Why was it ironic they recited Kaddish, the prayer for the dead?Chapter 3, in concentration camp

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 3 of the novel Nightby Elie Wiesel, we find the narrator walking through the path of cremation closely followed by his father. At this point the reality has sunk in: They are witnessing children being burned alive, as well as babies. This is a horrific moment that even brings Wiesel's father to tears.

It is at this precise time when Wiesel considers throwing himself at the barbed wire, since it would electrocute him faster and less painfully than the roasting fire. Since the men truly feel that they are about to be burned alive, some begin to sing the Jewish song of death, the Kaddish.

The irony of using the Kaddish: First, the Kaddish is sung by the mourner for the dead. In other cases, it is a song a strictly to be employed by the Rabbi.In this case, the men are singing the song on their own behalf. This means that they are either seeing themselves already as dead men walking, or that they feel as if the only mercy on them will come from their own hearts.

Either way, Ellie does not say the Kaddish. At this point, he stops believing in God. He has decided that God has left him at their own mercy. He does not feel it is fair to as mercy from Him.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Jews from Sighet remained oblivious to what was going to happen to them after they were evicted from their homes. They were confident that they were only being taken to labor camps in Hungary. However, as their journey progressed, they realized that they would not be staying in Hungary. At Kaschau, they were handed over to the German army, and the reality of their situation slowly dawned on them.

On arrival at Auschwitz, they came face to face with the horrors of the holocaust. The Jews from Sighet witnessed the deaths of their relatives in the crematories. During the first selection, the women were separated from the men. The group of men was subjected to further selection with those considered too young or too old designated for the crematory.

As they approached the crematory, someone began to recite the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. The event was ironic because the prayer had always been recited by the living for the dead but due to the prevailing circumstances, the people recited it for themselves.