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