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Night | Section 8 | Summary

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Summary

The men arrive in Buchenwald utterly exhausted. Before being allowed to sleep they must take showers, but they are so weak that it's difficult to move. The guards try to force them, but some men simply sit down on the snow, and Eliezer's father wants to join them. He says to Eliezer, "I can't anymore ... it's over ... I shall die right here." Eliezer is angry his father is ready to give up after all they have gone through. A siren goes off, and the guards chase the men away, including Eliezer. The men are so exhausted that they choose sleep over soup.

The next morning, Eliezer remembers he left his father and goes to look for him. Eliezer's father spots him and asks for some coffee. His father is burning with fever and is especially grateful when Eliezer gets him coffee. When it comes to feeding time, Eliezer's father does not receive any because he is so sick—the Nazis do not want to feed those who are about to die. Eliezer grudgingly shares his food with his father.

Eliezer's father is suffering from dysentery. His condition continues to worsen, and he is losing his sanity. He tries to tell Eliezer where the family gold is hidden. Eliezer trades a ration of bread in order to exchange cots and be next to his father, and he brings him to a doctor who says he is a surgeon and can't help someone with dysentery. When another doctor curses the patients and says they are lazy, Eliezer is livid. He wants to "strangle the doctor ...! To set the whole world on fire! My father's murderers!"

When Eliezer next sees his father, he learns that the other inmates have beat him. They say it is because his father was unable to go to the bathroom and instead is soiling his bedding. Later, they take his bread. When Eliezer's father begs him to bring him water, Eliezer is torn. He knows water is like poison for dysentery, but his father asks Eliezer to pity him. This situation continues on for a week.

A veteran prisoner advises Eliezer to let his father go and worry about himself. When he learns Eliezer is sharing his rations with his father, he says, "You cannot help him anymore ... you should be getting his rations." Eliezer knows the man is right and feels guilty but continues to help his father, whose condition continues to worsen. Eliezer wakes up on January 29 and finds that his father has been removed, presumably to the crematorium, and another sick inmate has taken his place. His father's last call in the night was "Eliezer." All Eliezer can feel is relief.

Analysis

In this section there is a role reversal. Eliezer's father is ready to die and is dependent on his son for all his needs. Eliezer says of his father, "He had become childlike: weak, frightened, vulnerable." His willingness to give up angers Eliezer, but he thinks he is not "arguing with him but with Death itself, with Death that he had already chosen."

In Section 6, Eliezer prays he never does what Rabbi Eliahu's son did: abandon his father, whom he came to see as a burden. That prayer is never more needed than when Eliezer and his father arrive in Buchenwald. At one point Eliezer goes to look for his father, but part of him does not want to find him. "I could use all my strength to fight for my own survival," he thinks guiltily. Eliezer's judgment of himself is harsh; his father's condition worsens daily, doctors refuse to treat him, and his fellow bunkmates beat him. His father has no chance of survival, yet Eliezer tries to nurse him and shares his food with him even though his own physical needs are overwhelming.

Eliezer's father is beaten by the other inmates for his food and because he cannot control his bowel movements. Their inhumane treatment is reflected in their treatment of one another.

Eliezer is haunted by his father's death and its lack of meaning. His father is simply another dead Jew, a body that succumbed to the horrendous conditions in the camps. When Eliezer awakens, not only is his father gone, but there is another sick person in his place. In all likelihood, this man will suffer the same fate, and his body will be thrown into the crematory as well. The victims do not receive a proper burial, no prayers are said over their tombs, and no candles are lit in their memory. They simply disappear.

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