbi Eliahou’s son] had felt that his father was growing weak, he had believed that the end was near and had sought this separation in order to get rid of the burden, to free himself from an encumbrance which could lessen his own chances of survival. And I was glad that Rabbi Eliahou should continue to look for his beloved son.