Elie’s reactions to his father’s beatings are telling of how ill treatment at the hands of the Nazis and kapos breaks down his spirit over time.
At Birkenau, when he sees his father attacked for the simple action of asking where the toilets are when he experiences a “colic attack,” Elie simply stands and watches. However, regret sets in quickly, and he vows that he will never be able to forgive either the kapo or the organization that he stands for.
At Buna, Elie and his father are part of a group of prisoners assigned to load diesel motors onto trains. During this labor, a kapo named Idek accuses Elie’s father of being an “old loafer.” Elie’s father must subsequently accept a brutal beating with an iron bar. The severity of this beating is such that his father appears to have “[broken] in two.” By this time, Elie has adjusted to life in the camps, and he finds that his father, rather than the guards, is the target of his anger. He feels like his father should have been able to avoid the beating by “[avoiding] Idek’s wrath.” Later, he tries to teach his father how to march in step so as to avoid future beatings, but unfortunately, his father does not prove to be an adept pupil.
Elie is self-aware enough to realize that life in the camps is dehumanizing him and making him ambivalent toward his father’s suffering.