by: Elie Wiesel



“Faster! Faster! Move, you lazy good-for nothings!” the Hungarian police were screaming. That was when I began to hate them, and my hatred remains our only link today. They were our first oppressors. They were the first faces of hell and death.

Eliezer recounts the moment he began to feel true hate for his oppressors. The Wiezels and all of the other Jews in their village have been forced from their homes after a Fascist takeover of Hungary’s government and the invasion of Hungary by German troops. Now the police of their own country herd the Jews toward the trains that will take them to concentration camps. Eliezer portrays this evil—and all the evils he witnesses—as actions for which humans bear responsibility.


But my father did not make sufficient progress, and the blows continued to rain on him. “So, you still don’t know how to march in step, you old good-for-nothing?”

Eliezer describes the daily abuse endured by his father at the hands of Franek, their foreman at the Buna camp. In this scene, Franek is beating Eliezer’s father in order to get Eliezer to give him his gold tooth, the last item of value Eliezer and his father own. Here and throughout the story, Eliezer describes evil in terms of specific human action. The perpetrators of evil are human beings, operating from human motives, such as, in this case, greed. Eventually, Eliezer lets Franek have the tooth.


In the wagon where the bread had landed, a battle had ensued. Men were hurling themselves against each other, trampling, tearing at and mauling each other. Beasts of prey unleashed, animal hate in their eyes. An extraordinary vitality possessed them, sharpening their teeth and nails.

Eliezer tells of what occurs shortly after he, his father, and other prisoners board a train bound for their final camp. Passersby amuse themselves by tossing bread at the prisoners and watching them scramble for it. In response, the starving prisoners behave more like beasts than men. The victims of other men’s evil have become evil themselves. Eliezer’s description implies that evil is the animal side of human nature. The scene is a painfully detailed example of exactly how evil creates more evil.