In Night by Elie Wiesel, how do prisoners in the concentration camps treat one another?

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Like any combination of humans anywhere, the way the prisoners treat each other varies depending on circumstance and personal values.

Generally speaking, the prisoners try to look out for each other. When facing an inspection, Elie receives helpful tips for how to look his "best." Later, he suffers a tough...

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Like any combination of humans anywhere, the way the prisoners treat each other varies depending on circumstance and personal values.

Generally speaking, the prisoners try to look out for each other. When facing an inspection, Elie receives helpful tips for how to look his "best." Later, he suffers a tough beating from Idek and crawls away in misery. When all hope seems lost, a girl who passes for Aryan wipes blood from his face and offers him a bit of bread. This is a great risk for her personally; she has thus far escaped detection as a Jewish inmate, and even Elie thinks she speaks no German. However, when she sees his suffering, the French girl is compelled to comfort and encourage Elie, who has worked beside her for quite some time. The girl looks straight into Elie's eyes and says,

Brother ... Don't cry. Keep your anger, your hate, for another day, for later. The day will come but not now ... Wait.

Moments such as this one unite the prisoners and help them face the unending difficulties each day.

However, long periods of physical abuse and starvation have their eventual effects on even the best of people. Near the end of the book, the group is evacuated from Buna. Anyone who stops is shot, and when they finally get a chance to rest after running all night, everyone is exhausted. Rabbi Eliahou stops by Elie's spot to ask Elie if he has seen the rabbi's son. Elie says that he hasn't, but he actually watched the rabbi's son run off without him earlier that night, trying to save himself and unwilling to bear the risk of running with his weaker father. When the group arrives at Gleiwitz, they are so exhausted that they crowd into the barracks with such a force that Elie is thrown to the ground and nearly killed.

The story is overall focused on human strength and resiliency, yet there are also moments of human weakness in characters because of the extreme abuse the prisoners suffer.

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Elie Wiesel describes moments when the Jewish prisoners exercise humanity and sympathy towards each other while in other scenes he illustrates how violent and callous the prisoners can act towards one another. There are several moments when random prisoners offer their help to Elie and his father in times of need. While standing in line for the selection process, a random prisoner advises Elie to say that he is eighteen and tells his father to say that he is forty in order to increase their chances of passing the selection. Elie is also advised to not show too much strength in order to avoid working difficult, arduous jobs in the concentration camps. After Elie suffers a severe beating from Idek, a female French prisoner comforts him and offers him words of encouragement.

Elie also depicts how some of the Jewish prisoners treat each other inhumanly during their time spend in the prison camps. The Jewish kapos violently beat the Jewish prisoners when they first arrive at Buna. When Elie's father becomes extremely ill and suffers from dysentery, the nearby Jewish prisoners begin to beat him for continually relieving himself. Experienced Jewish prisoners also encourage Elie to save his rations and allow his father to die in order to survive. Elie also witnesses Rabbi Eliahu's son purposely leave his father behind during an arduous march in the middle of the night and also witnesses a son beat his father to death over a piece of bread while they are riding in a cattle car.

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In Elie Wiesel's Night, Elie, along with tens of thousands of unnamed prisoners, endure terrible conditions at the concentration camps. Life there is the ultimate struggle for survival. One’s humanity is challenged at every turn. Throughout the memoir, Elie experiences extreme kindness and extreme cruelty at the hands of other prisoners.   

The goal of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic policies was to dehumanize and then destroy the Jewish people. In the concentration camps, the Jews were treated worse than animals. This type of treatment caused some prisoners to give up their humanity in order to raise their own chances of survival. On his very first night at Auschwitz, Elie is subjected to a fierce beating by other inmates. “Dozens of inmates,” Wiesel writes, “were there to receive us, sticks in hand, striking anywhere, anyone, without reason.” Though not specifically stated, one can assume that these men are kapos, prisoners that the Nazis chose to keep other prisoners under control. Though they are also Jewish, the few benefits given to kapos are enough to make them turn on their fellow Jews.

Yet even on his first night at Auschwitz, Elie finds a reason to hope. At the bunkhouse, a seasoned prisoner greets the new arrivals. “Don’t lose hope,” the man tells the group, giving them advice on how to keep themselves alive. Wiesel goes on to write that “those were the first human words” he had heard since arriving at the camp.

A gleaming moment of humanity happens after Idek, a sadistic kapo, attacks Elie. A French girl Elie knows from the warehouse wipes the blood from his face and feeds him a bit of bread. Elie is so moved by her generosity that when the two meet by chance years after the war, he still remembers her, and is compelled to give her his thanks.

 

 

 

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