Elie Wiesel and his father are separated from his mother and sisters at Birkenau. Elie and his father see little children burned alive. They can only imagine what has happened to their family. Elie realizes that he will never forget the horrors of seeing little children burned alive. Elie's father undergoes physical abuse at Birkenau. Then Elie and his father are marched to Auschwitz.
At Auschwitz, Elie and his father are tattoed. They now have a number tattooed on their wrists. This number replaces their names:
Later the men are tattooed and Eliezer becomes A-7713; he has been stripped even of his name
They are becoming less and less human. Elie and his father are at Auschwitz three weeks. Then they are marched to Buna, another camp.
At Buna, Elie is beaten for no apparent reason. He undergoes abuse that leaves him upset at his father:
Idek, the Kapo, beats Eliezer for no apparent reason. A French girl wipes his bloodstained forehead and says a few comforting words. On another day, Idek beats Eliezer's father with an iron bar, and instead of feeling anger towards Idek, Eliezer feels anger towards his father for not knowing how to avoid Idek's blows.
Buna is considered the musicians' block. Elie creates a friendship with some musicians. They talk of traveling to Palestine when the war is over.
At Buna, Elie loses his golden crown. Such treatment leaves Elie wondering how low he can sink. At Buna, a child is hung. The prisoners are weeping, asking where is God:
The child dies a slow, agonizing and silent death as the men weep. Someone in the crowd asks where God is, and Eliezer hears a voice inside him reply that God is on the gallows.
Elie and his father escape the death selection. In the winter, Elie has surgery on his foot. While Elie recovers, the prisoners are evacuated to another camp. This time the location is Gleiwitz.
While marching to Gleiwitz, Elie has his foot wrapped in a blanket. It is snowing and freezing cold. He cannot wear a shoe so he marches with his foot covered in a blanket.
At Gleiwitz, men are dying while a man plays the violin:
The men arrive at Gleiwitz, trampling each other on the way into the barracks. As Eliezer lies on a pile of men, he realizes that Juliek is playing his violin, giving a concert to dead and dying men. When he wakes up, he sees Juliek's corpse and his smashed violin beside him.
Later on, on the train to Buchenwald, Elie's father will not wake up. Elie slaps him to wake him. Also, Elie witnesses a son fight his father to the death over a piece of bread. The prisoners are reduced to acting like animals. Only food is important.
At Buchenwald, Elie's father announces that he is ready to die. Elie's father does die. His last word is his son's name:
Eliezer's father's last word is his name; the next day, he is gone. Eliezer has no more tears to weep, and in his weakened conscience he feels freedom.
At Buchenwald, Elie is rescued by American tanks. He lives to tell his horrific story.