Today I finished Elie Wiesel’s slim, but never slight, Night – his terrifying account of how he and his family were swept away by the Holocaust to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The book is up there with Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and Primo Levi’s If This is a Man, not only as a graphically honest account of what occurred to the victims, but also, as the blurb puts it, by providing ‘rare insight into the darkest side of human nature’. The human nature in question is not only that of the captors, but that of the victims, as their humanity is gradually, brutally, extracted from them and sloughed off under increasing duress, until finally all that remains are survival automatons, devoid of emotion, sentiment or ethics. Surely the most horrendously poignant passage, in a book full of poignancy, is the page-and-a-half in which Wiesel describes not only his father’s final hours of suffering and ultimate disappearance during the night but also, with simple sincerity, his own guilt-racked feeling of relief that he no longer has to care for him (though he will, of course, always care about him). His community’s behaviour as dispassionately described at the beginning of the book is perhaps similar to the descriptions that made Hannah Arendt so unpopular for a while. As Wiesel describes it (though with the benefit of hindsight, of course), his community is instinctively law-abiding and respects its figures of authority (who include his father). Those figures of authority, in turn, trust that compliance might guarantee the worse but avoid the worst – though not even the most pessimistically creative among them could have imagined what that worst could be. Georges Soros once said: ‘There are times when the normal rules do not apply, and if you obey the rules at those times, you are likely to perish.’ In a final irony, Wiesel recounts how Buchenwald’s inmates themselves liberated the camp, just hours before the first American tanks rolled up to its grim gates. This is a book that should be read and re-read; a reminder of what man is capable of doing to man.