The camp of Buna looks almost deserted when they arrive. The head of the camp orders that food be brought to the ten and twelve-year-old prisoners. The German in charge of Eliezer's tent also takes a special interest in the welfare of the children, although his interest may not be so wholesome—Eliezer later learns that many boys were sexually abused.
The sexual predation of boys is another example of the inhumane treatment of the Jewish prisoners by those who had power over them.
One of his assistants in charge of the tent tries to get Eliezer's shoes in exchange for a good work unit assignment and keeping Eliezer and his father together. Eliezer won't give up his shoes.
Eliezer's shoes are his only possession of value at this point (besides a little bit of dental work).
The prisoners spend three days in quarantine, with medical and dental inspection. Then the Kapos arrive and select their work units. Eliezer's unit is joined by prisoners from a musicians' unit, including Juliek, a violinist. They are sent to work in an electrical equipment warehouse. One of the musicians tells Eliezer that he has landed in a good unit, but that the Kapo, Idek, occasionally goes berserk and beats people.
The Nazis tried to limit the spread of disease among their slave labor so they could get the most work out the prisoners while providing them with the least amount of resources for survival. Musicians were ordered to play marches as the prisoners left each day for work.
In the warehouse there are also Poles and French women. Franek, the foreman, lets Eliezer work next to his father. Eliezer befriends two Czech brothers, Yossi and Tibi, whose parents have been killed at Birkenau, and who talk of going to Palestine. Akiba Drumer discovers a passage in the Bible that he believes predicts their liberation within a few weeks.
The Cabbala, which Eliezer used to study, looks for hidden, deeper meanings within biblical texts. A religious man like Akiba Drumer is relying to the same skills to which Eliezer once devoted his life in order to find some suggestion that God has a miracle in store.
Eliezer is ordered to go to the dentist to have his gold crown removed. Eliezer fakes illness and the dentist tells him to come back when he feels better. Eliezer returns a week later and is successful with the same excuse. Then the dentist is thrown into prison to be hanged for selling the crowns on the black market and Eliezer saves his gold crown.
Eliezer's desires and motivations have become simplified: stay alive, stay with my father, keep my shoes, keep my gold crown.
At the warehouse Eliezer works near a French girl. They don't speak to each other, and Eliezer presumes they don't share a language. He suspects she might be Jewish, but she's there as an Aryan deportee from occupied France. One day, Idek, the Kapo, beats Eliezer savagely. The girl comforts him, gives him some bread, and gives him words of encouragement in German.
This is a rare example of comforting and sympathy among prisoners in Eliezer's account. It may be that such sympathy and encouragement was given more frequently than Eliezer notes. He does give plenty examples of the cruelty that occurs among mistreated people.
Years later, after the war, Eliezer sees a beautiful woman on the Metro in Paris. They recognize each other from the warehouse and spend the evening reminiscing. She is, in fact, Jewish, but made it through the war with forged papers stating she was not. Speaking German was a risk, she admits, but she trusted Eliezer.
This woman's survival is an example of how some Jews who were more aware of the dangers they faced were able to take measures—even if risky ones—to avoid being marked for death in the concentration camps.
On another occasion, Eliezer can only watch as Idek beats his father with an iron bar. Eliezer's instinct is to move farther away. He feels anger, in that moment, more towards his father (for not avoiding the Kapo) than towards Idek.
The concentration camp perverts the father-son relationship. For fear of being killed on the spot, neither son nor father can stop the beatings. For Eliezer, this powerlessness feeds a misplaced resentment.
The foreman, Franek, demands the gold crown in Eliezer's mouth. Eliezer refuses. But his father isn't good at marching, so Franek starts to beat him every day for not marching in rhythm. Eliezer tries to give his father lessons. His father still can't march, and still gets beaten, until Eliezer relents. A dentist takes the crown out with a rusty spoon and gives it to Franek.
The foreman is nice enough to Eliezer until he sees the chance to use his position to take Eliezer's small amount of "wealth." Another example of people at their worst when given power over a group of people who are treated like animals.
One day, Idek brings the entire unit to the warehouse even though there is no work that day. Eliezer wanders around and accidentally sees Idek having sex with a Polish girl. Later, Idek gives Eliezer twenty-five lashes with a whip in front of the rest of the prisoners. His father watches helplessly.
Idek has the power to punish the Jews underneath him for whatever reason, and in any manner he feels like.
During an air raid the SS guards go into bomb shelters. A prisoner tries to get some extra soup but is killed by shrapnel from an exploding bomb. The prisoners are overjoyed at the bombing by American planes, even though it puts them in mortal danger.
At this point, the destruction of their torturers seems more important to the prisoners than their own survival and liberation.
A week later the prisoners are assembled in front of a gallows that has been built in the center of the camp. One prisoner, a strong young man, is condemned to death for stealing. He curses Germany and shouts "Long live liberty!" until the chair is pulled away and he dies. The prisoners think about their delayed supper, and Eliezer later enjoys his soup.
The public hanging is meant to set an example for the rest of the prisoners, and it does make an impression on Eliezer. But his needs are so elemental at this point that the desire for food overcomes the disturbance of the hanging.
Although he is forced to watch other hangings, one in particular stays in Eliezer's mind. The young assistant of a Kapo is arrested along with the Kapo and two other prisoners after a power station in Buna blows up. The Kapo is tortured and sent to Auschwitz. The assistant, still only a boy, is tortured and then brought with the other two men to the gallows before the assembled camp. Prisoners refuse to help in the execution.
This is another example of the harsh treatment given to those who attempt to revolt or sabotage the Nazi machine: weeks of torture and then death. Something about this particular boy—his youth and innocence—captures and crushes the hearts of the rest of the prisoners.
A man in the crowd behind Eliezer asks, "Where is God now?" The three are hanged, and the prisoners are forced to march past and look at them. The boy is still alive, dying slowly, as Eliezer passes. Eliezer feels as if his belief in God dies with that boy.