Idek in Night by Elie Wiesel

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Idek, a young man, is a character from Elie Wiesel's well-known Holocaust work 'Night.' In this lesson, learn about Idek as a character and his role in the book.

Who Is Idek?

You've read countless times, of course, about the cruelty of the Nazis during the Holocaust and their system of murder in the extermination and concentration camps. But did you know that often the prisoners they placed in charge of each bunkhouse could be the cruelest of all? These men and women were called Kapos, and the subject of this lesson, a man named Idek, is one of the Kapos in Elie Wiesel's work Night.

Idek is the Kapo of Eliezer the narrator's Kommando, or work squad, at Buna, the concentration camp that was part of Auschwitz in Poland. Idek is overall not too terrible to have in charge, but he is prone to fits of madness and extreme, violent anger. While he's in these fits, he acts with startling violence, although it's clear these episodes of cruelty are never planned.

An aerial view of the Buna camp

Idek as a Kapo

Being in Idek's Kommando isn't the worst assignment for young Eliezer and his father, because the work detail for this squad is very light, especially compared to the squads that have to do manual labor. Those men were often worked to death very quickly; at least in Idek's Kommando, Eliezer and his father have a chance to survive.

But of course, danger and death are everywhere in the camp and some of that danger still comes from Idek, a young man with terrible fits of temper and rage. These fits come out of nowhere, and anyone who's in Idek's way has no defense. Eliezer is the victim of one of these rages very soon after being assigned to this Kommando. He's beaten severely by Idek for no reason, who never mentions it again. Shortly afterward, Eliezer's father is also beaten by Idek for what Idek calls laziness.

But the interesting thing about this incident is the fact that the squad is also being watched by Nazi soldiers. Could this have something to do with Idek's explosion? Did Idek want to further ensure his own safety by looking cruel and severe in front of the Germans? That's a possibility. Keep in mind that Idek is also a prisoner, and that his life means just as little to the Nazis as Eliezer's father's.

Idek flaunts his power in other ways, too. In one scene, Eliezer catches Idek having sex with a young Polish girl - it's never stated whether or not this was consensual on her part - and Idek then beats Eliezer again, punishing him for interrupting, this time with a whip. Idek clearly needs to prove himself to his Nazi captors, but the result is more pain for those under him.

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