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When they arrive at Buchenwald, Eli's father is growing ever weaker. Clinging to each other's hands, they try to keep moving and keep together. The rumor is making the rounds that they are to have showers then be sent to barracks. While awaiting an opportunity to join the throng trying to get into the showers, Mr. Wiesel collapses on a snowbank in weakness and exhaustion. Elie screams at his father to get up and keep trying but too much has happened to Mr.Wiesel. In delirium, he responds that Elie must allow the corpses to sleep and not awaken them with shouting.
Their personal agony is interrupted by the sound of the air raid warning. Elie runs for cover in the barracks--foregoing the crush to get into the showers--discovering in the morning that his father has not followed him into the barrack. He feels horror at himself for not insuring his father's safety. He goes looking for him. After hours of searching, he finds him and sees that Mr. Wiesel has deteriorated significantly since the scene on the corpse snowbank. This deterioration ushers in a more rapid decline. He sometimes cannot recognize Elie. Then, to add cruelty to pitiless fate, Mr. Wiesel develops dysentery.
"He is very sick."
"The doctor won't do anything for him."
He looked me straight in the eye. "The doctor cannot do anything more for him ...."
On the night of January 28th in 1945, Elie goes to his bunk in exhaustion with his father still alive and still in the bunk below him.
I had to go to sleep. I climbed into my bunk, above my father, who was still alive. The date was January 28, 1945 ....
In the morning, another inmate is in Mr. Wiesel's bunk. Mr. Wiesel had been taken in the night--whether dead or still alive--to the crematorium. Elie felt no tears, only relief "deep inside":
if I could have searched the recesses of my feeble conscience, I might have found something like: Free at last!
This is how Mr. Wiesel dies: surrounded by his son's desperation shrouded in guilt; exhausted and worn beyond endurance; suffering dysentery and the thirst of it, with no help at hand; in the night, amidst the rock-hard slumber of those near dead; perhaps in a pathetic bunk, perhaps in the crematorium.
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