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Elie and his family are introduced. Elie, his three sisters, Mother, and Father all live in a small town of Sighet, Hungarian 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.
World War II has been going on for 3 years. The people of Sighet begin to wonder if the front is moving closer to them or if the war will end before it reaches Hungary. At this time, all foreign Jews are deported. This includes Moshe. However, Moshe is able to escape while the SS murder the other foreign Jews. He returns to Sighet to warn people, but they do not listen.
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. There, Elie recants the atrocities of death, despair, and the loss of hope he experienced under the Nazi occupation.
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