In Night by Elie Wiesel, there are some examples of resistance by the prisoners on both a small scale and a large one. One instance occurs when Elie and his father first enter the camp. Another prisoner who has been in Auschwitz for a while advises them to lie about their ages. He asks Elie,
“Here, kid, how old are you?”
It was one of the prisoners who asked me this. I could not see his face, but his voice was tense and weary. “I’m not quite fifteen yet.”
“But I’m not,” I said. “Fifteen.”
“Fool. Listen to what I say.”
Then he questioned my father, who replied: “Fifty.”
The other grew more furious than ever.
“No, not fifty. Forty. Do you understand? Eighteen and forty.”
The man’s objective is to help Elie and his father remain alive. However, instructing them to lie is, in itself, a small form of resistance and could have been dangerous for the man. There are other examples. For instance, Elie writes that when they first arrive at Auschwitz,
I heard murmurs around me.
“We’ve got to do something. We can’t let ourselves be killed. We can’t go like beasts to the slaughter. We’ve got to revolt.”
There were a few sturdy young fellows among us. They had knives on them, and they tried to incite the others to throw themselves on the armed guards. One of the young men cried:
“Let the world learn of the existence of Auschwitz. Let everybody hear about it, while they can still escape. ...”
But the older ones begged their children not to do anything foolish ...
In this particular case, the young men apparently did not attempt to overcome the guards, but the initial urge toward resistance is there. Sometimes, a prisoner disobeying the rules is also a form of resistance. There is one such example in Night when a prisoner approaches an unguarded cauldron of soup because he is hungry. If he were caught, he would probably be shot on the spot. Ironically, in the story Elie tells, the man is killed, although not by a guard.
Near the kitchen, two cauldrons of steaming hot soup had been left, half full. Two cauldrons of soup, right in the middle of the path, with no one guarding them! ... But who would dare?
... Suddenly, we saw the door of Block 37 open imperceptibly. A man appeared, crawling like a worm in the direction of the cauldrons ... This man had dared.
The prisoners were required to witness executions in the camp. In one scene, three people are being hanged. One is a young boy who is beloved by the prisoners.
To hang a young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him.
This time the Lagerkapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS replaced him.
The Lagerkapo was another prisoner who was in charge of other prisoners. He was often expected to do the Nazis’ bidding, even when it meant that other prisoners would be hurt or even killed. In this instance, the Lagerkapo in Elie’s camp could not kill a child, and he refused. For him to refuse an order from the SS was a serious form of resistance. Although Elie does not say what happened to the Lagerkapo, it would not be surprising if the Nazis murdered him, too.
Finally, a significant example of resistance is that of the three people noted above who were being hanged. The Nazis suspect them of having sabotaged the power plant, which is an extremely serious form of resistance.