Discuss why Eliezer lied to Stein, his relative, about Stein’s family. Discuss whether or not you think he was morally right and what choices he had in the matter.

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After having been in Auschwitz for eight days, Eliezer and his father came upon Stein, a relative. Stein told them that he was from Antwerp and that Reizel, his wife, was the niece of Eliezer's mother. Stein and Reizel had two little boys, and Stein was anxious for news of his little family. Eliezer's father did not remember Stein, but Eliezer did; he remembered that they had not received any letters from Reizel since 1940. Stein himself was deported in 1942.

However, Eliezer lied to Stein and told his relative that his wife and sons were fine. Because Stein was so grateful for the news, he always brought small portions of food to share with Eliezer and his father when he visited them. During his visits, Stein admonished his relatives to eat so as not to face the danger of selection. Despite his emaciated figure, Stein was in good spirits; the thought that his wife and sons might still be alive was what kept his courage up.

In due time, another batch of prisoners arrived from Antwerp, and Stein was rapturous. The thought that he was finally to be reunited with his family made him very happy. However, Eliezer admitted that they never saw Stein again, presumably because he must have found out the real news about his family. The implication was that Stein might have given up hope and died after he received the likely news of his family's demise.

Two major considerations to guide you as you decide on an answer to your question:

1) If a lie lessens another person's suffering, the lie is a moral action. For example, Eliezer's lie allowed Stein to live his last moments in some semblance of peace and happiness.

2) If a lie prevents another person from seeing the full truth and adjusting to it, the lie is an immoral action. For example, Eliezer's lie may have cruelly intensified Stein's suffering when he finally received news of his family's demise.

Basically, you will have to decide which you agree with. Was Stein better served because his last moments were happy? Or would he have been better served if he had known the truth immediately? The answer boils down to how you and I define morality when the situation is dire and escape impossible.