Pages 61-63 Chapter 4
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The first boy...... not the first hanging?
An Oberkapo and his pipel (a young boy who acted as his assistant) who everyone liked were suspected of blowing up a power plant on camp, but they refused, despite torture, to give any information about it. The little boy, who had the face of a sad angel, was sentenced to be hanged. The prisoner who usually served as executioner refused to perform his task and had to be replaced by an SS officer. When it came time for the execution, the child said nothing, and the whole camp observed in silence. Since the child was so light, he didn't die immediately when he fell, and he remained alive, hanging for half an hour. All the prisoners wept that day, and one man kept asking where God was. That day Eliezer's soup tasted like corpses.
The hanging of the young boy greatly affects all inhabitants of the concentration camps. It arouses feelings of pity and sorrow that are a rarity in the jaded atmosphere of the death camp. The Nazis intend the public hangings to be an unspoken threat to the prisoners to keep them in line. However, they seem to cross the line when they hang the child. Even though they kill thousands in the crematory on a daily basis, the hanging of the child becomes an act of unspeakable and horrid cruelty. The prisoners all weep, and Eliezer feels like the Nazis have succeeded in killing God himself: "Behind me, I heard the same man asking: Where is God now?' And I heard a voice within me answer him: Where is He? Here He isHe is hanging here on this gallows.'" In killing the child, the Nazis come dangerously close to destroying Eliezer's faith in God. Wiesel writes, "That night the soup tasted of corpses." After witnessing the execution, Eliezer feels like death is everywhere, and he is unable to enjoy his soup because all goodness has been destroyed.