Explain the purpose of Mrs. Schächter in the book Night by Elie Wiesel.

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Madame Schächter's unhinged outburst gives her fellow inmates a disturbing premonition of what's in store for them when they arrive at Auschwitz. Most of the prisoners are no doubt still hoping against hope that things won't be quite so bad as they fear when they finally arrive at their destination,...

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Madame Schächter's unhinged outburst gives her fellow inmates a disturbing premonition of what's in store for them when they arrive at Auschwitz. Most of the prisoners are no doubt still hoping against hope that things won't be quite so bad as they fear when they finally arrive at their destination, but Madame Schächter's frightening premonition is much nearer to the truth.

Even now, despite all the brutality and violence they've already experienced while being forcibly removed from their homes and deported, most of the Jewish prisoners still have no idea as to what lies ahead. Madame Schächter is one of the few that has. She may be going out of her mind, but she has a much better understanding of the situation than anyone else aboard the train. In the lurid visions of hell that plague and torment her rapidly disintegrating mind, we can see a foreshadowing of what is to come when Elie and the other Jewish prisoners step off the train at Auschwitz.

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Wiesel's work is a stunning display of how human beings treat one another.  From the most elemental view of ethics, one of his arguments is that the Holocaust was so fundamentally awful because it was a moment where human beings stopped listening to one another.  This silencing of voices was evident with the Nazi treatment of their victims.  Yet, Wiesel is profound in his assertion that the real and true horror was when victims mirrored the actions of the aggressors and silenced one another.  It is to this end that Madame Schachter is included.  Huddled with the other Jewish people from Sighet on the train, Madame Schachter screams that she sees "fire."  As they did with Moshe the Beadle, the villagers do not listen to her, nor do they pay attention to her words.  Rather, they silence her, eventually tying her up and gagging her in order to not hear her voice.  Of course, she was right.  The fire she saw was the crematorium at Auschwitz.  However, the larger point and the purpose of her inclusion was to show that the Nazis' true crime was to legitimize the practice of silencing voices and of intimidating others.  When the victims start to do this to one another in order to emulate some level of power in a life where they lack it, Wiesel is reminding us that the study of the Holocaust is historical, but it is just as much a study of the philosophical study of the ethical treatment of human beings.  In this light, the inclusion of Madame Schachter's character is what helps to make the work a study of philosophy and ethics.

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