Elie, his father, and the others encountered many types of actions in the concentration camps that were calculated to dehumanize, terrorize, and demonstrate the absolute power and authority of the guards and other officials.
The conflict between the wish for continued life and for the escape of death began on the first night at Birkenau. The Jews had no way of knowing if it was better to appear strong and healthy or to seem physically unexceptional. Stripped and shaved, they had no context for making any sense of what had happened or determining any type of plan for the future.
We were incapable of thinking....The instincts of self-preservation, of self-defense, of pride, had all deserted us....seeking redemption, seeking oblivion, without any hope of finding either.
Aside from such inner conflicts, obvious external conflicts were also used, as prisoners fought for food, attempted to preserve any remnants of personal dignity or possession (such as gold fillings), or struggled to maintain sanity in the midst of the madness.