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Once Elie, his father, and the other Jewish prisoners arrive at Birkenau, the men and woman are separated into two lines: this is the last time Elie sees his mother and sister. After watching his mother and Tzipora fall into another line, Elie grips his father's hand tight and can...

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Once Elie, his father, and the other Jewish prisoners arrive at Birkenau, the men and woman are separated into two lines: this is the last time Elie sees his mother and sister. After watching his mother and Tzipora fall into another line, Elie grips his father's hand tight and can only think of not losing him. While they are standing in line, an SS officer instructs them to form ranks of five and a random inmate asks Elie his age. Elie responds by telling the inmate that he is fifteen years old. The inmate then instructs Elie to say that he is eighteen when he gets to the front of the line. The inmate then asks Elie's father the same question, and he responds by saying that he is fifty years old. The inmate also instructs Elie's father to lie about his age by saying that he is forty. Both Elie and his father are confused by the inmate's instructions, and he angrily tells them,

Not fifty. You're forty. Do you hear? Eighteen and forty. (Wiesel, 55)

Elie and his father do not realize that they are about to experience the selection process and lying about their age gives them a better chance at survival. The advice from the wise inmate is valuable and allows Elie and his father to easily pass the first selection. As time passes, Elie and his father learn other simple tricks that help them survive the hostile environment of the Nazi concentration camps.

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