Explain the purpose of Birkenau in the story "Night".  What ultimately causes the dramatic change in Eliezer's religious faith here?Chapter 3

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elie has grown up to be a very devoutly religious young man.  He spent much time in his youth studying and seeking to understand the nature of his spirituality.  His faith in God is so complete and pure that he cries when he prays, feeling deep love for the deity he worships.

However, at Birkenau, Elie first sees the horrible acts humanity can commit.  He sees the people led off to be burnt, smells the fumes of their burning flesh, is left in uncertainty of his own life, and walks past pits of open graves of burning babies.  He becomes skeptical of God's benevolence.  The other prisoners begin saying the Kaddish, which is the prayer for the dead, but which also thanks God for life.  Elie can not see anything to be thankful for:  "Why should I bless His name?” Eliezer asks, “What had I to thank Him for?”

Elie's childhood faith is shattered, and he doubts God's love and his own belief in God.  The most powerful of his words in regards to this comes at the end of the section.  See below:

Never shall I forget that night . . . which has turned my life into one long night . . . .
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God.

The God he loved has been murdered - he doesn't know God anymore.

ohsnapsonbrit | Student

but what is the purpose of Birkenau then? to split the bad health, too young and too old people from the rest to kill them? or is it to show them god can't do much from them anymore and it is up to themselves to prove they can get out of this mess