How we cite our quotes:
He [Moishe] told me what had happened to him and his companions. The train with the deportees had crossed the Hungarian border and, once in Polish territory, had been taken over by the Gestapo. The train had stopped. The Jews were ordered to get off and onto waiting trucks. The trucks headed toward a forest. There everybody was ordered to get out. They were forced to dig huge trenches. When they had finished their work, the men from the Gestapo began theirs. Without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who were forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks. Infants were tossed into the air and used as targets for the machine guns.
But people not only refused to believe his tales, they refused to listen. Some even insinuated that he only wanted their pity, that he was imagining things. Others flatly said that he had gone mad. (1.29-31)
The violence Moishe witnesses and reports to the Jews in Sighet is so extreme and dispassionate that they don’t believe him. They find the violence so excessive that they chalk it up to Moishe’s imagination.
"Look at the fire! Look at the flames! Flames everywhere…"
Once again, the young men bound and gagged her. When they actually struck her, people shouted their approval:
"Keep her quite! Make that madwoman shut up. She’s not the only one here …"
She received several blows to the head, blows that could have been lethal. (2.35-38)
Terribly afraid and treated inhumanely themselves, the Jews are even violent to each other, lashing out at Mrs. Schächter because she amplifies their fear of what is to come.
I pinched myself: Was I still alive? Was I awake? How was it possible that men, women, and children were being burned and that the world kept silent? No. All this would not be real. A nightmare perhaps … Soon I would wake up with a start, my heart pounding, and find that I was back in the room of my childhood, with my books …
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.
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 …" (3.54-59)
Despite seeing it with his own eyes, the violence is so extreme that Eliezer has a hard time believing it could possibly be real; he thinks it must be a nightmare.