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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES FOR NIGHT BY ELIE WIESEL
Things grow worse in Buchenwald, for the Nazis fear that they will soon be captured and forced to surrender. Towards the end, they do not even give the prisoners soup and bread. Elie is so starved that he eats a bit of grass and a few potato peels to stay alive. As the Allied forces move closer, the decision is made to blow up Buchenwald, and an evacuation of the prisoners is begun.
Then on April 11, 1945, before everyone (including Elie) is evacuated, a battle begins. Armed Allied soldiers are seen everywhere. Realizing they are far outnumbered, the SS flee. By 6:00 p.m., an American tank arrives and opens the gates of Buchenwald, freeing the prisoners. Since they are literally starving to death, their first concern is to find something to eat.
Three days after the liberation, Elie becomes very ill, probably with food poisoning, and must be hospitalized. When he recovers enough to get out of bed, he looks into the mirror and thinks that he looks like a living corpse. In many ways, that is what he has become. He has lost his father, has been separated from his sisters and mother, has endured unbelievable pain and torture, and has constantly witnessed the cruel deaths of his fellow man. As a result, he is emotionally dead at the end of the book. It will take him many years to begin to recover from the trauma of the holocaust.
With the arrival of the American tanks, the novel comes to a dramatic end. The surviving prisoners, including Elie, are set free at last. They are too exhausted physically and mentally to rejoice or curse their torturers. Their only thought is about finding some food to stave off the hunger.
It is ironic that Elie, who has done without food for so long, gets food poisoning three days after the liberation. He becomes so sick that he must be hospitalized. Once he recovers, he looks into the mirror and thinks that he looks like a corpse. In truth, much of him has died. Even though he is a free man at the end of the book, the enemy has succeeded in stripping him of dignity and emotion. It will take years for him to recover from the trauma he has endured.