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PLOT SUMMARY AND NOTES FOR NIGHT BY ELIE WIESEL
At Buna, life is a little easier for Elie and his father. Upon their arrival, they are given new clothes and are allowed to bathe. After they are examined by a doctor after three days, they are given their work assignments. Sometimes, Jewish musicians are allowed to play Hebrew chants and songs while the prisoners work.
At the new camp, Elie is befriended by a French Jewess. Since she is not dark like most Jews, she has claimed that she is an Aryan in order to escape the brutalities of the Nazis. During Elie's stay at Buna, she tries to soothe him and lovingly refers to him as "little brother." Wiesel reveals that after many years, he happens to run into her at the metro in Paris. They visit and recall their friendship and experiences at Buna.
Franek, a cruel man, is the foreman at Buna. He tries to bully Elie and demands the gold crown in his tooth. Elie's father advises him not to hand over the gold. As a result, Franek takes revenge. He regularly tortures Elie's father for not marching properly. Elie tries to teach his father a better way to march so he can be saved from Franek's beatings. In the end, Elie gives up his gold crown to save his father from torture.
One Sunday morning, Elie happens to see one of the guards, called Kapos, in a compromising position. The man, named Idek, is lying on a mattress with a half-naked girl. When he sees that Elie has spied him, he lashes Elie twenty-five times. Elie faints from the pain. Idek then tells Elie he will punish him more if he ever reveals to anyone what he has seen.
On another Sunday morning, the wailing of air raid sirens is heard. Then for an hour the bombs fall on Buna, destroying several buildings. The prisoners are encouraged by the bombing, feeling that they may some day be rescued from their misery and torture. After the raid is over, the prisoners must clean up the debris.
A week after the bombing, Elie and the other prisoners are made to witness the hangings of some fellow prisoners. One of the victims is a young man from Warsaw, who is killed because he stole some items during the clean-up. As he hangs, he shouts, "Long live liberty! A curse upon Germany!" Some other prisoners are hanged for supposedly sabotaging the power station of the camp. One of them is an innocent, angelic-looking child of thirteen. Because he weighs so little, it takes him more than half an hour to die. Elie and the other prisoners weep at the sight. After the hangings, the remaining prisoners are forced to uncover the heads of the dead; they are also made to march past the corpses. Elie says that his soup that night tasted like death.
Although life in Buna is a little easier than in Auschwitz, Elie must still endure constant hunger, repeated torture, and the fear of death. Like the other prisoners, he becomes dehumanized, and his main concern becomes self-preservation. He also is concerned for the well-being of his father. When Mr. Wiesel is tortured for not marching properly, Elie tries to show him a better way of marching and eventually give up his gold crown to save him.
There are a few pleasant moments for Elie. Sometimes when the prisoners are working, the Jewish musicians are allowed to play some traditional music, which is a real treat. He also is befriended by a kind and compassionate French Jewess. Because she is fair- skinned and light-haired, she has convinced the Nazis that she is an Aryan, escaping hard labor and torture. She constantly tries to calm Elie and calls him little brother.
Elie also finds a comfort in the bombing of Buna. He feels like the Allied forces are drawing near and that someday he may be released from the concentration camp. Since several buildings are destroyed during the air raid, the prisoners are forced to do extra work to clean up the debris.
Just like in Auschwitz, the people in charge of the prisoners are brutal, seeming to have lost all feeling of morality and humanity. Franek bullies Elie and demands the golden crown on his tooth. When Elie refuses to give it to him, Franek repeatedly tortures Mr. Wiesel for advising his son against giving the gold crown. Idek is equally inhumane and brutal. When Elie happens to see this guard lying on a mattress with a half-naked girl, he is severely beaten and threatened with his life if he tells anyone about the incident.
The greatest torture for the prisoners is when they are made to watch the hangings of other prisoners. Usually the execution has been ordered because of some petty incident. When Elie is forced to watch the murder of an angelic looking young boy, he weeps to see him struggle against the rope for over thirty minutes. After the victims are lifeless, the remaining prisoners are further tortured when they are made to uncover the heads of the dead men and then march around the corpses.
During one of the hangings, a prisoner questions, "Where is God?" Elie answers to himself that God must be hanging on the gallows too. Like many of the Jews, who have been made to repeatedly watch such brutality, he is losing faith.