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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES FOR NIGHT BY ELIE WIESEL
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the holy day to celebrate the Jewish New Year, the Jewish prisoners do not touch their soup. Instead, they pass the evening praying and chanting, "Blessed be the name of the Eternal. . .All creation bears witness to the greatness of God!" Elie is so full of anger that he cannot pray or bless God. He blames the Almighty for betraying the Jews and allowing the prevailing atrocities to occur. He asks himself, "Why should I bless Him? . . . who chose us from among the races to be tortured day and night, to see our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, end in the crematory?"
Elie does, however, still hold a great love for his own father; even though he cannot pray, he kisses his father's hand in respect. They discuss whether they should fast on Yom Kippur, the Holy Day of Atonement. They decide against it, for they are already malnourished, and fasting would simply hasten death. Elie feels that his refusal to fast is an appropriate act of rebellion against a God, who has become cruel and uncaring.
The prisoners are constantly evaluated for their strength and health. Elie and his father survive another selection process and are transferred to a unit that is used for construction. Each day, they are made to drag huge blocks of heavy stone. Elie is concerned about the health and strength of his father, but Mr. Wiesel works hard.
Akiba Drumer, who calls himself a “Musulman,” which is a slang word for Muslims, comparing the slumped over posture of the very weak prisoners to a Muslim prayer position fails the test during the next selection process. Elie observes him and sees how camp life makes him weak. Knowing that he is going to the crematorium, he asks his fellow prisoners to recite the Kaddish for him after his death. His friends forget to do so amidst their own suffering.
Winter comes with ferocity. The prisoners are forced to work in the bitter cold without proper warm clothing, making life more miserable than ever. They are, however, given a short break; on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, there is no work, and the prisoners are given slightly thicker soup than the usual. In mid January, Elie develops an infection on his foot. An imprisoned Jewish doctor looks at his foot and decides that Elie is in urgent need of an operation. If the infection is not quickly arrested, Elie could lose his entire leg.
When Elie is hospitalized in the infirmary, he is amazed to see that the bed actually has white sheets on it. He had totally forgotten that people normally sleep on a mattress with sheets; his forgetfulness amuses him. When the kind Jewish doctor enters, he assures Elie that the surgery will be a success and that he will recover within two weeks.
Two days after Elie's operation, there are rumors that the Russian Army is advancing on Buna. Not wanting the prisoners to be freed by the Russians, all of them are forced to leave the camp. Elie could have stayed behind in the hospital, but he forces himself to accompany his weak and aging father. The two of them plod miserably through the snow without knowing their destination. Elie is in great pain because of his foot, which has not had time to heal from the surgery; with each step he takes, the snow become stained with blood. He is also starving nearly to death, for he ate little while he was in the hospital. Although he has two pieces of bread in his pocket, the guards refuse to let him eat them.
After the war is over, Elie finds out that those who had stayed behind in the hospital were liberated two days after the evacuation of Buna.
In the previous section, Elie's faith is shaken; by this section, it is totally shattered, marking the climax of the book. On Rosh Hashanah, Elie refuses to pray or fast, for he feels that God has deserted the Jews, allowing such atrocities as the human crematories. He even blasphemes God by thinking, "Man is very strong, greater than God." It is obvious that the suffering and torture have totally changed Elie's philosophies; he is a sharp contrast to the devout youth who sought to study the Cabbala and the Torah. He is also a contrast to the devout Muslims and Jews in the camp, who sustain themselves through constant prayer.
Elie and his father survive one more selection process and are placed in a construction unit. The work is brutal, for they spend each day in moving heavy blocks of stone. Things are made more miserable by the fact that it is winter and bitterly cold, and they have inadequate clothing to fight the freezing temperatures. Elie becomes very concerned about the well-being of his aging father. Ironically, it will be Elie who must be hospitalized.
In mid January, Elie's foot becomes infected. When an imprisoned Jewish doctor looks at it, he recommends immediate surgery. When Elie is hospitalized for the operation, he delights in being on a real mattress covered with white sheets. It has been so long since he has slept on one, he had totally forgotten what it was like.
The operation is a success and the Jewish doctor assures Elie that he will fully recover within a couple of weeks. Elie, however, is not given the luxury of that much time. With the Russian army approaching, the Germans fear that Buna will be captured and their prisoners will be released. As a result, they tell Elie and the others that they will leave for a new, unnamed location on the next day. During the last night at Buna, Elie is unable to sleep because of the sound of gunfire nearby. He thinks about all the last nights that he has experienced in the last year. There was the last night in his family's home, the last night in the Sighet ghetto, the last night on the train, the last night in Auschwitz, and now the last night in Buna. He wonders how many more last nights he will be able to experience, for he fears that death is near.
Along with the others, Elie and his father are led out of the Buna camp. They must tramp through the snow and are tortured on the way. Elie is in particular pain, for his foot has not had time to heal. Each step that he takes leaves a blood stain on the snow, but he keeps moving, which proves his strong will to live. He does, however, wonder how much more he can endure. He also fears for his father's well-being.