Elie and his family are introduced. Him, his 3 sisters, mother, and father live in the town of Sighet. After being fascinated by Jewish mysticism, he finds Moshe the Beadle who is willing to teach him more.
During the 3 years of World War II, Jews have been getting deported including Moshe the Beadle, who escapes while the SS murder the other Jews. He tries to warn the people of Sighet, however, the people do not listen and brush him off.
The German soldiers invade Sighet, later forming ghettos. Everyone grieves after learning that they are going to get deported to a concentration camp. Elie and his father are put in the same cattle car as Mrs. Schachter, who is constantly screaming about the fire the entire time.
Elie and his family arrive at Birkenau, where the men are seperated from the women. They then go to Auschwitz and later to Buna, where Elie and his father work in an electrical factory. After everything Elie has been through, he loses faith in god, and is put into a trance of despair.
After staying in the camp for months, Elie's foot swells up and he has an operation on it. Right after this operation, the prisoners take a 50 mile death march to Gleiwitz. Only 12 people survive including Elie and his father.
Elie's father dies in Buchenwald, leaving him with mixed emotions, especially grievance. Elie gains the courage to look into the mirror, where he sees a "corpse" staring back at him. Elie survives the ordeal, and has never forgotten all of this.