Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ & ‘God on Trial’

Antony Sher plays a Polish Rabbi in Frank Cottrell Boyce’s God on Trial. Forming part of a group of Auschwitz inmates they debate the existance of God. Sher talks to Andrew Pettie

It’s not every day you hear the Almighty described as ‘a cheating bastard’. But during BBC2’s God on Trial, a demanding 90-minute drama starring the Olivier Award-winning actor Sir Antony Sher and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Welcome to Sarajevo), the inmates of Auschwitz submit Him to an even greater indignity: they put Him on trial.

There is no historical evidence that such a trial took place. Cottrell Boyce’s drama is based on a widely repeated Second World War story that is most likely apocryphal.

But it asks a profound and relevant question: how could a benign and loving God allow the Holocaust to happen?

During the trial, held in an Auschwitz dormitory hut the night before half the prisoners will be gassed, a disparate cast of characters – including a physicist, a law professor, a criminal and two rabbis – debate the charges levelled against God. In allowing the Nazis to commit genocide, has He broken His covenant with the Jewish people? Is the Holocaust an act of purification, like Noah’s flood? Or is it evidence, as writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi argued, that God does not – indeed cannot – exist? (Telegraph)

“…to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all…”

Night, an autobiographical account of life in the Nazi death camps, is a must-read. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel takes his readers with him from his home, into the ghetto, on the transport, through Selections, into the concentration camps, on the Death March, and beyond. Reading this book gives one a deeper and more personal understanding of the Holocaust experience. Only with this understanding can one genuinely remember the Holocaust and thus help ensure it won’t happen again. (Lisa Katz)

12 thoughts on “Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ & ‘God on Trial’

  1. I thought the God on trial film showed us the attitude many jews had towards god during the holocaust. It did not on the other hand show what it was like to be in a concentration camp. That is why I do not like the the film. The Night by Elie Wiesel is different to the film because it effectively portrays what it was like to be kept there. That is why I like the Elie Wiesel story.

  2. The video we watched “god on trial” was all about the Jews in a concentration camp and all their emotions and feelings. Not knowing wether if they were to be killed the next morning, having to put up with the constant fear of death. The highlight of the film was when they had a trial over god wondering if he is real or not. This was a pivital part in the film because it shows that even the diehard jews were struggling to find a reason why they deserved to be tortured. Finally the quote “he’s is right here!” shows us that even though the Jews had to put up with the torture of their friends and family the still had this unbelivable faith in their god!

  3. Holocaust

    The film we watched was called “God on Trial” it was ok but it could of been set in different places not just the same room for the whole time. The topic the were talking about was intersting and i learnt new things but there could of shown use more of the camp. We also read a pat of the book “night” which i thought was more though provoking and had more emotion in it compared to the film which was a bit boring for people of our age. The part of the book we read was really good and very sad. The part of the book could make you imagian what it was like to be in the Holocaust and the horror of going through that teat to see if you were going to stay or die

  4. I think the movie God on Trial expresses lots of different views on the holocaust and why it happened. But i think the Night reading was more effective because it was real and very detailed of what happened on the concentration camp unlike the God on Trial movie as all they did was sit inside and discuss why God has done this to them. Where as the Night reading portray’s what it was like to leave half your family and have to walk to the pit and face death itself.

  5. A holocaust is murder on a massive scale. The film we watched, ‘God on Trial’, was not boring but was not riveting either…the topic they were discussing was interesting in itself, and even though the actors weren’t bad, it just seemed like they were actors; it wasn’t very believable and it didn’t seem like they were actually in a concentration camp. The arguments were well thought out, however, and made me think about the existence of God, and how these people could have coped in such a situation, knowing that it was their belief in their God that had got them there, but trying to use their God to get them out…it is not hard to understand their confusion, hurt and anger. I thought that the book ‘Night’ was better because it gave the reader the chance to imagine the scenes yourself, and the graphic descriptions of the death march left you in no doubt as to the horrors that they faced. The extract was thought-provoking and even more so as it was from the perspective of a child, who was contemplating the massive issue of the existence of God at such a young age. Also, the mention of the babies being burned added to the emotion built up in the passage. The quote ‘He’s right there!’ shows that the Jews were losing faith in their God by the day, with each act of evil that came.

  6. The program we was called God & Trial was good. I thought it wasn’t that interesting at first but they showed loads of emotion in the program, which was really good. The bad bits where that not much things happened. They mostly just did the trial and that was it. The best part of the program was when the guy was talking about his story and how he had to pick one out of his three sons. I thought this was the best part because the man who was telling the story was really good at telling the story and he told it with loads of emotion. Some of the Jews in the program thought that God had left them to die and suffer but others thought that God was suffering with them. The quote “He’s right there!” tells you that some people thought that God was with them.

  7. I felt that the movie “God On Trial” was a very effective movie as it conveys the varying emotions that the prisoners felt at that terrible time in history. But also the book by Elie Wiesel “Night” was a very good piece of writing showing the devastating effects that a concentration camps can have on your emotions.

  8. The reading is really quite hard to grasp because it is so hard to take in the atrocity of the holocaust. You would have to be there to believe it; that human beings could do those things to one and other is sickening and for one person to witness it its terrible for the people that were in the concentration camps. The most memorable part of the writing is when it says that they burnt the woman and children in a pit in front of their husbands and the other type of men. The problem of evil is that the Jews in the camps were beginning to lose hope in their God because of the pain and suffering they were experiencing, they were told that their God is all powerful and all seeing + all loving but if he is all these things then he wouldn’t have let the holocaust happen. The jews in the film thought this and that maybe they were being punished for something and hitler was god’s handyman. The holocaust means sacrifice by fire.

  9. The video had a lot of meaningful arguments that really made you think. One argument would be brought up and u would yeah that is correct but then an argument against would very oquickly change your thoughts. It was interesting at the start because it is very unusual how they are trialling god but they don’t know if he even exists. A lot of good arguments where brought up but the trial really dragged on and caused my loss of attention. It is difficult to make a movie on such a sad story not boring but they could of changed the scene more because it was all in the one room and it didn’t get your attention. It could have had flashbacks of how they got there or flashbacks when story’s where told. Overall it really made u think about the existence of god and if gd did exist why god would let this happen to these people but it got boring after a bit because similar arguments where brought up and watching people talking isn’t very attention catching.

  10. The film “god on trail” was quite good with lots of relevant points that I found very convincing for both sides(Defending god and accusing god). The part of Elie weisel’s novel was very emotional and made me remember how bad the holocaust was for the victims more than the film did and felt the evil of the Nazis very strongly. But the film was good how it showed that this evil made the Jews question the morality of their god.

  11. ‘God on Trial’ Video Review.

    God on Trial was a boring video. The film was practically all set in the one room which made the film quite tedious and uninteresting. The topics covered in the film were good such as the questioning of where God is in such a time of evil. The film showed what the Jews thought about it well with the references to the past events that have happened to them but this could have been put forward in a more interesting way. The topic of free will was shown as none of the Jews wanted to be in the situation they were in so they didn’t have the choice, it was there or death which is no choice at all. For me, the passage, night, was much more hard hitting. It described the events in a more dramatic way which made me think much more about the subject.

  12. “God on Trial” video review

    I found “God on Trial” a very boring video, as it was dull and non-exciting. I understand that it’s about a serious matter, but this video just makes you to bored to pay attention and get everything out of it. The film should also have been in more than one just room. I found that the points made throughout the questioning of God were very good and planned out but nothing was eye-catching and nothing shouted out at me to keep watching. It gave everyone a perspective of what it was like for the Jews during these horrible times and it was interesting to hear what life was like for them. I much more enjoyed the passage “Night” than the movie as it hit you really hard and really made you think, just hearing about him splitting from his mum and sister, and then thinking about committing suicide. I think it would have been better if the film were about “Night” instead.

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