In the story Night, why did Elie react differently to the hanging of the “youth from Warsaw” than to the hanging of the “sad-eyed angel”?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first hanging, the Warsaw native who had been in the camp for three years, was physically mature and was filled with defiance toward his German captors. He was not afraid of his executioners, refused to be blindfolded, and shouted out his condemnation of the action being taken until he was unable to continue.

the hangman...was about to signal his aides to pull the chair from under the young man's feet when the latter shouted, in a strong and calm voice: "Long live liberty! My curse on Germany! My curse! My -" The executioner had completed his work.

Elie and the other prisoners shared in this opinion of the Germans. They agreed with the sentiments expressed by the convicted prisoner and celebrated hearing someone say so.

The "sad-eyed angel" was still a child, and one who had been used by an apparently relatively humane German commander. When the Oberkapo was arrested on suspicion of sabotage and removed from the camp, however, the Gestapo continued to question the boy and finally convicted him of compliance in the efforts to hide weapons that had been found in a building under the Oberkapo's supervision.

There was no final expression of defiance before the boy died. There was no rejoicing among the prisoner witnesses, because they recognized the inhumanity and unjustice of the execution of this child. And, there was the realization of the ultimate cruelty of his death:

the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing...And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.

To Elie, this was another reinforcement of his growing conviction that God had died, that there was no purpose in praying to God or calling up God's promises to His people any longer because they had been abandoned by God.