In chapter 9, What did the prisoners do when they were freed?

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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At the end of Night, the prisoners were not concerned about anything but food. They had not been fed often and were starving. Once the liberation took place, all the prisoners wanted was to eat. Elie recounts the events that happened after they were freed.

Our first act as free men was to throw ourselves onto the provisions. That's all we thought about. No thought of revenge, or of parents, only of bread.

These people had suffered terrible loses and unspeakable torture at the hands of the SS, but they weren't consumed with revenge or hatred. They were consumed with eating. They didn't give a thought to what they had lost or the people they had lost while in captivity, all that mattered to them in that moment was to get enough food. Later on Elie gets sick from something in the food. As he is lying in the hospital he thinks about his time in Auschwitz. He sees a mirror across the wall from him and realizes it has been ages since he has seen his own reflection. He decides to look at himself and this is where the story ends.

One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto.

From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me.

The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me. 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Once the ordeal at Buchenwald had come to its close and the Nazis were on the run, the prisoners think only of food as they find freedom and liberation from the camp.  They do not think of anything else but survival and the barest of means to accomplish this end.  Primarily, eating bread is what constitutes the majority of their thoughts and consumes majority of their actions.  In some respects, this is highly appropriate. Throughout the work, the reader sees how Eliezer's struggle to survive is one that is shared by so many who had to endure life in the camps.  The comforting ending would be something larger, an ending that encompassed moral truths and provided ethical redemption.  However, as Wiesel himself asserts through the work, one of the most horrific elements of the Holocaust was that its dehumanization, proven when the prisoners are free and are only concerned with the basest of all instincts:  Survival and food.

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