Plot Summary

The story opens in 1941when Eliezer, a boy of thirteen, reminisces about his sheltered childhood and religious observance. Moshe, the beadle, teaches him the Kabbalah and also attempts to warn the town about the atrocious deeds of the Germans to the Jews. Denizens of the hamlet, Sighet, ignore him and deride him for being “mad.” Even as far back as 1941, when the Germans entered Budapest, the Jews of Sighet continued to delude themselves, and this continued with the spate of decrees passed against the Jews: They were only allowed in specific localities, forbidden to work, had to hand over possessions, and were obligated to wear the yellow star and, finally, forced to live in a tiny cramped ghetto dominated by the Nazi before being herded to the cattle cars.

In the cattle cars, one woman who became insane, Mrs. Schechter, prophesied about the flames that she saw. Some passengers beat her to silence. The trip was harrowing—lack of water, air, room—yet, up until the end, the Germans reassured the passengers that it would be a labor camp for the hardy while the elderly and children would be cared for. When they arrived in Auschwitz, beaten by SS guards with whips and bitten by dogs, they saw the chimneys belching the dark smoke.

There they were forced to line up. Eliezer and his father, following the advice from some camp inmates, changed their ages and professions. Eliezer was separated from his mother and sister (Tziporah), whom Dr. Mengele sent to the right (the crematoria), while he and his father were sent to the left—temporary reprieve.

Life in the camps was horrific. They were starved with a slice of bread per day and some tasteless soup and little water. Prisoners learned to save, and their constant reflection was on food. They were constantly beaten, with deaths occurring routinely. The very weak and elderly were constantly dispatched to the gas chambers. All prisoners were branded. They were given odd clothes to wear that were either too large or too short for them. The clothes resembled pajamas. They were made to...

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Essays About Night