Elie and Shlomo are immersed in a living hell where they have to run, and
run, and run through the freezing conditions, forced on by the guards knowing that if they falter they will die. At last they stop at a ruined brick factory and they form a pact to keep each other awake in the
Men around them freeze to death under a blanket of snow. Rabbi Eliahou searches for his son who has in fact deserted his father because he has become a burden on him. Elie hopes that he will not show the same disloyalty to his own father.
They arrive at Gleiwitz where they are assigned to a barracks.
Bodies lie everywhere. Those that remain fight one another to survive. They are forced into a dark shed where there is a terrible crush of bodies.
During the night Juliek plays fragments of Beethoven on his violin.
They are guarded for three days and receive no food or water. During
this time the violin player is trampled, along with his violin.
The inmates notice that the German efficiency is beginning to deteriorate.
There is yet another selection process, but it dissolves into chaos when the potential victims merge in with those that are to be spared. During the confusion, Elie rescues Shlomo. The surviving prisoners are marched to the railway line where they are herded onto roofless cattle wagons. They eat snow in order to quench their thirst. They are forced, one hundred at a time, into the wagons and the train then sets off.
Whilst Elie despairs at the apparent inactivity of his God, we note that
those taking part in the selection process are in fact playing God. They are deciding who will live and who will die.
We can only imagine what Dr. Mengele’s thoughts were as he selected those to
be exterminated. We know that these inspections were commonplace and in some instances, the inmates were forced to run round naked.
No doubt he obtained some perverse delight in seeing these Jews bend to his whim and subjects themselves to this bizarre ritual.
During their forty-two mile forced run of evacuation, it is a case of
everyone for themselves. We note that Rabbi Eliahou’s son deserts his father because of his age and infirmity.
No-one seems to ask anyone else for help. Perhaps that is why death claimed so many. Death stalks the prisoners as they sleep in the snow. Elie and Shlomo survive this because of the mutual arrangement they have to wake each other after a brief nap. It would be so easy for them both just to slip away to death through sleep in the freezing conditions. Elie makes the effort to continue supporting his father and he asks God’s help in achieving this aim.
Juliek tries his best to raise the spirits of those around him by playing
portions of Beethoven on his violin.
Beethoven was a German composer renowned for his romantic music for piano and violin. The Nazi regime brought out laws banning Jews from playing Beethoven’s music. The symbolism of Juliek’s dead body lying beside his crushed violin shows that this evil force snuffs out all that is good.