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Night | Plot Summary

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Summary

Set in Europe during World War II, Night focuses primarily on Elie Wiesel's experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. The memoir begins in 1941 as World War II is raging. Yet Eliezer and his family (his parents and three sisters) live contently in Sighet, Transylvania, which was originally a region of Romania before becoming part of Hungary. Eliezer is a religious Jew dedicated to his studies. He begins studying Kabbalah with his new teacher, Moshe the Beadle (who is very poor), despite his father's warning that he is not ready to do so. Shortly after Eliezer begins studying with Moshe, the teacher and all the foreign Jews are taken from Sighet in a cattle car, and those who remain cry for them.

Soon after Moshe the Beadle and the others are taken away, things go back to normal. One day, Eliezer finds Moshe the Beadle has returned. He tries telling the Jews of Sighet about the horrors he has experienced due to the Nazis and warns them to get out. They listen but are convinced he has gone mad. So they continue to go on as usual, thinking the war will end before it spreads to them. They are wrong, and the Nazis arrive in Sighet in spring 1944. In short order, the Jews of Sighet face increasing levels of persecution as they are moved into a ghetto, and then transported to Auschwitz. The transport is brutal—the people are overcrowded, hungry, and thirsty. By the time they reach Birkenau (Auschwitz's extermination camp, which included a processing center for new arrivals), the passengers are happy to arrive because they are certain it cannot be worse than the train they have been traveling on.

Women and children are sent one way, and men are sent another way. This is the last Eliezer sees of his mother and little sister. Eliezer experiences the horror of seeing babies being used for target practice and smelling burning human flesh. He and the others are told about the crematorium. Eliezer and his father go before Dr. Mengele, one of the Nazi physicians who decides if prisoners will work or die. When they are sent to what they believe is the crematorium, Eliezer is angry at God. Instead, after being stripped, shaved, bathed, and redressed, they are taken from Birkenau to the main Auschwitz camp and then eventually to Buna, a work camp.

The work conditions at Buna are horrific. The men are underfed, beaten, insufficiently clothed, and forced to undergo selections whose purpose is to weed out those who are unable to work. Eliezer is beaten after seeing a kapo having sex and laughing about it. His father is beaten as a way to get Eliezer to give up the gold crown in his tooth. There are public displays of hangings. Eliezer's hunger is so intense, all he can think about is eating. However, he and the others are moved when the victim is the beloved Pipel, a young boy with an angelic face. When the Jewish holidays come around, Eliezer is uninterested in prayer and questions God.

During the winter, Eliezer has to have surgery on his foot. While Eliezer is in the infirmary recuperating, the Germans abandon the camp as the Russians advance. Eliezer and his father, along with the other prisoners, go on a death march. They are forced to run for miles. If the men cannot keep up, they are shot or left for dead. Many die along the way, and it becomes every man for himself.

A few days after reaching the next camp, the men are transported via cattle car to Buchenwald. There is no food, and the cattle car is roofless, leaving the men freezing. Eliezer's car starts off with 100 people but only 12 make it out, including Eliezer and his father. By the time they reach Buchenwald, Eliezer's father is near death. Eliezer tries to help his father, even though doing so hurts his own chances for survival. The other men in the barracks take his father's food and beat him.

Eliezer's father ultimately dies from dysentery, a disease that causes severe diarrhea and blood loss, on January 28, 1945. Eliezer's father is removed from the camp, and Eliezer finds out about his death when he sees another man in his father's bunk. Eliezer is devastated. The camp is liberated on April 11, 1945. Shortly after the war, Eliezer looks into a mirror and does not recognize the person he has become.

Night Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction

Introduction

1 Eliezer and Sighet's Jews see foreign Jews transported.

Rising Action

2 Moshe the Beadle escapes and returns to tell of horrors.

3 No one believes Moshe the Beadle.

4 The Fascists take over Hungary and soon appear in Sighet.

5 Sighet's Jews loaded on cattle cars bound for Auschwitz.

6 Eliezer and his dad and separated from mom and sister.

7 Eliezer exposed to hell on Earth in concentration camp.

8 Eliezer and Buna prisoners forced on death march.

Climax

9 Prisoners arrive in Buchenwald.

Falling Action

10 Eliezer's father dies from dysentery.

11 Buchenwald, where Eliezer is imprisoned, is liberated.

Resolution

12 Eliezer is haunted by vision in mirror.

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