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At the beginning if the book we are introduced to Elie who tells the story from the first person point of view. Elie, his three sisters, Mother, and Father all live in a small town of Sighet in Transylvania. Early in his life, Elie becomes interested in Jewish mysticism. He learns that Moshe the Beadle is a master in these areas and is willing to teach him more about this. Even though his father has said Elie is to young for these lessons.
World War II has been raging on for 3 years and it shows no sign of letting up. The people of Sighet begin to wonder if the front is moving closer to them or if the war will end before it reaches them. At this time, all foreign Jews are deported, this includes Moshe. However, Moshe is able to escape while the Nazi’s murder foreign Jews, Moishe sees this and returns to Sighet. When he returns to warn people however, they do not listen to what he has to say.
German soldiers enter Elie's town, at first the citizens believe the Germans to be respectable people. The Germans build ghettos to house the Jews.There they learn that they will be deported to an undisclosed camp by cattle car. While making the three day journey, Elie and his father are put in the same car as Mrs. Schächter, who goes mad and claims to see fire and a furnace.
The family arrives at Birkenau and the men are separated from the women. From there, they go to Auschwitz and eventually travel to Buna to work in an electrical factory. Elie tells about the horrible acts committed by the Germans, these include throwing children into fires, and torturing other Jews. The most impactful however was the hanging of young boy who Elie saw suffocate for thirty minutes.
After months in the camp, Eliezer undergoes an operation on his foot. At this time, the camp is evacuated and the prisoners begin a death march: a fifty mile run to Gleiwitz. Many die, only twelve remain alive when the train reaches the concentration camp Buchenwald. Throughout the ordeal, Eliezer and his father help each other to survive.
In Buchenwald, Elie's father dies, leaving Eli feeling a guilty mixture of emotions. Elie survives the atrocities of the Holocaust, however, he is left to pick up the fragments of his life. “From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me.” He was liberated on April 11, 1945 when allied American forces freed the Jews, the Americans where stunned by what they saw.
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