Eliezer first meets Akiba Drumer during their brief time in Auschwitz, noting the rich, deep quality of his voice as he sings Hasidic melodies late into the night. Drumer’s Kabbalistic faith initially serves as a personal source of hope during his early days in the camp, and he attempts to keep others’ spirits up by emphasizing God’s love for them. His interpretation of their suffering as a test from God, one which they “have no right to despair,” differs significantly from Eliezer’s increasing lack of faith in God’s divine justice. Contrasting these two perspectives, one of hope and one of skepticism, highlights the quick speed at which Eliezer begins to experience spiritual disillusionment. Even though he, too, had an interest in Kabbalah, Eliezer fails to find the same solace that Drumer feels by practicing his faith. At this point in the novel, Drumer’s character represents the ways in which religious beliefs can serve as an inspiration in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

When Eliezer recalls Drumer again in Section 5, however, he explains to readers that the once-devout singer had lost all sense of faith and ultimately became a victim of the selection. This drastic shift in outlook emphasizes just how horrific and soul-crushing life in the concentration camp is, even for those who initially resolved to resist the Nazis’ destruction. Once Drumer’s mental and spiritual resilience disappeared, so did he. Eliezer’s discussion of the faithless way in which Drumer resigns himself to an inevitable death positions him at the opposite end of the spectrum from where he began the novel. Especially in comparison to Eliezer’s struggles with his faith, Drumer’s fall from devout Kabbalist to lacking a reason to live suggests that mental strength can be just as powerful as physical strength when it comes to survival. The fact that Drumer’s friends fail to fulfill his dying wish—that they say Kaddish for him after he is gone—also emphasizes his inability to reconnect with his faith, even in death.