What happens to Elie's father during the selection?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, a selection of the prisoners was announced. At the time, Eliezer and his father were held in the Buna concentration camp. They initially worked in the same Kommando but later got separated. The inmates were asked not to leave their blocks, and word went round that they were going for selection. Eliezer worried about his father’s ability to pass the selection because of his advanced age.

The time came for selection and the prisoners were asked to run past the panel that included Dr. Mengele, who was present during the first selection in Birkenau. Eliezer ran after Tibi and Yossi, the two, informed him that his number was not noted down. Eliezer later met with his father, who also passed the selection. However, days later, they realized that some prisoners were to be selected again, and Eliezer’s father was among them. Fortunately, Eliezer’s father made it through the second selection.

After leaving Buna, the prisoners were again selected in Gleiwitz. It was there that Eliezer’s father narrowly escaped death after some confusion during selection. The SS were conducting the selection, and those who appeared weak were waved to the left while inmates who looked strong were waved to the right. Eliezer’s father was waved to the left. Eliezer followed his father, and the SS went after him, creating some confusion that provided some of the prisoners with an opportunity to switch sides. Eliezer’s father was among those who safely switched sides. Once again both father and son survived the selection.

jmadonna1 | Student

In Elie Wiesel's Night, Eliezer and his father endure two selections. The first is the separation of the men from the women, after which Elie notes that he never again saw his mother and sister. 

After this selection, the two stand before Dr. Mengele, though they are unaware of this fact at the time. During this second selection process, an inmate approaches Eliezer and his father, asking for their ages. The prisoner angrily accosts them for answering truthfully, and encourages Eliezer to respond that he is 18, and for the father to respond that he is 40, so as to ensure their survival.