Describe life in the Sighet ghettos.

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In chapter 1, Elie describes life in the Sighet ghettos, which the Nazis created to segregate the Jewish population in the small town. Despite the fact that barbed wire surrounds the ghettos, and the Jews are confined to small areas, Elie mentions that life returned back to normal, and the majority of citizens are satisfied living among their relatives and neighbors. The Jewish citizens of Sighet considered the ghettos a small Jewish republic and even developed a Jewish council, police force, welfare agency, labor committee, and health agency inside each ghetto. Overall, the Jewish citizens don't mind living in the ghettos and prefer remaining in the confined areas rather than interacting with their oppressors on an everyday basis. The only negative aspect of the ghettos that Elie mentions are the times when Germans stop by to ask for volunteers to perform manual labor. Elie also mentions that the majority of citizens believed that they would remain in the ghettos until the Red Army arrived. Elie then says, "The ghetto was ruled by neither German nor Jew; it was ruled by delusion" (Wiesel, 12). Eventually, the Jews are driven out of their ghettos and transported to concentration/death camps.

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Unfortunately, the Jews did not recognize how bad life truly was in the Sighet ghettos because of the gradual reduction of rights inherent in Hitler's final solution.  Before the Jews move into the ghettos, they share their houses with enemy soldiers and think nothing of it because they think it will not get any worse.  They allow their Jewish leaders to be arrested, and again handle the arrests with complacency. When forced to wear yellow stars, Elie's dad states that one "cannot die from it."

Thus, when Elie and other Sighet Jews move to the ghettos, they think that they have reached the worst of their ordeal.  While the ghettos certainly did not rival the Jews' houses, they were not as bad as what the Jews were to encounter in the boxcars and camps.  Families who were used to having enough space for everyone are crammed together in small apartments in the ghettos.  They are not allowed to possess valuables; so many Jews hide their jewelry and other precious items. They are under a strict curfew, not just at night, but also during the day as to where they could go and for limited reasons.  Ultimately, the ghettos are a preview of the harsher treatment the Jews will encounter.

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