Night Chapter 4
At Buna, the new arrivals learn from the veteran prisoners that the camp is bearable. For three days, the new prisoners are quarantined. On the fourth day, the overseers of the units select the prisoners as if they are cattle or merchandise. Elie and his father are taken to the orchestra block. Juliek, a violinist, tells Elie that they are lucky to be in a good unit and that the work at the electrical equipment warehouse is not difficult. The only warning he gives is of Idek the Kapo, an overseer, who is known for his fits of rage. In their group, Elie makes friends with two Czech brothers, Yossi and Tibi. They talk of going to Palestine together if they survive the camps. The foreman of the group is a former student from Warsaw named Franek. The head of the block is a German Jew named Alphonse, who is kind and generous to the members of his block.
One day, Elie is sent to the camp dentist, a Jew from Czechoslovakia, for the extraction of his gold crown. Elie pretends to be ill and is sent away by the dentist with a command to come back later. On the second visit, Elie gets another reprieve by feigning illness. Later, Elie finds out that the dentist office is closed-the dentist is hanged for running a private traffic of gold teeth. Elie feels no pity for him and is glad to have saved his tooth because it could, at some time, buy bread or life. The most important thing for Elie becomes filling his stomach. Elie confesses: "I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach. The stomach alone was aware of the passage of time." Chapter 4, pg. 50
Another time, while Elie is working at the electrical warehouse, Idek the Kapo goes on one of his fits of rage and beats him. A young French girl that Elie works next to, aids him by wiping his bloodied lips. She slips a bit of bread into Elie's hand and tells him in perfect German, "'Bite your lip, little brother....Keep your anger and hatred for another day, for later on. The day will come, but not now....Wait. Grit your teeth and wait....'" Chapter 4, pg. 51 Elie is surprised because he thought she knew no German. Many years later, Elie Wiesel recalls running into her in Paris. They spend the day reminiscing about the past experiences at Buna and he finds out that she is, as he had thought, Jewish.
Yet another time, Idek the Kapo has another fit of rage directed against Elie's father. Beaten by an iron bar, Elie's father falls to the floor. All Elie could do is watch, for fear that he too will be hit. Ironically, Elie's anger is not against Idek, but at his father for not knowing how to avoid getting hit. "That is what concentration camp life had made of me," (Chapter 4, pg. 52) recalls Elie. One day, Franek, the foreman, asks Elie for his gold crown. Elie comes up with various excuses but Franek insists on getting the tooth. He uses Elie's father's inability to march in step as an opportunity to torment Elie by beating his father day after day. Elie tries to give his father marching lessons, but it does not help. Finally, Elie gives in to Franek's wish. Elie ends up getting nothing for his gold crown.
One Sunday morning, when the unit did not have to work, Idek tells the prisoners to go to the warehouse anyway. Tired of just squatting around with nothing to do, Elie accidentally walks in on Idek with a girl. Thinking the situation humorous, Elie bursts out laughing. Later that day during roll call, Elie's number is called and he is given twenty-five lashes of the whip. Elie faints from the blows. As Elie comes back to his senses, he remembers his father: "I was thinking of my father. He must have suffered more than I did." Chapter 4, pg. 56 Another Sunday, when Elie and half the prisoners of the block remain late in bed, there is an air-raid attack on the camp. As the guards go for cover, two cauldrons of soup remain in the kitchen, unguarded. The only thing on the minds of the prisoners is soup. One man dares to reach the cauldron, but suddenly, an explosion goes off and the man is killed. The bombing lasts for over an hour. The prisoners, however, are filled with hope and joy because the rumors they have heard about German defeat on various fronts seem real and believable now. Elie's thoughts during the raid: "If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!" Chapter 4, pg. 57 In the afternoon, the prisoners cheerfully clear away the ruins.
A week later, the prisoners notice a black gallows in the middle of the camp. A youth from Warsaw, a strong, well-built boy is hanged for stealing. Everyone is forced to march past the dead youth and stare into his eyes and at his "lolling tongue of death." Elie, unaffected, finds the soup excellent that evening. Although there are other hangings, one has a particularly haunting effect on Elie. A Dutch Oberkapo, or head overseer, a giant of a man who is well liked by all the prisoners, is arrested and sent away on charges of sabotaging an electric power station and stocking arms. He has a pipel, or young assistant, who is well liked and described as having the face of an angel. Because of his association with the Dutch Oberkapo, he is hanged on the gallows along with two adults. The adults die right away, but the young pipel, being so light, struggles on the gallows for over half an hour. A man behind Elie asks, "'Where is God now?'" Elie hears a voice within him answer: "'Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows....'" Chapter 4, pg. 62 That night, the soup tastes of corpses.