Night by Elie Wiesel Chapter 2 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

In Chapter 2 of Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, the Wiesel family and others from their village are forced onto cattle cars to endure a dreadful journey with a horrific final destination. Read on to learn more about the second chapter of Wiesel's story.

Review of Chapter 1

In pre-World War II Hungary, 12-year-old Elie Wiesel meets a man named Moshe, and begins to learn about the cabbala. When the Hungarian police expel the foreigners in 1942, Moshe is forced to go with them. Sometime later he returns, telling a horrible story of Jews being forced to dig their own graves in Poland. No one really worries, but they begin to hear disturbing news from Poland and Germany. In 1944, the Germans arrive and life deteriorates. Eventually, Elie, his family, and many other Jews from their town are put on a train for deportation.

On the Train

The Jews are packed together inside cattle cars. As the train rumbles along, there are so many people inside that nobody can lie down. In fact, they have to take turns sitting. It's hot and the people are thirsty and hungry. Although there is limited privacy, modesty is no longer a luxury, and some of the younger villagers manage to sneak in romantic liaisons. They travel in the car for two days, and the train crosses the border into German-controlled Poland.

A German officer enters the car and tells them that he knows there are 80 people in there. He says that if there are less than 80 when he counts again, he will kill them all like ''dogs.'' Then, the doors to the car are nailed shut.

The Journey

The conditions are so terrible that Madame Schächter, a woman traveling with her young son and separated from her husband, begins to scream. She yells that she sees a huge, terrible fire burning in a furnace. At first, the people ignore her, but after her yelling continues, they gag her. Her son sits beside her and cries. At one point, she breaks free of her bonds and begins to yell again, which irritates everyone. Some of the younger men hit her, tie her up, and gag her again. She falls quiet…for a while. The next night, she resumes yelling, and is once again beaten into silence.

The train stops for water, and some of the men speak to the locals. The train is bound for Auschwitz, they are told, which is a work camp in Poland. The locals tell the men that they will be treated well at Auschwitz, and families will be able to stay together. The mood in the car improves drastically, even when Madame Schächter starts her screaming again.

Jewish deportees arrive at Birkenau-Auschwitz
Jewish deportees arrive at Birkenau-Auschwitz

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