The remaining survivors of the train journey are marched into the camp
passing the crematory chimneys.
Elie hopes that they will get a hot shower, which will give them some relief
from the biting cold. Shlomo collapses amongst the corpses and Elie shouts at the old man to get up.
Suddenly, a siren sounds and the camp is thrown into darkness.
The S.S. soldiers herd the prisoners into the barracks. Elie finds a bed and sleeps, exhausted.
He has been separated from his father and it is only in the morning when he
awakes that he sets out to find Shlomo who is feverish and begging for coffee.
Elie is once more separated from his father and when he finds him again, he
is near to death.
Shlomo is being denied rations because these are only given to those that are ‘fit’, so Elie gives him his remaining soup. Shlomo is in a sorry state, his mind wanders and he is suffering from dysentery. In his death throws, he tells Elie of the location of some gold he has hidden in the family cellar. Elie asks a surgeon to treat his father, but he refuses. Elie tries to assist his father as much as he can. He is spurred on by the vision of Rabbi Eliahou’s son and his contemptuous treatment of his father.
For a week, Elie tends his father who is now bedridden. When Elie is
forced to leave his father, some of the other prisoners beat the old man because he is soiling his bedding.
Some of the older inmates urge Elie to eat both rations of food and leave his father to die. Elie is tempted, and then feels guilty for this thought. In his delirium Shlomo rants and raves and a passing S.S. officer hits him over the head with a club.
Elie is unable to maintain his watch over his father and falls into an
uneasy sleep. When he awakes he finds his father’s bunk occupied by another invalid. He assumes his father has been taken to the crematorium. He hopes his father was dead before he was tossed on the fires.
There is a strange type of symbiosis between father and son, which has
enabled both to survive for such a long time. Whilst the son provides physical support for his father securing food and water and trying to protect him from the despicable guards, the father provides Elie with
a purpose for living and continuing. At first it may seem that the father is nothing but a burden to his son, but you might like to consider that if Elie was on his own, only aged fifteen, he might have given
up to despair a lot sooner.
The respect he has for his father drives him on to survive because not only
does he have the obligation to protect his father, but he also has the responsibility given to him by his mother and sisters to care for the head of the Wiesel household.
At the end of Shlomo’s life, he tells Elie that God will help him and so
Shlomo keeps his faith to the end.
We notice how there is even no honor amongst the inmates. They turn on
each other – each struggling to survive.
Elie now finds himself alone with no father to care for.
He is haunted by the thought that he was not with his father to the very end and hopes his father had stopped breathing before being tossed into the oven. He despairs over the fact that his noble father, loved and respected by the villagers of Sighet, has now been reduced to ashes far away from all those that revered him.
Although Elie is now released from the physical burden of supporting his
father, he has now lost any purpose in his life and finds it hard just to live for himself.