“So we got stamped our passport and came quick to the good side of the stadium. Those they sent left, they didn’t get any stamp.” (I.4.92)
These types of Selektions are common scenes in the novel, where the Jews who are able to work are separated off from those deemed infirm, elderly, or immature.
“He wrote that we had to give over the grandparents even if they took only him away now.” (I.4.89)
The elderly were among the first Jews to be sent to the concentration camps. In this scene, Anja’s father is coerced into giving up her grandparents to the Nazis.
“When did you first hear about Auschwitz?” “Right AWAY we heard … even from there – from that other world – people came back and told us. But we didn’t believe.” (I.4.90)
The Allies’ inaction in the face of the reality of the concentration camps has been controversial. As Vladek explains here, the stories about the concentration camps were so nightmarish and so horrifying that they were difficult to believe.
Book I, Chapter 6
“We knew the stories – that they will gas us and throw us in the ovens. This was 1944 … we knew everything. And here we were.” (I.6.159)
The horror stories Vladek hears in Quote #2 become reality when he enters Auschwitz.
Book II, Chapter 1
“They registered us in … They took from us our names. And here they put me my number.” (II.1.6)
The numbers assigned to each of the prisoners further dehumanizes them.
Book II, Chapter 2
“People haven’t changed … maybe they need a newer, bigger Holocaust.” (II.2.35)
Art wonders here if the memory of the Holocaust is enough to prevent similar genocides in the future. The scary part is that it may not be.
“Each morning and evening they made an Appel. They counted the live ones and dead ones to see it wasn’t any missing … we stood sometimes the whole night while they counted again and again.” (II.2.30)
We get another image of Nazi bureaucracy at work with their obsessive counting at the Appel, or roll call. With Vladek’s own obsessive counting (of his pills, crackers, the money in his checking account), we have to wonder if his neuroses have some origin in his experience with the Nazis.
“Auschwitz, it was a camp where they gave you to work so they didn’t finish you so fast. Birkenau was even more bad. It was 800 people in a building made for 50 horses. There it was just a death place with Jews waiting for gas … And there it was Anja.” (II.2.31)
Auschwitz has become the name that most people associate with the Holocaust, but it was Birkenau where over a million Jews lost their lives.
“Each day it was Selektions. The doctors chose out the weaker ones to go and die.” (II.2.18)
Here’s a role reversal: the doctors are used not to cure the patients, but to kill them off.
Book II, Chapter 3
“Ever since Hitler I don’t like to throw out even a crumb.” (II.3.68)
Vladek’s careful hoarding during his concentration camp days is a survival tactic. But outside the concentration camp, it looks like a pathological compulsion (see Quote #8 above).
“Yah, this was a camp – terrible! I had a misery, I can’t tell you … here, in Dachau, my troubles began.” (II.3.81)
“And here my troubles began” is the subtitle for Book II. It’s kind of ironic, since the statement suggests that Vladek’s troubles didn’t begin in Auschwitz or during the German occupation of Poland. The statement gives us a sense of how deplorable the conditions were at Dachau.
“I’m telling you, it was a tragedy among tragedies. He was such a happy, beautiful boy!” (I.4.111)
The violence toward children is particularly difficult to stomach. Young children were sent to the gas chambers because they weren’t old enough to work. And Tosha is put in the impossible position of killing her own children, and her nephew Richieu, as a kind of mercy killing.