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Night | Section 6 | Summary

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Summary

The prisoners run for miles through the snow dressed in layers of clothing. Those who fall behind are shot like "[a] filthy dog." Eliezer describes himself and the others as automatons. Eliezer tries to encourage the young man next to him, Zalman, but Zalman falls and is crushed by the others. In excruciating pain from his injured foot, Eliezer dreams of and is fascinated by death but is inspired to keep on because of his father's presence.

After 42 miles, they get to take a break at an abandoned village. Eliezer and his father agree to take turns sleeping. They know too much sleep will mean death. When Eliezer wakes his father, he says, "Then he smiled. I shall always remember that smile. What world did it come from?" A man beloved and respected by everyone, Rabbi Eliahu, comes by, looking for his son. They have endured three years together and now are separated. Realizing that the son deliberately parted from his father when he saw him slowing down, Eliezer prays to a "God in whom I no longer believed" that he would never abandon his own father.

The men arrive at their destination, Gleiwitz. As a mass of prisoners pile into a barrack, Juliek, whom Eliezer knows, is nearly crushed. Juliek has his violin with him and is worried that it will be broken. Later that night, Juliek plays his violin. "Never before had I heard such a beautiful sound," says Eliezer of Juliek's concert. When Eliezer awakens the next morning, he sees Juliek dead with his violin next to him.

They stay in Gleiwitz for three days without food or drink. The men are kept in the barracks and can hear cannon blasts; they are moved again after a selection. Eliezer's father is selected for extermination, but Eliezer creates a distraction and is able to bring his father to the side of those considered healthy enough to be allowed to continue on. After marching out of the camp, the men are given a ration of bread and start eating snow off each other as a way to quench their thirst. Eventually, the men are loaded onto an open cattle car for transport.

Analysis

The death march is brutal. Traveling under wintry conditions would be difficult for healthy people in good shape. The prisoners, of course, are malnourished, improperly dressed, and sleep-deprived. Eliezer is no longer a person but simply a body. He repeats to himself, "Don't think, don't stop, run!" His body has been abused beyond any reasonable measure, yet he has the will to survive the march.

The death march becomes a race for life. Eliezer says the men were "the masters of nature ... We had transcended everything—death, fatigue, our natural needs." They seem to be inspired by the others around them to continue on. It is only when they stop moving that they falter. Zalman gives up, falls down, and is trampled—movement means life. While Eliezer is running, he dreams of death and the peace it can bring. However, he is more concerned and fearful regarding death when taking a break at the abandoned village.

Eliezer is inspired to continue running for his father's sake; he does not want his father to see him die. He keeps his father from sleeping too much so he won't freeze to death and tries to wake up another sleepy inmate, following advice he was given on his first night that working together is the key to survival. Not everyone heeds this advice. After three years of suffering together, Rabbi Eliahu's son seems to have decided to leave his father behind. While saddened over this decision, Eliezer understands. He turns to God and prays, "Master of the Universe, give me the strength never to do what Rabbi Eliahu's son has done."

The power of music has kept Juliek alive. He adds to his burden by carrying his violin while running. When he somehow manages to free himself from the human mass that has formed on top of him, he plays his violin. The image of him playing beautifully in the cold dark night for the mass of half-dead men is haunting. Readers see a similar resilience in the smile that Eliezer's father has when he is woken by his son.

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