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)