At the end of summer, 1944, at the end of the Jewish year, the ten thousand Jews in the prison camp assemble for a solemn service, but Eliezer feels rebellion in his heart. He does not want to pray or praise God, because he feels that God has betrayed His people. He becomes the accuser, and God the accused, instead of the other way round.
After the service, the prisoners return to their blocks, wishing one another a Happy New Year. When Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, comes around, the prisoners debate about whether they should fast, which is the usual practice. Eliezer does not, to please his father, who forbids him to do so, and also because he feels that not fasting is an act of rebellion against God.
One evening soon after this, the prisoners are told that no one is to be allowed out after evening soup. There is to a process called selection. The SS would examine the prisoners, and anyone who was considered weak would be sent to the crematory.
The men undress and the SS doctors arrive. The men parade past them, and every so often, Dr. Mengele, who is taking stock of every prisoner, writes a number down-the number tattooed on the prisoners arm. Eliezer rushes past the inspectors as fast as he can. His number is not written down.
After the SS officers leave, the head of the block tries to reassure everyone, even one man whose number was taken, that nothing bad will happen.
Eliezer runs to another block to find his father, and is relieved when he finds out that his father passed the test also.
Over the next few days, Eliezer continues his work loading heavy stones into railway wagons. One day, the head of the block produces a list of numbers. These are the men who have been “selected.” There are ten men on the list, and they are told they are not to go to work that day. They all know what their fate will be.
Eliezers father runs up, saying that his name is on the list too. The SS must have written it down without him being aware of it. But he tries to reassure his son. There is to be a second, decisive selection, and he may yet escape.
At the end of the day, Eliezer runs to his fathers block, and finds his father still there. He has escaped the second selection.
His friend Akiba Drumer is not so lucky, and is a victim of the selection. Over the previous few days, he had lost his faith in God. A rabbi from a little town in Poland loses his faith, too.
Winter comes, and conditions get worse. The icy wind cuts right through the prisoners, but they are given clothes only slightly thicker than before. In January, Eliezers right foot swells because of the cold. The Jewish doctor (himself a prisoner) whom he sees about it insists that he should have an operation. In the hospital, Eliezer finds that the food is better. He is given good bread and thicker soup. But a Hungarian Jew in the bed next to him reminds him that there is selection in the hospital too. The Germans have no need for sick Jews.
The operation on Eliezers foot lasts for an hour. Everything goes well, and the doctor tells him that within two weeks his foot will be completely healed. But two days later, the prisoners are told that the camp is to be evacuated. They are to be sent to one of the many other camps, farther back, somewhere in Germany. But patients in the infirmary will not be evacuated. There is speculation amongst the patients that the Germans will kill them rather than leave them alive for the advancing Russian army to find. Eliezer elects to stay with his father and evacuate the camp. He learns after the war that those who stayed behind were liberated by the Russians two days after the evacuation.
At nightfall the next day, the evacuation begins. It is snowing hard and continuously.
In this section, Eliezer becomes like Job in the Bible. Job suffered many misfortunes and dared to challenge God and question Him about His justice. Eliezer addresses God in his thoughts in ways that would have been unthinkable to the religious boy who only a few months ago lived in Sighet. “What does Your greatness mean, Lord of the Universe, in the face of all this weakness, this decomposition, and this decay?” he asks. He continues thinking in this vein throughout the New Years service. Although he feels completely alone in a universe bereft of God and without love or mercy, he gains a kind of strength in his solitude.
At the same time as he faces up to his complete loss of faith, Eliezer still manages to maintain his humanity, which manifests in his loyalty to his father. They are joined together by the immensity of the suffering they share. This is conveyed in the moment after the New Years service, when Eliezer kisses his fathers hand and a tear falls upon it. Neither Eliezer nor his father know from whose eye the tear fell. It does not matter.
Eliezer also demonstrates that his humanity remains intact when he elects to evacuate the camp with his father, rather than remaining behind in the infirmary. “We had already suffered so much, borne so much together; this was not the time to be separated.” Thus Eliezer affirms the value and strength of the family bond, despite everything that tries to undermine it. In the remaining sections, he will face an even sterner test.