Before Elie and his father become prisoners, they do not spend much time around each other. Elie is focused on his religious studies and spends most of his time in the synagogue while his father attends community matters. However, once they become prisoners and enter the concentration camps, Elie and his father become inseparable. Their relationship improves, and the two essentially live for one another. Initially, Elie's father takes care of him, and Elie follows his lead. Elie's father gives him valuable advice, shares food, and even gives Elie his utensils before entering the second selection. Fortunately, Elie and father get to work next to each other in Buna, and they both benefit from their relationship. Elie even attempts to teach his father how to march properly in order to avoid beatings. Unfortunately, Elie's father becomes extremely ill, and Elie is forced to provide for him. Even though Elie briefly thinks about abandoning his father, he does not, and he continues to fight for his father's survival. After Elie's father dies, he becomes deeply depressed and feels like life is not worth living anymore.
In the beginning of Weisel's story, he has almost no relationship with his father. His father is a busy community leader and his duties leave little time for interaction with his son. Elie laments this lack of connection in his earlier years, and some bitterness in his father's alienation is present as well. As early as page 2, he recalls that his father was : "more concerned with others than with his own family."
However, the horrors of the Camps make the pair value their relationship. As the terrors they endure esclate, Elie has "one thought - not to lose [his father]." When the father and son experience the New Year, the relationship has completely transformed, from one of alienation, to one of protection, to one of closeness. The author says, as the two contemplate their future (or possible lack of future) that they had "never understood one another so clearly."
Their time in the concentration camps brought them closer and helped them build a relationship despite the circumstances. Prior to their imprisonment, Eliezer’s time was split between school and religious studies; on the other hand, his father’s time was dedicated to the community and other leadership responsibilities. Thus, father and son did not spend enough time together, making their relationship somewhat distant.
Eliezer and his father are inseparable throughout the different camps and are each afraid of losing the other. The situation at the camps forces them to live for each other, and they believe their bond provided the best opportunity for survival. The two even make decisions together; for instance, during the evacuation from Buna. Although there are times that Eliezer feels that having his father around is a burden, he does not act on these feelings. He fights for his father until the end.
Eliezer and his father have stuck together in the camp , and stayed strong for each other throughout most of their ordeal. This is in contrast to their relationship before their imprisonment. Eliezer was aware of his father's concern for others before his own family, and he greatly resented it.
But the time of crisis brings the father and son together for a time, at one point only holding themselves together for the sake of the other. Yet, when his father contracts dysentery, Eliezer begins to resent having to take care of his father. He begins to think of him as a burden, and for a time, considers taking his rations. When they take his father to the crematorium, still breathing, Eliezer only stands and watches , without emotion.