|Summary of Chapter 4 (pages 47 -65)
Elie and his father arrive at another camp, Buna
As part of their medical examinations, prisoners were examined by a dentist.
The dentist was looking for prisoners with gold teeth. The teeth were pulled; the gold was removed from the teeth and stockpiled by the Nazis.
After several days, Elie and his father were assigned to work in a warehouse for electrical equipment. The job itself was easy and not dangerous. The problem was with Idek, the Kapo, who was subject to bouts of madness, which caused him to act irrationally and beat the prisoners.
Elie was called to the dentist to extract his gold crown. He told the dentist he was ill and had a temperature. The dentist told Elie to return in a week. Elie did so, but again lied and said he was ill.
Eventually, the dentist was thrown into prison to be hanged because it was said he had been stealing the gold from prisoners’ teeth.
One day at the factory, Idek, the Kapo, beat Elie. A young French girl helps Elie wipe the blood off of him. Elie tells of meeting this same woman many years later in Paris.
Idek beat Elie’s father with an iron bar because he was moving too slowly. Elie was angry, not at Idek, but at his father for not knowing how to avoid Idek’s wrath. This was yet another way in which the Nazis dehumanized the Jews.
Franek, the Polish foreman, wanted Elie’s gold tooth. Elie refused to give it up and said he would have to ask his father, who also refused. To get revenge, Franek began beating Elie’s father every day because the older man could not learn to march in step.
For two weeks, Elie tried to teach his father to march in step, but the beatings continued until Elie agreed to allow Franek to have the tooth. Two weeks later, Franek was transferred to another camp; Elie had given up his gold tooth for nothing.
Elie’s unit is told that they must go to the warehouse on a Sunday, even though they were not required to work. Elie discovered that the Kapo, Idek, was having sex with a young Polish girl in the warehouse. Idek whipped Elie 25 times.
A prisoner was shot during an Allied air raid on the prison camp for trying to steal soup that had been left unattended.
Even though Elie and the other prisoners might have been killed by the Allied bombs, to the prisoners, it signaled the beginning of the end of the war. This was real evidence that the Germans were being defeated by the Allied forces.
One day, the prisoners were told that soup would not be distributed until after roll call because the Nazis wanted the prisoners to witness the execution of a man accused of stealing during the air raid alert. The execution was to serve as a warning and an example.
Elie and the other prisoners were also forced to witness the hanging of a young boy who had the face angel. This execution was particularly cruel because the boy, who did not weigh very much, did not die right away and suffered for more than half an hour.
Elie’s emotions show the effects of living in horrible conditions, being starved, and being dehumanized by the Nazis.