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Despite warnings about German intentions towards Jews, Eliezer’s family and the other Jews in the small Transylvanian town of Sighet (now in modern-day Romania) fail to flee the country when they have a chance. As a result, the entire Jewish population is sent to concentration camps. There, in a camp called Auschwitz, Eliezer is separated from his mother and younger sister, but remains with his father.
As Eliezer struggles to survive against starvation and abuse, he also grapples with the destruction of his faith in God’s justice and battles with the darker sides of himself. Forced into a desperate situation, Eliezer feels a conflict between supporting his ever weakening father and giving himself the best chance of survival.
Over the course of the book, Eliezer and his father are sent from Auschwitz to a new concentration camp called Buna and then, as the Allies (the British and American troops) approach, deeper into Germany, to Buchenwald. A few months before the concentration camps are liberated by Allied soldiers, Eliezer’s father dies. Though Eliezer survives the concentration camps, he leaves behind his own innocence and is haunted by the death and violence he has witnessed.