Initially, Elie and his father arrive at Birkenau, where they are separated from the female members of their family and pass the first selection. They are stripped of their clothes and given prisoner uniforms before being transported to another area of the concentration camp. In Block 17, Elie and his father enjoy a brief respite before they are transported to another concentration camp, Buna. When Elie and his father arrive at Buna, they immediately notice that it is significantly more empty and desolate than the Birkenau camp. Elie and his father are told that Buna is a relatively good concentration camp, where the Jewish inmates can survive and avoid conflict if they hold their own.
In Buna, Elie and his father are lucky to receive easy jobs working in an electrical warehouse. Elie ends up working alongside a musician named Juliek and makes friends with two inmates named Yossi and Tibi. In the warehouse, Elie and his father count bolts, bulbs, and various small electrical parts. Although the work is relatively easy and mundane, Elie and the Jewish prisoners go out of their way to avoid Idek, the violent Kapo in charge of the warehouse. Unfortunately, Elie incites Idek's wrath and is severely beaten. While at Buna, Elie loses his faith and passes the second selection before the camp is evacuated and the prisoners are moved to Buchenwald.