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The issue of food is an essential element of life in the concentration camps and is brought up more than once within the narrative. When Hannah and the others first arrive at the camp they are starving. They all know, as Gitl states: "without food there is no life. We will go and see if any of these monsters believes in food." Almost immediately, a soldier tells them they will get used to not eating and to "learn to eat when it is given to you." That first night in the camp Hannah dreams of food: roast beef, sweet wine, and bitter herbs. Those are the foods she last ate as modern-day Hannah at the Seder dinner, thus tying the two "worlds" of Hannah together.
The next day they are each given their food bowl and told to take good care of it for they must use it for any food and any water that they might want. The first and most common meal they are served is "a dipperful of watery potato soup" and "a small slab of dark bread." Because Hannah and Shifre are assigned to kitchen duty, they cansometimes "scrape out an extra bit of food from themselves and the little ones while cleaning the pots, burned pieces of potatoes that had stuck to the bottom. Even burned pieces tasted wonderful, better even than beef." Many of the adults sacrifice their own portions to better feed the younger children. This is especially true of Rivka. Very occasionally, someone might get a sausage piece from a momentarily nice guard.
Without proper nutrition, many of the people in the came became too weak to work and would then be chosen for the ovens. It was of paramount importance to eat and stay strong -- it was the only chance for survival at all.
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