Night Chapter 5
The Jewish year passes and on New Year's Day, the prisoners gather to celebrate and give thanks to God. Elie remembers that at one time, New Year's Day had dominated his life. But now, he refuses to offer up any prayers or praises to God. He feels no longer capable of lamentation, blaming God instead. But he also feels lonely in a world without God. As the Jews wish one another a Happy New Year, Elie finds his father, takes his hand, and kisses it. A tear falls on it and Elie asks, "Whose was that tear? Mine? His?" They both remain silent. Elie concludes, "We had never understood one another so clearly." Chapter 5, pg. 65 On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the Jews debate whether they should fast or not. Partly in obedience to his father and partly as a revolt against God, Elie swallows his food. But again, in his heart he feels a great void.
Elie is separated from his father. He is transferred to another building where he hauls heavy blocks of stone for twelve hours a day. The veterans talk about how terrible Buna used to be and how it is now a paradise compared to before. But Elie is not comforted because there are rumors of another selection process. Elie is worried about his father because he has does not know if he can pass the selection. The head of Elie's new block tells them that in order to pass the selection they must run in front of the SS doctors. The SS officer in charge of the selection is the notorious Dr. Mengele. When Elie's turn comes, he runs as if his life depends on it. After the selection process, Elie finds his father and they share good news they had both passed. The bell rings and they separate. Elie hates the unceasing regulation of the bell. Elie notes, "Whenever I dreamed of a better world, I could only imagine a universe with no bells." Chapter 5, pg. 69-70
Several days pass and the prisoners forget about the selection. But the head of the block reads off a list of ten prisoners who are to remain behind. Dr. Mengele has not forgotten. Elie's father comes running and says that he too has been selected to be left behind. All day, Elie worries about his father. After work, he is relieved to find that his father has passed a second, decisive selection. Many in the camp, however, do not make it. Akiba Drumer, having lost his once strong faith, becomes a victim of the crematory. A rabbi from Poland, who spends hours reciting the Talmud, concludes hopelessly that God is no longer with them. Before being taken away, Akiba Drumer asks some of the prisoners to recite the Kaddish for him. After only three days, they forget the promise.
During the winter, Elie's foot starts to swell. He goes to the hospital and there, a Jewish doctor tells Elie that the foot must be operated on. After the surgery, as Elie recuperates in the hospital, his neighbor, a faceless Hungarian Jew, tells him that Hitler will annihilate all the Jews. In anger, Elie asks why Hitler should be regarded as a prophet. The faceless neighbor counters, "'I've got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He's the only one who's kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.'" Chapter 5, pg. 77
There is news that Buna will be evacuated. Elie and his father decide between staying at the hospital or going on with the other prisoners. They choose the latter. (Later, Elie finds out that two days after the evacuation, the Russian army liberates the hospital). Elie remembers that last night in Buna:
"Yet another last night. The last night at home, the last night in the ghetto, the last night in the train, and, now, the last night in Buna. How much longer were our lives to be dragged out from one 'last night' to another?" Chapter 5, pg. 79
Just before they evacuate, the head of the block tells the prisoners to wash the wooden floor. He wants the liberating army to know that men lived there, not animals. The bell rings again. The march is like a procession of the dead. Night falls, but outside the gate, Elie feels that "an even darker night was waiting for us on the other side." (Chapter 5, pg. 80)