What "fine New Year's gift" did the SS give the Jews?
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The statement " The SS gave us a fine New Year's gift" is spoken sarcastically by the author. The gift was selection. What that meant was that each man was paraded in front of the SS, and if they appeared to weak or sick, then they were killed and put in the furnace. Both Elie and his father make it through the selection.
At this point in the story the Jews of Sighet and all the others with them had endured a tough winter and the SS kept reducing their rations so to add insult to injury, for the Jewish New Year, the SS "gave" them "selection". It could not have possibly been a worse time to ask the Jews to look their strongest because they had endured an excruciating year. They had been torn from their homes and thrust into a life of torture at the hands of the Nazi army. Selection was when the SS "selected" the weakest for death.
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