Elie Wiesel's Night is a Holocaust story that is based on Wiesel's experiences at several concentration camps in 1944-1945. In the third section of the book, fourteen-year-old Elie and his family arrive in Auschwitz after their grueling train ride. Bewildered and unaware of the imminent danger ahead of them, they have to survive an initial selection.
One prisoner tells them to lie about their ages; Elie should say he is older and his father should say he is younger. Elie and his father are initially confused about this advice, which is given in a "weary" but "warm" voice. But they catch on quickly, and a moment later Elie thinks to lie about his profession, telling Dr. Mengele that he is a farmer instead of a student. They survive the selection, apparently helped by the advice they've been given.
But first, for some unstated reason, they are taunted by another prisoner, who tells them that they have not survived the selection:
Poor devils, you are heading for the crematorium.
Why does this prisoner lie about the selection results? We don't know for sure, but it fits in with one of the themes of the book—the dehumanization of man at the hands of other men; even the veteran prisoners take part in emotionally torturing the new prisoners. But the prisoner who gave the advice exemplifies a much different theme: man has the ability to show kindness in the worst of situations.