Eliezer, like the other prisoners, experiences the shock of being thrust into the savagery of Auschwitz, and the principal change within him is the questioning of his religious faith. He hears men reciting Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, but asks himself,
I don't know whether, during the history of the Jewish people, men have ever before recited Kaddish for themselves.
The opening line of the prayer is "May his name be celebrated and sanctified." Eliezer, having just seen babies thrown into the crematorium, questions why men should so honor God, in light of the atrocities he is now witnessing.
The fact that the opening chapter of Night focuses on Eliezer's religious education shows how important Judaism was in the young boy's life. Even before the arrival at Auschwitz, his sense of God begins to be shaken, but he is simultaneously prescient enough to see the events as a kind of reenactment of Jewish history, of the centuries of persecution. As the Jews are being exiled from Sighet, the...
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