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Night | Section 4 | Summary

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Summary

Upon arrival, the men are showered, given new clothes, and sent to one of two tents while waiting for their work assignments. During roll call, the men try to find people they know to ask which work assignment is the best. They are told Buna is a good camp and to avoid the construction unit. Their tent leader is a fat German, and his assistant offers to get Eliezer into a good unit if he gives up his shoes. Eliezer refuses but loses his shoes later on anyway. During the medical examination, the dentist notices Eliezer has a gold crown. He wants to pull out the crown, but Eliezer says he is not feeling well. The dentist is eventually sentenced to hanging for stealing gold teeth.

Eliezer is chosen for the orchestra block; the musicians work in a warehouse of electrical materials. He becomes friendly with some of the musicians, including Juliek. The work is not especially hard, but Idek the Kapo has occasional fits of madness. Franek is the foreman, and he arranges to have Eliezer's father work next to Eliezer. At the same time, Eliezer befriends a set of brothers, Yossi and Tibi, and the three of them talk of Palestine and dream of moving there after the war. Another inmate predicts redemption is coming in a few weeks. One day, Eliezer crosses Idek's path at a time when the kapo is angry. He severely beats Eliezer and then sends him back to work as if nothing has occurred. A French girl who works next to Eliezer and hides her Jewishness offers him some comfort. Eliezer reports seeing her after the war, when she admits she is Jewish. Another time, Idek takes his anger out on Eliezer's father. Eliezer is angry at his father for failing to avoid Idek.

Franek notices Eliezer's gold crown and demands to have it, but Eliezer, after consulting with his father, refuses. As punishment, Franek beats Eliezer's father because he could not march in step. Eliezer tries to give his father lessons, but it does not go well. Eventually, Eliezer gives in and his tooth is pulled. Eliezer accidentally sees Idek having sex, and in retaliation, Idek has Eliezer severely whipped. Ultimately, Idek and Franek are transferred.

Eliezer and the others are being slowly starved, so food becomes the only thing anyone thinks about. Eliezer says, "the bread, the soup—those were my entire life. I was nothing but a body." In the camp, bread is the most valuable item as people are desperate for food. Bread is used as a tool in bartering. When the Allies bomb Buna, two cauldrons of soup are left unattended, and a man risks his life to sneak to the kitchen. Eliezer and the others see the man who eventually reaches the kitchen; as he is about to eat the soup, the man is shot.

Eliezer notes that the prisoners at Buna are forced to watch many public hangings, and he describes two of them. Eliezer feels sympathy for the first victim, yet his only response is "I remember that on that evening, the soup tasted better than ever." However, the second hanging that happens later involves Young Pipel, a sweet-faced boy who was helping the resistance, and the men question, "Where is God?" Eliezer has an answer for the man: "This is where—hanging here from this gallows." That day the soup tastes of corpses.

Analysis

Hunger causes the men to lose their sense of decency. The Nazis conduct public hangings and force the men to watch, but they do not particularly care. During one of the hangings, Eliezer's friend Juliek whispers, "This ceremony, will it be over soon? I'm hungry."

The second hanging is of Young Pipel, who does not die instantly. Despite all that the inmates have seen, the hanging of the child upsets them. But to Eliezer, the God he once prayed to with all his heart and being is dead. The soup that tastes like corpses is a reminder of the death of his faith.

The incidents that Eliezer portrays in this segment seem unrelated. The reader does not receive a strong sense of his day-to-day activities or how the incidents are related. The disjointed narrative adds to the sense that Eliezer is just a body trying to get by. In his quest to survive, Eliezer continues to lose his sense of humanity. His father is beaten by Idek for no reason. While this is occurring, Eliezer is angry at his father for his inability at avoiding Idek's wrath. Eliezer does, however, look out for his father when he tries to help him learn how to march. He hopes he will always have the strength and decency to care about his father.

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