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Free Study Guide for Night by Elie Wiesel-Summary/BookNotes/Synopsis
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SUMMARIES AND NOTES FOR NIGHT BY ELIE WIESEL

SECTION 2

Summary

Wiesel describes the cattle car in which he and the other Jews are forced to travel; it is horribly congested and miserable. There is no room to lie down, and they have to take turns to have a place to sit for awhile. They all suffer from thirst, hunger, heat, and exhaustion. When the train stops at Kaschau, in Czechoslovakia, Nazi soldiers demand that the Jews give up their gold, silver, watches, money, and other possessions; if they refuse, they will be shot. A lieutenant announces that if any one of the eighty prisoners is found missing, all the remaining Jews will also be shot.

In the cattle car, there is a lady named Madame Schachter, who is traveling with her ten-year old son. She constantly screams in hysteria and shouts about fire, furnace, and flames. Even though the others try to calm her, her screeching continues, making conditions in the cattle car even worse. Finally the others tie and gag her so she will be quiet. By the time that the train arrives in Poland, the Jews are half starved and dying of thirst.


At the first stop, two men are allowed to leave the car for the purpose of bringing water. They bribe some soldiers with a hidden gold watch to find out what the future holds for the Jews in the cattle car. They are told that they have arrived at Auschwitz. They will be unloaded and separated from their families. Supposedly, the younger, healthier people will work in factories, and the old and invalid will work in the fields. When the men report these findings to the Jews in the cattle car, they all feel encouraged.

The Jews are finally unloaded from the train and taken to Birkenau, the reception center for Auschwitz, the death camp. On the way to the center, they notice flames leaping out of a tall chimney and the stench of burning flesh. Once inside, Elie notices that Madame Schachter is holding her son's hand; it will be the last time, for they are soon to be separated.

Notes

In this section, Wiesel describes the miserable conditions of the cattle cars in which the Jews must travel. Wiesel's car has eighty people crammed inside; it is so crowded that it is impossible to lay down, and people must take turns sitting. In addition, the Jews are thirsty and hungry. Their misery is heightened by the hysterical behavior and hallucinations of Madame Schachter. Her vision of fire and furnace serve as a premonition of the evil fate that will befall many of the Jews in the cattle car.

When the train stops in Poland, two Jews are allowed to leave the train to bring water. Through bribery, they learn that they have arrived at Auschwitz, where the males will be separated from the females, and the strong and healthy separated from the weak and sick. The stronger prisoners will supposedly work in factories, and the weaker ones will work in the fields. When the two men report these findings, the Jews in the cattle car feel momentarily relieved. Soon, however, they are unloaded from the train and are greeted by flames coming from a chimney and the smell of burning flesh.

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