Throughout the book, the confinement of the Jewish people increases in a step-by-step process, which strips away their identity, humanity, and dignity. First, the Jews of Sighet are confined to their homes, then to ghettos, to cattle cars for transport, and eventually imprisoned behind the barbed wire and iron gates of concentration camps. With the increasing confinement, the Jews lose their possessions, their family members, their individuality, and many lose their lives. The hope of liberation from the concentration camps, either by the Allies or by God, is what keeps many of the imprisoned Jews going. Although there are only a few references to it, the resistance movement is alive within the camps. In the last chapter, the resistance movement rises up in protest and battles the Germans until American tanks arrive to liberate the concentration camp.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- What are the different definitions of liberation offered by people in the group? How is liberation imagined? What does it look like?
- Is it possible to be liberated through death? Why or why not?
- Upon being liberated, why don’t the freed prisoners think of revenge?
- Eliezer’s final vision is of himself, looking like a corpse, a vision that has remained with him all his life. Although he is physically liberated, does that image suggest that mentally, he is still imprisoned?
Chew on This
Although Eliezer is liberated from the concentration camps, he remains mentally imprisoned by continually associating his youth with death.