One of the most important keys to survival during the Holocaust was self-preservation. In order to ensure one would make it by, one would have to put the majority of their focus on their own being. Sometimes, however, the Holocaust victims took this mindset too far. There were many times in which the Jews would kill each other, including their own family, for food. It's very sad to reflect on how such drastic measure could be possible, although we have no authority to judge any actions the victim's took. Part of being alive brings an urge to survive, so we can not even predict how we would react in such distressful times. In Night, there were many tragic instances in which Elie even thought of how he would be better off maintaining only himself and not his father. In the list below, I will provide specific quotes that relate to how the theme of survival and self-preservation was used within the novel. As you read these quotes, you will realize how the extremities of self-preservation coincide with dehumanization.
- “The instincts of self-preservation, of self-defense, of pride, had all deserted us. 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.” (pg. 36)
- “I soon forgot him. I began to think of myself again.” Page 86
- “God knows what I would have given to be able to sleep a few moments. But deep inside, I knew that to sleep meant to die. And something in me rebelled against that death.” Page 89
- “...his son had seen him losing ground, sliding back to the rear of the column. He had seen him. And he had continued to run in front, letting the distance between them become greater. A terrible thought crossed my mind: What if he had wanted to be rid of his father? He had felt his father growing weaker and, believing that the end was near, had thought by this separation to free himself of a burden that could diminish his own chance for survival.” Page 91
- “My whole desire to live became concentrated in my nails. I scratched, I fought for a breath of air. I tore at decaying flesh that did not respond. I could not free myself of that mass weighing down on my chest. Who knows? Was I struggling with a dead man?” Page 94
- “I spent my days in total idleness. With only one desire: to eat. I no longer thought of my father, or my mother. From time to time, I would dream. But only about soup, an extra ration of soup.” Page 113