How were the Jews stripped away from their families in Night by Elie Wiesel?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Elie's case, his family is separated at Birkenau, the reception center to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. As soon as the Jews from Sighet disembark the train they are divided by gender with the women and girls going to the left and men and boys to the right. Elie comments that he was parting from his mother and youngest sister "forever." They probably perished in the crematory that same night. At this point Elie and his father are still together, much to Elie's comfort, but at every step throughout the book they are in danger of being separated. In fact, the two are lucky to survive the initial "selection" (being selected meant certain death) since Elie is only fifteen at the time and his father fifty. They receive some important advice from an unknown man who tells them to alter their ages when they come before Dr. Mengele. Several times in the book, Elie is close to losing his father to a selection, yet the two are able to stay together almost until the end of the war. Unfortunately, Elie's father dies from dysentery at Buchenwald, only a short time before that camp was liberated.

Jews may also have been separated at the time of deportation as was the case of Stein, Elie's relative from Antwerp. Stein reports that he was deported by the Nazis in 1942 but his wife and children stayed behind in Belgium. To calm the man, Elie lies about his mother having received news from Antwerp that Stein's wife and children were doing fine. In reality, it is almost certain that they perished in a concentration camp in the same manner as Elie's mother and sister. Luckily for Elie, his two oldest sisters did survive the war and they were eventually reunited in a French orphanage.