Night Questions and Answers
by Elie Wiesel

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What "compulsory formality" was at all camp entrances in Chapter 3 of "Night"?

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Tim Mbiti eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The prisoners were subjected to a compulsory shower on arrival at the different camps. At Auschwitz, the prisoners were shaved, bathed in a foul smelling liquid followed by a hot shower. The prisoners were asked to dispose of their clothes and were given prison garb.

At Buna, the prisoners were again subjected to the compulsory showers on arrival. After the shower, they were given new clothes and allowed into the shelters.

At Gleiwitz the prisoners were not subjected to the baths because the Russian front followed them from Buna. The SS officers had no time to follow the normal procedure and safety was their only concern. Elie admitted that he must have been very dirty after the match from Buna going by how the other prisoners looked.

At Buchenwald, a veteran prisoner told the prisoners that they would take a shower and soon after be sent to assigned blocks to rest.

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The "compulsory formality" at the entrance to all the camps were the showers.  Elie, who had been in both Birkenau and Auschwitz in a very short period of time, observed that "even if you were simply passing from one to the other several times a day, you still had to go through the baths every time".

Elie's initial experience with the showers upon entry into Birkenau was much more brutal than that which he endured at Auschwitz.  In Birkenau, after surviving "selection", the newcomers were received by "dozens of prisoners...(with) truncheons in their hands, striking out anywhere, at any one, without reason".  They were ordered to strip, then, shivering with cold, were shorn by barbers in the midst of blows which never ceased to rain down.  They were then forced to run naked to a new barracks, where they were summarily soaked in petrol, which was used as a disinfectant, rushed through a hot shower, then sent into the freezing cold again to another barracks where they were given "trousers, tunic, shirt, and socks".

At Auschwitz, Elie's experience with the baths was comparatively low-key, and he noted, "first impression:  this was better than Birkenau".  The prisoners were seated on the ground before the entrance, and now and then, someone was made to go in the showers.  After being in the hot water, the prisoners waited again, shivering in the night air.  Eventually, they were given new outfits (Chapter 3).

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