Section Four

Summary Section Four


The harrowing scene of the child’s murder with which this section concludes symbolically enacts the murder of God. Eliezer comes to believe that a just God must not exist in a world where an innocent child can be hanged on the gallows. “Where is He?” Eliezer asks rhetorically, and then answers, “He is hanging here on this gallows.” Upon witnessing the hanging of the child, Eliezer reaches the low point of his faith.

The death of the innocent child represents the death of Eliezer’s own innocence. In the camp, he has become someone different from the child he was at the beginning of the Holocaust. He has lost his faith, and he is beginning to lose his sense of morals and values as well. In a world in which survival is nearly impossible, survival has become Eliezer’s dominant goal. He admits that he lives only to feed himself. When his father is beaten, Eliezer feels no pity. Instead, he becomes angry at his father for failing to learn, as Eliezer is learning, how to survive without attracting the anger of the overseers.

Eliezer’s relationship with his father is all-important to both of them, because it provides both with support. Though it is crucial to Eliezer to remain with his father at all costs, even the link between parent and child grows tenuous under the stress of the Nazi oppression. When, in this section, Eliezer relates with horror a story about witnessing a thirteen-year-old child who beats his father for making his bed improperly, he seems to feel that the event serves as an implicit cautionary tale. It is Eliezer’s great fear that he too will lose his sense of kindness and filial responsibility, that he may turn against his father to facilitate his own survival.

Eliezer’s story of his encounter with the French girl who comforts him after he is beaten by Idek the Kapo is unusual because it is one of the few places in the memoir where he jumps into the future to explain what happened after the liberation of the concentration camps. This chance meeting on the Métro is the kind of coincidental twist that a novelist might invent but that rarely occurs in nonfiction because it rarely occurs in real life. Several such coincidences do happen in Night, however—for example, Eliezer meets Juliek again later in the memoir—but none of them lessens the truthful impact of the story.

In Wiesel’s mind, the fact of surviving the Holocaust is in itself a staggeringly unlikely coincidence, a stroke of sheer luck. The overwhelming majority of concentration camp prisoners did not survive. If one can survive in the face of such great odds, then any coincidence becomes believable. Wiesel wants to make the point that his own survival is a result of luck and coincidence. To attribute his survival to his own merit would be inaccurate, as well as disrespectful of the memories of those millions who did not survive.