At the beginning of the book, with nothing else to cling to, prisoners in the concentration camps hold on to their family members. The most important thing is to stay with your family members as long as possible. For some, all that keeps them alive is knowledge that their family is safe. However, as the book progresses and the suffering of the prisoners increases in intensity, a major conflict in the book arises: self-preservation vs. love and loyalty to family. This conflict is seen especially clearly in the relationship between fathers and sons. Rabbi Eliahu’s son abandons his slow, weak father during the mad run to Buchenwald in order to increase his own chance of survival. When a German throws a piece of bread in a transport car, a son kills his own father just to get the scrap of bread. But the most important conflict of this type is Eliezer’s own personal conflict. Like Rabbi Eliahu’s son, Eliezer, during his moments of weakness, feels his own father a burden and a threat to his own survival.
Although Eliezer feels internal conflict about supporting his father and does occasionally feel that his father is a burden, Eliezer does not sink to become like Rabbi’s Eliahu’s son because Eliezer never acts on his negative thoughts and supports his father as best he can.
Although Eliezer occasionally battles with the notion that he could survive better if freed from the burden of taking care of his father, Eliezer is in more danger of death once his father passes away because without his father, Eliezer loses the will to live.