"The night had passed completely. The morning star shone in the sky. I too had become a different person. The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. My soul had been invaded—and devoured—by a black flame."
After arriving at Birkenau, going through the showers, and dressing in prison clothes, Eliezer reflects on how much his world has changed in such a short amount of time. He realizes, as he begins his new life in the shadows of the Nazis’ crematoriums, that their fires have metaphorically destroyed his identity as a devout student of faith. Contrary to traditional notions of fire as a purifying or holy force, Eliezer describes the flames as “black,” emphasizing the inherent evil of the Nazi regime and the growing void in his spirit.
"The three ‘veteran’ prisoners, needles in hand, tattooed numbers on our left arms. I became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name."
After arriving at Auschwitz’s main concentration camp, Eliezer and the other prisoners receive numbered tattoos on their left arms. These tattoos, which violate Jewish Scripture, represent a formal erasure of individual identity by the Nazis and act as both a physical and permanent reminder of the dehumanizing conditions the prisoners experience daily. For Eliezer, this literal reduction of his identity mirrors the internal loss of self that he feels as he loses his mother and sisters, questions his faith in God, and witnesses acts of horror every day.
"The idea of dying, of ceasing to be, began to fascinate me. To no longer exist. To no longer feel the excruciating pain of my foot. To no longer feel anything, neither fatigue nor cold, nothing. To break rank, to let myself slide to the side of the road… My father's presence was the only thing that stopped me."
Eliezer becomes preoccupied with ideas of death as he and the rest of the prisoners from Buna march through heavy snow toward another camp. Plagued with pain from his foot injury as well as weakness from manual labor and starvation, Eliezer yearns to put an end to his misery and knows how easy it would be to do so. He ultimately resists the temptation of death, however, because of his commitment to his father, a choice which emphasizes his belief in the strength of family bonds.