How we cite our quotes:
My father's voice tore me from my daydreams:
"What a shame, a shame that you did not go with your mother … I saw many children your age go with their mothers …"
His voice was terribly sad. I understood that he did not wish to see what they would to do to me. He did not wish to see his only son go up in flames. (3.55-57)
The presence of family isn’t always a source of happiness or relief; for Eliezer’s father, staying with his son means additional suffering – he will have to witness his son’s pain.
We had already been in Auschwitz for eight days. It was after roll call. We stood waiting for the bell announcing its end. Suddenly I noticed someone passing between the rows. I heard him ask:
"Who among you is Wiesel from Sighet?"
The person looking for us was a small fellow with spectacles in a wizened face. My father answered:
"That’s me. Wiesel from Sighet."
The fellow’s eyes narrowed. He took a long look at my father.
"You don’t know me? … You don’t recognize me. I’m your relative, Stein. Already forgotten? Stein. Stein from Antwerp. Reizel’s husband. Your wife was Reizel’s aunt … She often wrote to us… and such letters!"
My father had not recognized him. He must have barely known him, always being up to his neck in communal affairs and not knowledgeable in family matters. He was always elsewhere, lost in thought. (Once, a cousin came to see us in Sighet. She had stayed at our house and eaten at our table for two weeks before my father noticed her presence for the first time.) No, he did not remember Stein. I recognized him right away. I had known Reizel, his wife, before she had left for Belgium. (3.147-3.153)
Family members seek out other family members in Auschwitz – even if they didn’t know them very well. The familial connection is important for staying emotionally alive.
He told us that he had been deported in 1942. He said, "I heard people say that a transport had arrived from your region and I came to look for you. I thought you might have some news of Reizel and my two small boys who stayed in Antwerp …"
I knew nothing about them … Since 1940, my mother had not received a single letter from them. But I lied:
"Yes, my mother did hear from them. Reizel is fine. So are the children …"
He was weeping with joy. He would have liked to stay longer, to learn more details, to soak up the good news, but an SS was heading in our direction and he had to go, telling us that he would come back the next day. (3.154-3.157)
When families are separated, members live for good (or even bad) news of their relatives. Eliezer decides it is better to lie and give his distant cousin a reason to go on living. Similarly, Eliezer and his father try to convince themselves that their loved ones, Eliezer’s mom and sister, are alive.