Can you explain the theme and idea of "witness" as seen in chapter 4 of Night and explain which characters are witnesses and how? 

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The theme of "witness" in chapter 4 most readily appears in the scenes where Idek loses his temper and beats the Jewish prisoners. One day while Eliezer is working in the electric warehouse, Idek, who is in a bad mood, brutally beats Eliezer. The rest of the inmates working in the warehouse witness Eliezer's unjust punishment but dare not intervene. However, a French woman sympathizes with Eliezer after she witnesses the savage beating. The French woman then consoles Eliezer by wiping the blood from his face and feeding him a piece of bread.

In another scene, Idek savagely beats Eliezer's father with an iron bar. Eliezer's father doubles over, and Eliezer recalls his emotions as he witnesses his father's punishment. Eliezer says:

"I had watched it all happening without moving. I kept silent. In fact, I thought of stealing away in order not to suffer the blows" (Wiesel, 79).

Eliezer suffers another beating after witnessing Idek have sex with a young Polish girl. Eliezer is forced to lay on his stomach on top of a crate while Idek whips him. The entire Kommando witnesses Eliezer's punishment, which serves as a threat to the prisoners. After the beating, Eliezer mentions that his father was probably suffering more than Elie was; watching his son's punishment was devastating for Shlomo.

Eliezer also recalls a memorable scene in which the entire block of prisoners witnessed a man crawl on the ground in an attempt to steal soup from a massive cauldron. Eliezer says:

"Hundreds of eyes were watching his every move. Hundreds of men were crawling with him, scraping their bodies with his on the stones. All hearts trembled, but mostly with envy" (Wiesel, 84).

Tragically, the prisoner is shot dead by the German officers before he is able to eat the soup.

In conclusion, the Kapos, officers, and prisoners witness the daily violence that goes on in the Buna camp. The prisoners tend to sympathize with one another, while the Kapos and officers remain callous as they watch the brutal punishments.

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karythcara's profile pic

Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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One way the theme of "witnesses" is represented in chapter four is through what we now term solidarity: solidarity is sticking together, as witnesses together, to have added strength.

One of the early things Yossi says to Elie is that they should stick together for strength. The chapter continues on this theme as the Kommandos examine them and they run; as Elie's father gives him his own knife and spoon; as Elie's foot becomes swollen with cold and the doctor in the infirmary decisively declares to Elie, now alone and without strength, it must be removed; and as the Hungarian Jew next to him warns Elie to escape the selection held in the infirmary.

   Tibi and Yossi, who had changed Kommandos at the same time I did, came to urge me:
   "Let's stay together. It will make us stronger."
   Yossi was mumbling something. He was probably praying.

They are themselves witnesses to others' suffering, as Elie witnesses his father's, while others are witnesses to their own suffering, such as the Hungarian Jew and the Doctor witnessing Elie's illness. In contrast, the Kommandos are witnesses of a malevolent kind who witness their suffering but for merciless reasons.

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