In 1941, Eliezer, who is the narrator, is a twelve-year-old boy who lives in Transylvanian town of Sighet. He is the only one in his family that stickily obeys Jewish laws and traditions. Both his parents are shopkeepers, and his father is highly respected within Sighet’s Jewish community. Eliezer has three sisters, two that are older, Hilda and Béa, and a younger sister named Tzipora. Eliezer studies the texts of the Kabbalah, which is unusual for a teenager to be reading at this time. His father disapproves of Eliezer reading these texts. One day, Eliezer meets this teacher in Moshe the Beadle, who is the local pauper. Although, soon after, the Hungarian expel on all Jewish people, including Moshe. After many months of being captive, he escapes and tells how the German secret police were being handed deportation trains at the Polish boarders. He then goes on to explain how the Jewish people were forced to dig mass graves for themselves and were killed by the German police; but the town thinks that he is crazy and they refuse to believe in the story. In the spring of 1944, the Hungarian government falls into the hands of the Fascists and then the next day, the Germans take over Hungary. The Germans eventually make it to Sighet and occupy them. The Jewish community leaders were arrested, their belongings were taken away, and they were forced to wear yellow stars. The Nazi’s began to deport the Jewish people and Eliezer ‘s family was the last to leave the Sighet community. Martha, who was their servant, had offered the family to stay in her village but Eliezer’s family turned down the offer and because they declined the offer the Nazis took them to Auschwitz where all of the other Jews were.
Section 2 Summary:
The Jews were crammed into cars that would usually hold cattle, with intolerable conditions. Many had no room to breathe, the heat in the cars were intensely hot, it made the conditions even worse. After days of traveling in these conditions they arrived at the Czechoslovakian boarders, as it became recognizable that they were not getting off or being relocated but in that one moment a German officer threatened shooting everybody if anyone tried or did escape the car. Not long after crossing the boarder the Jews in the train figures out that they arrived at the Auschwitz station. This news is not very exciting or informational at first but from locals they heard the labor camp is where the conditions will be better than they had since being on the train and the families will be all together and the news gives the prisoners hope and believe that everything will be okay. But as midnight falls and the train begins to slow down and they are enclosed into a barbed wire area where they smell the odor of burning human flesh. When they arrive at Birkenau, selections happen which they are separated from weaker and stronger, females and males as well as age. Both Eliezer and his father lie about their ages to stay together, while they are moving to the left they pass by a pit of babies being burned along with other adults, and this shocked Eliezers eyes. That night was forever placed in his memory. When they reach the Barracks they are stripped disinfected with the gasoline then showered and put into the prision uniforms. The Jews were given two options, you work ward or you go to the crematorium. After everything Eliezer is chosen to serve in a unit where the job encounters electrical fitting in a civilian warehouse, as it turns out his father was in the same unit. Eliezer realizes to himself how much the concentration camp has changed him.
Section 3 Summary:
In this third section in the book, we see how Eliezer and his father spend their last few months together as prisoners of the Nazi. In the camp, Eliezer’s leg becomes swollen and infected because of the cold, which puts him in the hospital for several weeks. While Eliezer is in the hospital, a man, who is in the bed beside him, warns Eliezer about how the people who are in the hospital right now are going to be the next ones in the crematory. The Russian army starts to advance on the concentration camp and everyone is told to evacuate except for the patients in the hospital. Eliezer becomes afraid about the Russian army will not make it in time before the rest of the patients are killed; so Eliezer decides to leave with the rest of the camp. A few days later, Eliezer hears that the Russians did make it to the hospital and everyone was alive. The prisoners, who were evacuated, ran their way to the next camp in Gleiwitz. Many had died along the way, either from being trampled or the cold. A train is coming to pick them up to send them to the next camp, but they must go without food or water till the train arrives since there is no source of food or water anywhere near the train.
Section 4 Summary:
In this final section of the novel, Eliezer journey doesn’t end so much as a joyful one, but more as a gruesome journey through the concentration camp and how he became broke in the camp. At the beginning of the section we see how Eliezer described the prisoners deporting to Buchenwald; where they were forced into the train cars and taken across the country. The prisoners, instead of feeling remorse, they decided to take off their clothing and then threw them off the train. This was a way for the prisoners to become happy again. People who watched these prisoners go by, they would throw bread and watch the prisoners fight to death to eat the last few crumbs. Eliezer watched a father kill his own son just for bread. When Eliezer reached Buchenwald, Elie’s father became really ill and could not recover. When his father becomes ill, he relies on Elie to take care of him and all of the responsibility falls onto his shoulders. He says that he wishes that his father’s body had been freed and he will always be a prisoner.