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Quotes

Quote #10

The train did not move again. The afternoon went by slowly. Then the doors of the wagon slid open. Two men were given permission to fetch water.

When they came back, they told us that they had learned, in exchange for a gold watch, that this was the final destination. We were to leave the train here. There was a labor camp on the site. The conditions were good. Families would not be separated. Only the young would work in the factories. The old and the sick would find work in the fields.

Confidence soared. Suddenly we felt free of the previous night’s terror. We gave thanks to God. (2.46-48)

Where on earth did they get that news from? And why are they so ready to believe anyone who they bribe with a gold watch? The people ache for good news that will justify all of their hopes.

Quote #11

Around eleven o'clock the train began to move again. We pressed against the windows. The convoy was rolling slowly. A quarter of an hour later, it began to slow down even more. Through the windows, we saw barbed wire; we understood that this was the camp.

We had forgotten Mrs. Schächter’s existence. Suddenly, there was a terrible scream:

"Jews, look! Look at the fire! Look at the flames!"

And as the train stopped, this time we saw flames rising from a tall chimney into a black sky.

[…]

In front of us, those flames. In the air, the smell of burning flesh. It must have been about midnight. We had arrived. In Birkenau. (2.55-63)

The Jews of Sighet wanted so dearly to maintain hope that they ignored Mrs. Schächter’s warnings. The illusions they created for themselves were dangerous, they kept themselves ignorant of what was to come until it was far, far too late.

Quote #12

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.

My forehead was covered with cold sweat. Still, I told him that I could not believe that human beings were being burned in our times; the world would never tolerate such crimes …

"The world? The world is not interested in us. Today everything is possible, even the crematoria …" His voice broke.

"Father," I said. "If that is true, then I don’t want to wait. I’ll run into the electrified barbed wire. That would be easier than a slow death in the flames." (3.57-60)

Eliezer in his youthful innocence continues to think that they are not mortal danger, but his father puts an end to their self-deception – the crematoria have shaken him out his illusions.

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