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Characters

Eliezer Timeline and Summary

  • Eliezer studies the mysteries of the Kabbalah with Moishe the Beadle.
  • Eliezer listens to Moishe the Beadle tell of the horrors he witnessed and experienced at the hands of the Germans.
  • Eliezer, along with his family and all of the other Jews in Sighet, is banished to a ghetto.
  • With his family and many other Sighet Jews, Eliezer is packed into a cattle car and sent to Birkenau (next to Auschwitz).
  • At the concentration camp, Eliezer says goodbye to his mother and little sister, not knowing that it was goodbye forever. He clings to his father.
  • Waiting through the first long night at Birkenau, seeing death all around them, Eliezer loses his faith in God’s justice.
  • Eliezer lies to his cousin, Stein, saying that Stein’s wife, Reizel, and children are all right.
  • Eliezer and his father are moved to a new camp, Buna, where they work in a warehouse.
  • He manages to save his gold-capped tooth by pretending to be sick every time the dentist wants to extract it.
  • Once, when the Kapo (Idek) beats him up, a young French girl says some kind words to him. Later, after the war, he learns that she is Jewish and managed to hide her identity during those years.
  • Franek the foreman wants Eliezer’s gold crown and tortures his father until Eliezer agrees to give it up. A "dentist" from Warsaw pulls it out with a rusty spoon in the bathroom.
  • Eliezer observes Idek having sex with a Polish girl. Eliezer is punished with 25 lashes on the whip.
  • On Rosh Hashanah, Eliezer decides man is stronger than God.
  • On Yom Kippur, Eliezer decides not to perform the traditional fast – both to shake his fist in God’s face and to prevent himself from starving to death.
  • Eliezer passes "selection" (for the crematoria) and Eliezer’s father mistakenly thinks he’s passed as well. When Eliezer’s dad realizes that he hasn’t passed and needs to go through a second round of selection. Eliezer’s father thinks he might die and gives Eliezer the inheritance—a knife and a spoon. Eliezer tries to refuse it but at last he takes it.
  • When his father is not killed, Eliezer returns the knife and spoon to his father.
  • Eliezer’s foot swells until he needs surgery.
  • While he’s recovering from surgery, the camp is evacuated because the Russians are on the way. Afraid that those who remain behind at the hospital will be executed, Eliezer leaves with those being evacuated, even though his foot is still healing.
  • When Eliezer realizes that Rabbi Eliahu’s son had deliberately left his father behind, to rid himself of the burden, he prays to the God for the strength not to do that to his own father.
  • As his father gets sicker and weaker, Eliezer’s strength and will are tested. He keeps his father alive until they arrive at the next camp, Buchenwald. Even there, he keeps him alive for several days.
  • When his father is dying – from the combination of dysentery and a blow to the head given by an SS officer – he is calling Eliezer’s name.
  • When Eliezer awakens in the morning, his father’s body is gone. Eliezer feels guilty – but he also feels relieved that his father is dead, and free, at last.
  • A few months later, the camp is liberated.
  • His first act as a free man is to eat like crazy. After his feasting, he gets food poisoning and goes to the hospital, where he almost dies.
  • When he is at last released from the hospital, Eliezer looks in the mirror and sees a corpse. He says he has never forgotten the look in his eyes that day.

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