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A few days prior to this, the camp went through a selection process. Certain names were written down. Those whose names were written down were presumably to be sent to death. Elie's father noted that he passed. But a few days later, he learned that Dr. Mengele had written his name down. Fearing that he might be sent away or to his death, Elie's father gave him the knife and spoon because he wouldn't be needing them anymore. It was also a genuine and sad gesture as this was all he had to give his son at this tragic moment.
"Look, take this knife," he said to me." I don't need it any longer. It might be useful to you. And take this spoon as well. Don't sell them. Quickly! Go on. Take what I'm giving you!"
That day, his father stayed at camp with the others who had been selected. Elie was treated well by everyone. They sympathized with him thinking that his father would be sent to death. Being treated kindly, Elie thought, "even now, my father is still helping me." When the workday was over, Elie ran to Block 36 to find his father still alive and gave him back the knife and spoon.
Night is an autobiographical account of a Hungarian Jew's experience in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Nazi concentration camps. Jews in these camps were used as forced labor and were also subjects for ghastly medical experiments; after they were no longer considered useful, they were exterminated in gas chambers.
In this situation, the inmates of the camps had almost no possessions at all and the few they did have were extremely precious. Thus to Elie and his father, a knife and spoon represented something quite precious, a remaining shred of their human dignity and lives as ordinary people.
The Nazis went through a regular process where they selected certain inmates to be killed every few days. Elie's father hears that his name has been written on a list, and presuming that he will be executed, gives his few remaining possessions, the knife and spoon, to Elie as an inheritance.
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