The story starts out in Sighet, Transylvania and takes place during World War II. The narrator is a thirteen year old, Jewish boy named Eliezer. Elie is part of a well known family that practices strict Jewish customs. He lives with his parents and three sisters. In his free time, Elie studies the Talmud and the Cabbala under his teacher, Moshe the Beadle. Shortly after, the Hungarians create laws that expel some Jews, and Moshe is forced to leave. Moshe returns and tells everyone in Sighet about the Gestapo, and how they forced the Jews to dig their own graves, but everyone thinks that he’s crazy. Rapidly after Moshe returns, the Jews become more and more oppressed and eventually, they are compelled to live in ghettos. After living in the ghettos for a short time, the Jews are transported to Auschwitz and told that it is a labor camp and all the people will be able to stay with their families. This is done to keep the prisoners calm and orderly on the train. Then they arrive at Birkenau to be sorted into groups of who is able to work and who is not. Here, Elie and his father are separated from his mom and sisters and never sees them again. After they are separated they meet a man who advises Elie and his father to lie about their age so they aren’t deemed unable to work and immediately killed. They are also advised to keep their faith and not rebel against the Nazis. This is important because after being in Auschwitz, many of the Jews are discouraged and feel hopeless. Later on, Elie and his father are transported to Buna. At the new camp, Elie becomes a different person and instead of focusing on his faith and keeping hope, he cares more about his own survival. He even gets mad at his dad for getting beaten by one of the officers at the camp. Also, Elie and the other prisoners witness a small child being hanged and Elie wonders how God could exist and believes that God was hanged with that child. Later, the Jews are transported again, but this time they are forced to run in the middle of a blizzard. Once they arrive at their new location, Elie meets a Rabi who is trying to find his son. Elie lies and says he hasn't seen his son, even though he saw his son abandon his father during the run when he didn't think his father would make it. From this point on, Elie vows to never leave his dads' side. Unfortunately, about three months away from being liberated, Elie's dad dies from dysentery and being beaten to death. The story does not have a happy ending, it ends after his dad’s death and being liberated. This novel is about keeping your faith and never giving up hope even in the most desperate times, because those are the things that kept Elie and his father alive for so long. This book is also meant to remind people about the tragedies the Jewish people faced on a daily basis in these camps so they did not die in vain.
1. If you were in this situation, do you think you would be able to keep your faith and survive?
2. The story, Elizer gives his dad some of his food, but other people in the camp discourage him and tell him to let his father die. Would you sacrifice your chances of survival for someone you loved?