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Elie Wiesel

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Night | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Night, Section 4 why does Eliezer blame the victim—his father—for the beating, and not the oppressor, Idek the Kapo?

Eliezer is aware that Idek periodically lashes out unprovoked; Eliezer himself has been subject to one such outburst, and now it is his father's turn to be the victim of Idek's wrath. On an intellectual level, Eliezer knows the beating is not his father's fault, but his anger at his father is practical. Eliezer also knows that he and his father help keep each other alive. It is imperative for his father to behave in a way that will not endanger him. Possibly, it also allows him a measure of control: he can talk to his father and reproach him, whereas he has no control over the kapo's actions.

Why does Eliezer refer to his father as his weak spot in Night, Section 4?

Eliezer realizes that because his oppressors can see how the father and son openly care for each other, they can torment his father in order to make Eliezer cooperate. When Franek wants Eliezer's gold crown, the foreman instead beats Eleizer's father for his failure to march in step. Eliezer frantically gives his father marching lessons, but to no avail. Seeing his father mistreated to teach the son a lesson makes Eliezer feel guilty. How can Eliezer let his father be mistreated over a crown? Eventually, the kapo's methods work, and Eliezer cooperates. The sight of his father being beaten is too much to bear.

In Night, Section 4 why do some of the worst punishments dealt to the inmates come from their fellow prisoners?

Some of the worst punishments in Section 4 come from Idek and Franek, fellow prisoners who come from Poland. Idek is a kapo and Franek is Eliezer's foreman at the warehouse. Kapos periodically abused their power and could be just as cruel to the fellow prisoners as the Nazis. Like Idek, Franek identifies more with his captors than with his fellow prisoners out of self-preservation. Both men need to uphold their roles to satisfy the Nazis. In addition, they can abuse their power to gain favors, as Franek does when he gets Eliezer to agree to give him his gold crown.

In Night, Section 4 why doesn't Eliezer fear for his life when Buna is bombed by the Allies?

When the camp is bombed by the Allies, the prisoners have credible hope that the Nazis might eventually be defeated. Eliezer is happy at the knowledge that the target is the Buna factory where he works, and says if a bomb had fallen on the blocks it would have killed hundreds of prisoners. Yet he does not fear death; the bombs merely fill him with confidence. He describes all the prisoners breathing in the smoky air with their eyes shining with hope. Even the knowledge that one unexploded bomb landing in the middle of the camp does not dampen their joy.

What does it say about Eliezer and Juliek that they are more concerned about soup than the hanging of a boy in Night, Section 4?

Being surrounded by death works to cheapen the experience of life. The inmates cannot get overly sympathetic or saddened by a hanging or they would not be able to survive themselves. The immediate issue is they are being starved, and they want to eat. Eliezer emphasizes this fact by mentioning the soup distribution immediately after introducing the topic of the gallows. He says that while the deaths of thousands in the crematoria no longer trouble him, "This boy ... upset me deeply." However, later on he says, "the soup tasted better than ever." Juliek simply wants the ceremony to be over soon so he can eat.

In Night, Section 4 how does the hanging of Young Pipel symbolize Eliezer's loss of faith?

Eliezer cannot suppress his feelings when he sees the hanging of Young Pipel. He describes him as having "the face of an angel in distress" and notes he is beloved by all. Young Pipel is hanged for not giving up information—despite being tortured—regarding his participation in sabotage. He does not die immediately and lingers on because he is so light; his body weight does not drag him down for a quick death. As Young Pipel is slowly dying, one prisoner asks, "Where is God?" When the man asks it a second time, Eliezer responds to himself that God is "hanging here from this gallows." This hanging convinces him that God is dead.

How do the Jewish holidays intensify Eliezer's struggle with his faith in Night, Section 5?

Eliezer's anger and frustration with God is growing, and the Jewish holidays intensify his struggle. On the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, when God judges the people, Eliezer decides it is God who should be judged. He says, "I was the accuser, God the accused." Then when the holiday of Yom Kippur arrives—the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, when Jews are commanded to fast—Eliezer decides he is going to eat what little food he has. He still, however, cares enough about God to want to make a symbolic rebellion or protest against Him, even though he describes the "great void" that opens inside him when he nibbles on his bread.

In Night, Section 5 how does the selection process for working in the camps contribute to the dehumanization of the Jews?

For the selection process, the prisoners go before Dr. Mengele who judges if they are healthy enough to continue working. During the selection, the men are nude so their bodies can be closely examined. This harrowing process even makes the Blockälteste (prison block leader) concerned, and he has been in concentration camps since 1933; his voice quivers as he advises the men to run to show their strength. As Eliezer runs before Mengele, all he can think of is the fact that he will be deemed too skinny and weak, good for nothing but "the ovens." In the eyes of his captors, he is nothing but a body either capable or incapable of work.

How does Eliezer's inheritance of the spoon and knife in Night, Section 5 foreshadow his fate?

When Eliezer's father is called to undergo another selection, the situation looks bleak. He and Eliezer have a moment to speak together. Eliezer tries to encourage his father, but Shlomo is more concerned about practical matters. He gives Eliezer a spoon and knife he has been hiding; Eliezer bitterly refers to the cutlery as his inheritance. After receiving these items, Eliezer feels as if he is sleepwalking; he describes himself as an orphan. At the end of the day, he learns that his father has passed the second selection, but the scene foreshadows the fact that his father will, in fact, die at the camp, leaving Eliezer orphaned.

Why do the men forget to say Kaddish for Akiba Drumer in Night, Section 5?

Akiba Drumer has been a beacon of faith to the men long after many other men, including Eliezer, have lost their faith or succumbed to doubt. When Akiba Drumer does not pass selection and is sent to the crematorium, he asks the men to say Kaddish for him. This is a prayer mourners say for a full year after the deceased has died. The men agree to do so but forget to fulfill the once-sacred responsibility after three days. Eliezer says they forget simply because the work is crushing and the food is minimal; the rituals that once gave meaning to their lives have given way to the demands of survival.

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