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Elie had been in the hospital because of a foot infection. He had been operated on and was recovering when orders came for all of the Jews to be transferred to another camp. Elie chose to go with his father rather than remain at the hospital. They began the forced march at 6:00. The SS forced the prisoners to run and if they faltered the SS officers had orders to shoot them.
"Pitch darkness. Every now and then, an explosion in the night. They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure." (pg 57)
In chapter six of his memoir Night, Elie Wiesel depicts the harrowing forced march from Buna to Gleiwitz in the middle of winter. With SS guards hounding them at every step, the Jews are made to run at a fast pace, despite the fact that most of them are weak and starving. Any man who could not keep up was shot by the SS or simply trampled by the masses who followed. Elie reports the fate of Zalman, a Polish boy who tried to overcome the reality of the camps through prayer and meditation. When Zalman is seized with stomach cramps and stops to relieve himself, Elie never sees him again:
I do not think it can have been the SS who finished him, because no one had noticed. He must have been trampled to death beneath the feet of thousands of men who followed us.
Elie also reports that Rabbi Eliahou's son seemed to have intentionally left his father at the back of the pack of running men, probably so the old man would die and the son wouldn't have to worry about him anymore. As Elie relates, it was a great strain to have to always be concerned about someone else when it was difficult enough to simply take care of oneself. At the end of the book, Elie is sadly relieved when his own father dies and says that he was "free at last."
In Chapter 6 of Night, those who could not keep up with the forced march were killed by the SS. The officers were given orders to shoot at those who slowed down or showed signs of weakness. These orders were still in keeping with the Nazi agenda of the "Final Solution." The Germans did not care how many died because, at the core of the holocaust, death for all Jews was the final objective.
In Chapter 5, the Red Army was approaching Buna, and the SS had no choice but to abandon the camp together with the prisoners. At the time, Elie was recovering from a surgery on his foot, but he decided to go with his father on the march out of Buna. On the march, which begins in Chapter 6, the prisoners were forced to increase their pace, and some fell behind. Those who failed to keep up were shot.
The night was pitch-black. From time to time, a shot exploded in the darkness. They had orders to shoot anyone who could not sustain the pace. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of the pleasure. If one of us stopped for a second, a quick shot eliminated the filthy dog.
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