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Quotes

Quote #7

Stein, our relative from Antwerp, continued to visit us and, from time to time, he would bring a half portion of bread:

"Here, this is for you, Eliezer."

Every time he came, tears would roll down his icy cheeks. He would often say to my father:

"Take care of your son. He is very weak, very dehydrated. Take care of yourselves, you must avoid selection. Eat! Anything, anytime. Eat all you can. The weak don’t last very long around here …"

And he himself was so thing, so withered, so weak …

"The only thing that keeps me alive," he kept saying, "is to know that Reizel and the little ones are still alive. Were it not for them, I would give up."

One evening he came to see us, his face radiant.

"A transport just arrived from Antwerp. I shall go to see them tomorrow. Surely they will have news …"

He left.

We never saw him again. He had been given the news. The real news. (3.164-173)

Stein reminds father and son the importance of keeping each other alive during such a hard time. The way Stein sees it, family is the only thing worth living for. For that reason, when he learns that his family is dead, Stein sees no reason to keep on living.

Quote #8

Franek, the foreman, assigned me to a corner.

"Don't kill yourself. There’s no hurry. But watch out. Don’t let an SS catch you."

"Please sir ... I’d like to be near my father."

"All right. Your father will work here, next to you."

We were lucky.

Two boys came to join our group: Yossi and Tibi, two brothers from Czechoslovakia whose parents had been exterminated in Birkenau. They lived for each other, body and soul. (4.36-41)

Eliezer and his father, like the two Czech brothers, are lucky that they receive the same labor assignment. It allows them to stay together, watch out for each other, and live for each other.

Quote #9

Another time we were loading diesel motors onto freight cars under supervision of some German soldiers. Idek was on edge, he had trouble restraining himself. Suddenly, he exploded. The victim this time was my father.

"You old loafer!" he started yelling. "Is this what you call working?"

And he began beating him with an iron bar. At first, my father simply doubled over under the blows, but then he seemed to break in two like an old tree struck by lightning.

I had watched it all happening without moving. I kept silent. In fact, I thought of stealing away in order not to suffer the blows. What’s more, if I felt anger at that moment, it was not directed at the Kapo but at my father. Why couldn’t he have avoided Idek’s wrath? That was what life in a concentration camp had made of me … (4.78-81)

Concentration camp turns father against son and son against father. Though Eliezer never becomes as hardened as other people do, because of the situation he has been forced into he struggles with resentment against his father, even when Eliezer rationally should direct his negative feelings against those who imprison him.

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