François Mauriac recounts his interview with Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who wrote this compelling and powerful memoir about his time at Auschwitz.

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Section 1

After the Hungarian government falls to the Fascists in 1944, Eliezer Wiesel and his family, along with the remaining Jews in Sighet, are herded away to Auschwitz, a concentration camp.

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Section 2

The conditions on the train to Auschwitz are so unbearable that Madame Schächter begins screaming and wailing, only to be beaten into silence by her fellow passengers. Upon arriving at Birkenau, the processing station for Auschwitz, the passengers realize that the noxious odor they smell is that of human flesh.

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Section 3

Eliezer and his father are separated from his mother and sister during a “selection,” a process where individuals are weeded out to be killed. Eliezer and his father lie about their ages and are sent to the barracks where they are gowned in prisoner clothing and told that either they work, or they die. Later, a train arrives to take them to Buna where they will be interned for four months.

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Section 4

Eliezer avoids having his gold tooth removed. Idek, a Kapo in charge of Eliezer’s work crew, beats Eliezer with no provocation. The narrator goes on to relate a story of the French girl Eliezer ran into years later who consoled Eliezer after the beating. After a prisoner attempts and fails to eat soup during an air raid, the Nazis set up gallows to publicly kill the prisoners, including a child, which leads Eliezer to further question his belief in God.

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Section 5

During the Jewish High Holidays, Eliezer questions his faith and religion in general. His father somehow survives another selection. Suffering the brutal effects of winter, Eliezer has surgery on his foot and the camp is evacuated.

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Sections 6 & 7

Eliezer and his father arrive at the Gleiwitz Camp, where Eliezer’s father survives another selection. Eliezer, his father, and the other prisoners travel through German towns for ten days without being fed and are harassed by German citizens who take joy in watching the Jewish prisoners suffer. The train eventually arrives at Buchenwald, where only twelve of the one hundred passengers survive.

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Sections 8 & 9

The journey to Buchenwald thoroughly depletes and eventually kills Eliezer’s father, relieving an ashamed Eliezer. On April 10th, right before the Nazis can annihilate the remaining Jews, the Americans arrive and free the prisoners at Buchenwald. Eliezer views himself in a mirror for the first time since leaving Sighet and is surprised by how much his appearance has changed.

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