Section 8 Summary

At the gate of Buchenwald, the SS officers sort the prisoners into groups of five, then into groups of one hundred. Elie holds onto his father’s hand, ever fearful that they would become separated. One of the prisoners tells them that they would have a hot shower and then go to their barracks and bed. Elie encourages his father to hang on, but he does not respond. There is a crowd trying to get into the showers. Mr. Wiesel, growing ever weaker, begs Elie to leave him. He sits down on a snow bank, only to find that it is a pile of frozen corpses. Elie screams at him to get up, that he cannot rest yet. Mr. Wiesel, slowly losing his touch with reality, tells Elie to let the corpses sleep, but Elie shouts that they will never wake.

The sirens begin to wail and there is an air raid alert. Elie goes into the blocks, leaving his father behind. At daybreak, he realizes what he has done. He does not want to be like the sons he has seen who have abandoned their fathers. He goes out to find him, hoping that he will not, so that he can be freed of his burden and concentrate on his own survival. After hours, Elie finds him in line for coffee. He sees that he is fading fast. Over the next several days, Mr. Wiesel often does not recognize Elie. At last, overcome with dysentery, he tells Elie where he hid the gold in the cellar. Elie tries to get a doctor to care for his father, but each physician tells him that his father’s case is hopeless and recommends that he no longer feed him but instead take care of himself. Mr. Wiesel begs for water, but Elie hesitates to give him some because of the dysentery.

When Elie visits his father, Mr. Wiesel tells him that the people around him beat him and steal his bread. Elie decides to act as if he, himself, is an invalid and stays with his father. On January 28, 1945, Elie hears his father call his name from the bunk below. He does not answer. The next morning, Elie looks in his father’s bunk and finds another invalid. Someone took his father in the night and threw him in the crematory, perhaps not yet dead. Elie cannot weep. All he can think is “free at last!”