Eliezer, along with the other Jews of Sighet, has been transported by cattle train to Birkenau, the reception center for the notorious Auschwitz death camp. The journey is long and hard with appalling conditions for everyone on board. What makes it even more unbearable is that one of the Jewish prisoners, Madame Schaechter, goes completely insane, constantly screaming in terror at the visions that torture her rapidly disintegrating mind.
In her nightmarish premonitions, Madame Schaechter sees hellish visions of fire and furnace. It's only when they finally arrive at Birkenau that the other prisoners realize to their horror just how disturbingly accurate Madame Schaechter's premonitions really are. Through the windows of the train, it's possible to see chimneys belching thick clouds of acrid smoke into the atmosphere. All around is the revolting stench of death, the stench of burning flesh coming from the furnaces used for the disposal of dead bodies.