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Night | Section 7 | Summary

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Summary

Eliezer's father lies next to him in the cattle car, somewhere between life and death. When the train stops, the SS instruct the men to throw out the dead. The men take the clothes off the dead. They try to take Eliezer's father, but Eliezer "hit[s] him harder and harder" and at last his father opens his eyes.

While on the transport, the men are not fed and live on eating snow. During one stop, a German worker throws bread onto the train car. A stampede erupts as the starved men are desperate. Eliezer says, "Beasts of prey unleashed, animal hate in their eyes." Observers throw more bread in as they find the spectacle of the men fighting entertaining. When a piece falls into Eliezer's car, he decides he will not fight for it. A son beats his father for a piece of bread and eventually it is taken from him; both father and son end up dead. Switching to his perspective as an adult, Wiesel relates watching a Parisian woman throw a coin to starving children after the war; the children fight over it with similar ferocity.

That night, Eliezer wakes up to a man trying to strangle him. Eliezer calls out to his father who grabs the man and asks his friend Meir Katz to help him; they manage to free Eliezer. A couple of days later Meir Katz is feeling depressed over the loss of his son, who was taken from him in the first selection, and Eliezer's father tries to encourage him. The wind is blowing and the snow is falling. Someone gets up and says, "We must not remain sitting. We shall freeze to death! Let's get up and move." The men respond, but a dying man cries out like a wounded animal, and after that, all the men imitate his cry. That night they reach the end of their journey. Out of the 100 people who were on Eliezer's car, only 12 remain alive as they get off the train at Buchenwald. Meir Katz has died.

Analysis

Eliezer continues to struggle with the will to live when death seems inevitable. He describes the train car with its dead bodies piling up and thrown out at each stop as "a cemetery covered with snow." The disrespect for the human body has no limits. Yet when bread is thrown into the car by the German workers, the dead come alive as "an extraordinary vitality possesse[s] them." The bread brings out the worst in the men as they fight each other to the death over a crust. After he describes the scene, Eliezer merely says, "I was sixteen," as if the experience continues to overwhelm him now as it did then.

Wiesel neither condemns nor judges the men. His understanding of the situation forces the reader to consider that the men have not been fed for days, have been riding in an open train car during a snowstorm, and are poorly clothed. Eliezer himself says he does not get involved in the scrum for bread because he would not be able "to fight off dozens of violent men!" A lack of ability, not a sense of decency, holds Eliezer back.

The German townspeople throw bread into the train for the men. While there may be an element of charity in this action, it is done primarily for entertainment, as the Parisian woman's similar action was done. Human cruelty, Eliezer shows, is not limited to the Nazis.

The starving, frozen men packed into train cars howl, aptly, like wounded animals near the end of this journey.

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