by Elie Wiesel
Night Chapter 4 Summary
- Buna seems dead, empty.
- Eliezer’s group starts asking around to find out which is the best work group to be assigned to. The word on the street is that you just want to stay away from the construction "Kommando" or (work group).
- A fat German is in charge of them. One of his assistants tells Eliezer that, in exchange for his shoes, he will make sure Eliezer gets into a good labor unit. Eliezer refuses to part with his shoes.
- The next day there is a medical and a dental examination, only the doctors simply ask you if you’re in good health and the dentist is just looking for gold crowns. If you have a gold crown, he writes your name (read: number tattooed on your arm) on his list.
- Eliezer has a gold crown.
- Eliezer and his dad are assigned to work in a warehouse for electrical equipment. Idek is their "Kapo," or work leader. They learn that Idek is a little crazy and it’s best to stay out of his way.
- The work isn’t bad, it’s just counting pieces of electrical equipment. There are even civilians working there—Polish people and some French women.
- Eliezer becomes friends with Czechoslovakian brothers, Yossi and Tibi, whose parents had been killed in Birkenau.
- Their new block leader is a nice German Jew. Eliezer and his father now get a blanket, soap, and a washbowl.
- Eliezer uses trickery to keep his gold tooth. He keeps telling the dentist that he’s sick and puts off the tooth removal. At last, the dentist is punished because he’s been pocketing some of the gold crowns. Eliezer’s tooth is, for the moment, safe.
- At the warehouse, Eliezer works near a young French girl who seems to him to be Jewish although she passes herself off as Aryan.
- One day, Idek (the crazy Kapo) gets angry and beats Eliezer. The French girl is kind to him and gives him a little bit of bread. She tells him not to give up hope.
- Many years later, Eliezer sees the French girl (now a woman) on a train in Paris. She remembers him too, and he discovers that she is indeed from a religious Jewish family but she managed to hide her identity to keep herself alive.
- Back in Buna in 1944, Idek goes crazy again and beats Eliezer’s dad this time. Eliezer reflects on how inhumane the concentration camps made him; as his father is being beaten, rather than being mad at Idek, Eliezer is mad at his father for not avoiding the Kapo.
- Franek, the foreman, decides he wants Eliezer’s gold crown. Eliezer won’t give it to him. But, Franek discovers Eliezer’s weakness—his father.
- Franek begins to torment Eliezer’s father during their marches.
- At last, Eliezer gives in and his tooth is extracted with a rusty spoon in the bathroom.
- Idek marches them to work one Sunday (when working isn’t required) and leaves them in Franek’s care, saying he doesn’t care what they do; he just doesn’t want them in the camp.
- Eliezer goes exploring and discovers why Idek didn’t want anyone in the camp: he’s sleeping with this young Polish girl. Eliezer laughs, thinking about the absurdity of moving 100 prisoners to the warehouse just so he can get laid.
- Idek discovers Eliezer and gets angry. He gives Eliezer 25 lashes with the whip in front of the whole block and tells him he’ll get five times that if he tells anyone what he saw.
- Some Sunday (time seems to blend) there’s an air raid. The SS officers take cover, while the prisoners remain in their bunks.
- One man dares to venture out to get some soup, as the soup has been left out. For most people, terror is stronger than hunger, but not for this man. The man is killed, though, when the Allies start bombing Buna.
- All of the prisoners are glad to hear the bombs; they have renewed hope.
- A week later at roll call, everybody notices the gallows that have been set up in the middle of camp.
- The SS officers drag a young Polish man out of solitary confinement; he’s going to be hanged for stealing something during the air raid. The Polish man cries "A curse on Germany! Long live liberty!" as the rope goes around his neck. Then he is killed.
- Eliezer witnesses other hangings. But the worst is the hanging of a young boy who is involved in resistance activities. Because he is light in weight, the hanging doesn’t result in instantaneous death. The inmates are forced to watch as the boy on the end of the rope struggles for half an hour before he dies.
- That night, everything, including the soup they eat, tastes of death.
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