Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574
At Buna, Elie is sent to work sorting electrical fixtures. A pair of brothers, Yossi and Tibi, befriends him. They speak of Palestine, where Elie’s father refused to immigrate. Unlike him, they would take the first boat to Haifa if they could.
Elie is moved to the musicians’ block, headed by a German Jew. Life is a little easier for them. Elie is sent to the dentist to have his gold crown removed, but he pleads illness. The dentist lets him go, as long as he promises to return. Elie does so in a week. The dentist is so impressed that he came back of his own accord that he lets him go again. Not long after, the dentist is executed for taking some of the prisoners’ gold teeth for himself.
In the warehouse where he works, Elie is often by a French girl. Because they cannot speak each other’s language, they do not converse. One day one of the guards, Idek, beats Elie for no reason. The French girl wipes the blood away and gives him a piece of bread, speaking German to him. Many years later in Paris, Elie sees a beautiful young woman whom he recognizes as the French girl. He asks her if she were Jewish. She replies that she was, but she passed as an Aryan. The German words she spoke to him that day put her in danger, but she knew Elie wouldn’t give her away.
One day, when the prisoners are loading engines onto trains, Idek the guard begins to beat Elie’s father. Elie merely moves away to avoid being beaten himself. He reflects that this coldness toward the suffering of his own father was a part of what the concentration camp had made of him.
At another time, the foreman Franek demands that Elie give him his gold crown. Elie tells him that he cannot eat without it and refuses. He says he must ask his father’s advice first. Mr. Wiesel tells him that he must not give up his crown. Franek, however, knows how to torture Elie. Mr. Wiesel is not adept at marching, never having served in the military. Franek repeatedly beats him every time he missteps. Elie tries to teach his father to march, but eventually he gives in and lets Franek remove his crown. Later Franek was transferred with the rest of the Poles, so Elie lost his gold crown for nothing.
One Sunday, Elie catches Idek trying to rape a young Polish girl. Idek threatens him if he should tell anyone about it. Later, Idek calls Elie out from roll call, has him lie across a crate, and beats him.
An air raid is sounded on another Sunday. The prisoners hope that the camp is destroyed by the bombing Americans—even if it should mean that they are killed. Only one man is killed, a man who tried to reach the soup cauldron. A week later, one of the prisoners is hanged and displayed before the others. Elie is not bothered by it. However, when a boy servant is hanged with two others who had helped one of the guards stockpile arms, Elie is tormented by the sight of the boy taking a half hour to slowly strangle to death on the gallows. One of the prisoners asks, “Where is God now?” Another answers, “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging on this gallows.”
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