Elie and his family are introduced. Elie is determined to learn the Zohar, and wants Moishe the Beadle to be his mentor. He is interested in mysticism, but his father says he is to young to study it
World War 2 has been going on for 3 years. Moishe the Beadle cheats death and returns to Sighet. Upon his return to Sighet, he tells the Jews what he experiences, and tries to warn them what is to come.
German Nazis soon arrive in Sighet, and form ghettos. The Jews learn they will be sent to a concentration camp . On their way to Birkenau, Mrs. Scachter has visions about fire, foreshadowing a creamatory in the Auchwitz/Birkenau.
The first camp they arrive at is Birkenau. The men are separated to the left, and women separated to the right. Elie and his father then go to Auchwitz then Buna. Over the course of going from camp to camp, Elie's faith in him decreases, and he eventally has none left to spare.
After months in camp, Elie has swelling in his foot and needs surgery. At the same time, the camp is being evacuated. The inmates begin their final 50 mile march to Gleiwitz.
Elie's father dies from dysentery in Buchenwald, and he feels some kind of relief. On April 10, the first American tank shows up at Buchenwald, saving the rest of the men. By the end of the book, Elies faith in Him has completely vanished, as he was silent during Elie's experiences.