Night: Novel Summary: Section 4
In the evening, at roll call, the new arrivals question the veteran prisoners about the camp. They are told it is bearable.
The men are put in a tent, where they stay in quarantine for three days. There is a medical examination, and each man goes before doctors and a dentist. In Eliezer's case, the dentist seems conscientious, but in fact he is merely looking in the prisoners' mouths for gold teeth. Those who have them are put on a list. Eliezer has a gold crown, and this is noted.
Eliezer and his father are sent to work in a warehouse for electrical equipment. The work is not difficult. They sit on the ground counting bolts, bulbs and small electrical fittings. Eliezer and his father are allowed to sit together.
Eliezer makes friends with two boys who are brothers, Yossi and Tibi. They are Czechs whose parents were killed at Birkenau.
The head of the block where they live is a German Jew called Alphonse. He is devoted to the welfare of those put in his charge.
One day Eliezer is summoned to the dentist, who tells him he is going to take out the gold crown. Eliezer pretends to be ill, and the dentist agrees to a postponement. A week later, Eliezer goes to the dentist again with the same excuse, and he gets another reprieve. A few days later, he learns that the dentist, a Czech Jew, is to be hanged because he is alleged to have been running a private traffic in the prisoners' gold teeth.
Another day, Idek, the Kapo (head of the block, a fellow prisoner) attacks Eliezer at the warehouse for no reason. He hits him many times until Eliezer is covered in blood. After the beating a French girl who works in the warehouse gives Eliezer some bread and speaks encouragingly to him in German. Many years later, in Paris after the war, Eliezer meets the girl again by chance. She tells him that no one in the warehouse knew she could speak German, so in speaking to him she was taking a risk, but she knew he would not give her away.
Another time, Idek beats Eliezer's father with an iron bar.
Franek, the warehouse foreman, demands that Eliezer hand over his gold crown. Eliezer refuses, but Franek retaliates by beating Eliezer's father, who is not good at marching in step. After two weeks, Eliezer gives in. A dentist from Warsaw pulls out his crowned tooth with the aid of a rusty spoon.
On another occasion, a Sunday when they are not required to work but are required to stay in the warehouse, Eliezer wanders around the building. He accidentally comes upon Idek who is forcing himself sexually on a young Polish girl. Idek decides to punish him, and in the evening, Eliezer is given twenty-five lashes of a whip in front of all the prisoners.
On another Sunday, there is an air-raid. American planes bomb the camp. The prisoners are filled with joy; they are not afraid of the prospect of death. The raid lasts for an hour, and several buildings are destroyed, but the warehouse is not hit.
A week later, ten thousand prisoners are forced to watch the hanging of a youth from Warsaw. He is accused of stealing during the bombing raid. The boy cries out, "Long live liberty! A curse upon Germany!" the moment before he dies. The prisoners are forced to march past the dead youth and look him full in the face.
A Dutchman who supervised seven hundred prisoners is discovered to have organized acts of sabotage and hidden a stock of arms. He is tortured but will not give any names of accomplices. Eventually he is transferred to Auschwitz. His servant, a young boy, is hanged, along with two adults. Eliezer and all the other prisoners are forced to watch the hangings. When the prisoners march past, the adults are dead, but the child still lives. He struggles for half an hour before dying in agony. The prisoners are forced to look at his face. A man asks, Where is God now?
This section shows the further dehumanization that occurs in the camp, and also graphically illustrates not only Eliezer's loss of faith, but even the appearance of the death of God.
Dehumanization is everywhere apparent: when the Kapos choose the men they want to work for them, they point fingers "as though choosing cattle or merchandise"; at the warehouse, the German employee in charge "paid us about as much attention as a dealer might who was just receiving a delivery of old rags."
The psychology of the camp also continues to have a corrosive effect on Eliezer. In the previous section, when his father was hit, he made no protest. In this section, when the same thing happens (his father is beaten by Idek), Eliezer is angry not with Idek but with his father, for not knowing how to avoid the beating. Because he is powerless to do anything about it and fears being beaten himself, Eliezer's anger at the Nazis has been displaced onto his father.
The theme of the loss of religious faith also acquires another dimension at the end of this section. The young boy who is hanged seems in Eliezer's mind to represent the death of God Himself. In answer to the man's question about where is God now, Eliezer thinks, "Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows."
The image suggests that of the crucified Christ, but unlike in the Christian tradition, in this case there is to be no resurrection.