On the train to Buchenwald, Elie witnesses a tragic scene between a father and son. At a train stop, some people begin dropping bread into the train to watch the Jews fight over it. In Elie's car, an old man gets a bit of the bread and crawls away to eat it, but before he can, his son beats him to death and takes it from him. The son is then beaten to death by two other men who take the bread from him. This scene between father and son stands in stark contrast to the previous scene where Elie comes to his father's defense when some of the others think his father is dead and try to throw him from the train. Elie does everything he can to get his father to show he's alive to save his life.
This scene between the father and son shows that hunger, depravity, and extreme physical needs can break family bonds. It shows that people who are treated like animals, as the Jews were, can become like animals - living by the law of survival of the fittest.