At the start we must recognize that Elie’s newfound faith was still being
formed within the young boy’s consciousness and was therefore ill-equipped to withstand the tests imposed on it as a result of his deportation to Auschwitz.
It should be noted that even at his relatively young age he had perhaps departed from the type of belief that his father Shlomo had. Although initially his father would have been instrumental in teaching him about Judaism, we already sense that this was not sufficient for the intelligent Elie, and he sought further guidance from his mentor, Moshe. He urged the young Elie to question God rather than just blindly accept the position, which was his father’s standpoint.
We note that the Jews, as a whole, have suffered greatly over the centuries
and perhaps many of those who suffered during the Second World War accepted the situation as a test from God.
Elie was not content to fall into this category and he continued to question God’s motives in allowing the holocaust to continue.
Perhaps the tens of thousands of Jews who suffered and kept their faith did
so by holding on to their rituals of fasting and praying.
We note that Elie admits that he did not fast, and although he promised to say Kaddish (a two thousand year old prayer recited at funerals and at the anniversaries of deaths) for a dying fellow inmate, he neglected to do so. Also, the retaining of these rituals helped prevent the inmates of the camps from becoming totally dehumanized. Although Elie’s faith does falter, he retains some human qualities mainly due to the presence of his father. He has witnessed other sons betraying their fathers, but he stays true to Shlomo until the very end when his own body succumbs to the physical ordeals. Even though his father was beyond help, Elie still feels guilty about not being at his father’s side when he died.
Wiesel’s admission that he did lose faith, in no way diminishes the respect
we hold for him, for throughout the story we see that Elie conducted himself in an honorable way, despite what was going on around him.