Describe the life of young Elie. What is his life like before the Germans invade Hungary? What does Elie study? How does young Elie feel about life and God?
Moshe the Beadle
What is his purpose in the novel? Describe what happens when he is deported. Why don't the Jews believe him when he returns to Sighet, and how does this foreshadow events to come?
The Jewish Ghetto
During the time in the ghetto, why do the Jews have a hard time believing that the Germans will deport them or hurt them? Why do they remain optimistic or naive about their future?
The Class Lines
Explain how class lines among the Jews disappeared during ghetto life and life in the concentration camp. When did wealth and social status disappear? When did all Jews become equal?
Madame Schachter & Foreshadowing
Explain the scene with Madame Schachter. What are the visions she sees? How do the Jews treat her? How do her visions foreshadow the future for the Jews?
The Concentration Camps
Describe the concentration camps where Elie and his father were imprisoned. Describe the inhumanities against the Jews. What do you think happened to Elie's mother and younger sister that first day at the concentration camp?
Explain the significance of the following quotes:
"For the first time, I felt revolt rise up in me. Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for?" (pg. 31)
"Some talked of God, of his mysterious ways, of the sins of the Jewish people, and of their future deliverance. But I had ceased to pray. How I sympathized with Job! I did not deny God's existence, but I doubted His absolute justice." (pg. 42)
"I took little interest in anything except my daily plate of soup and my crust of stale bread. Bread, soup -- these were my whole life." (pg. 51)
The Prisoner's Faith
What evidence is there that the faith of the prisoners is breaking?
Why is it difficult to observe the fast on Yom Kippur (day of prayer asking for forgiveness), or to remember to say the Kaddish (prayer of mourning for the dead) for those sent to the crematorium?
How do the prisoners come to view God?
How did the German citizens react to the spectacle of starving prisoners on the train? How did the prisoners react to the bread thrown to them? How does Elie feel about the spectacle?
Explain why the Jews treated each other inhumanely and without compassion.
Why did sons wish to get rid of fathers? Why did fathers and sons fight over bread? Explain how the family relationships deteriorated. In contrast, describe Elie's relationship with his own father.
The Death of a Young Boy
How did the Jews react to the hangings? Describe their reaction to the hanging of the young boy. Explain Elie's reaction to the hanging.
The Book's Ending
Describe the ending of the book, and how Elie feels after being liberated by the Russians. What do you suppose his future life will be like? Do you feel that he has lost all faith in God?