When questioned by the S.S., officer, why did Elie lie about his age and occupation

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Eliezer's arrival into Birkenau is a challenging one where right and wrong are not clearly understood.  Simply put, Eliezer does not know what the right thing to do is, what the right line to be in is, and what path can be followed in order for him to be happy or simply to live.  Being grabbed by one of the prisoners and told to lie seemed as good of a course as any.  It is here where Eliezer demonstrates how there was little in way of transcendental guidance in the Holocaust.  There was no overarching notion of truth that can help to provide meaning in a setting where meaning is lacking.  It is for this reason that he lies.  It seems to be as good of a bet that lying would enable him to live.  He doesn't know.  As he sees death and torment around him, it becomes fairly clear that the previously held notions of truth and justice are discarded with the reality of a guide-less setting as being the only elements present.  While Eliezer does not engage in this philosophical inquiry into why he lies, it becomes evident that his embrace of lying is done in the name of survival.  Since he lacks a full understanding about how this is to be accomplished, lying to the Nazi officer seems to be the best path in a setting where Eliezer is unaware of where to go and what to do.

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