Study Guide

Night Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

  • The Jews inside Buna come together for a service to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.
  • Eliezer wonders, angrily, where God is and refuses to bless God’s name because of all of the death and suffering He has allowed.
  • Eliezer thinks that man is strong, stronger than God.
  • During this year’s Rosh Hashanah, unlike all previous years, Eliezer is not asking forgiveness for his sins. Rather, Eliezer feels himself to be "the accuser, God the accused."
  • The services conclude with the Kaddish and Eliezer goes in search for his father, who is standing as if a heavy weight is upon him. In that moment, Eliezer realizes his father is already beaten.
  • On Yom Kippur, Eliezer refuses to fast—not only to please his father, who says they should not fast when they need to keep up their strength, but also to mock God.
  • Eliezer is no longer in the same block as his father because he was transferred to the construction Kommando—that’s the bad job where you haul huge stones around.
  • During dinner one evening, the word spreads that selection is coming up.
  • Eliezer’s block leader gives the prisoners some advice about passing selection: basically, look vigorous and don’t be scared. Thanks, that wasn’t very helpful.
  • Eliezer and all of the other men undress as Dr. Mengele and some SS officers arrive.
  • They go through the selection process. Dr. Mengele, a notorious doctor in the Nazi concentration camps, is the one who inspects them.
  • Though terrified, Eliezer passes the inspection, as does his dad. They’re relieved. (That was an understatement.)
  • Several days pass and they learn that a new list of prisoner numbers has been selected for death. Eliezer’s father is on that list.
  • Eliezer’s dad tries to reassure him, saying that the selection wasn’t decisive; there will be another one today that he might pass.
  • His father is rushed, trying to tell his son everything he wants to say before he dies. As they say goodbye that day, his father gives him a knife and a spoon—the family inheritance. Eliezer doesn’t want to take them. He doesn’t want to admit his father might have been selected. But at last, he takes them and marches off with the construction group.
  • The day’s work is hard and Eliezer dreads going back to camp to find he is alone.
  • That night, he returns to find his father is still alive, having passed the second selection. Eliezer gives the knife and spoon back to his dad.
  • Akiba Drumer, one of their fellow prisoners, is selected. He asks them to remember to say the Kaddish for him after he dies. They promise… but they forget to say the Kaddish.
  • Winter arrives and makes everything worse, more unbearable.
  • The prisoners get Christmas and New Year’s off, plus the present of a "slightly less transparent soup."
  • In January, Eliezer’s foot begins to swell. It’s so swollen, he goes to the doctor—a Jewish doctor and a prisoner—who tells Eliezer that he needs an operation or his foot will have to be amputated. So Eliezer enters the hospital.
  • Life in the hospital is a bit better—more food, thicker soup, and even sheets on the beds.
  • What Eliezer fears most is that he will be selected at the hospital while recuperating.
  • The operation is successful and the doctor tells Eliezer he just needs to rest for two weeks.
  • But Eliezer can’t feel his leg and he’s afraid it’s been amputated—which would mean selection. He’s relieved to learn that his leg is still very much attached.
  • While he waits in the hospital, rumors fly that the Russians are not far away and the camp is going to be evacuated. Those who are in the hospital will probably be "liquidated," that is, killed.
  • So Eliezer, even though his foot is still recovering, goes in search of his father. He doesn’t want to stay behind in the hospital and be separated from his father during the evacuation.
  • Later, Eliezer learns that the Russians liberated the hospital two days after he left.
  • The prisoners are forced to evacuate, but only after mopping the floor of the barracks (literally crazy, huh?).
  • Off the prisoners go, marching through the snow.

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