Madame Schachter's nightmare foreshadowed the annihilation of many of Elie's Jewish family and neighbors in the crematoriums at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps during World War two. It also foreshadowed the horrific fate all Jews would ultimately suffer because of Hitler's genocidal ambitions. The indignities Mrs. Schachter endured on the train at the hands of her fellow Jews soon repeated itself in the camps, as all struggled for survival amid brutal conditions. In short, Mrs. Schachter's nightmare foreshadowed death and the loss of humanity.
In the story, Elie tells of being in the same train car as Mrs. Schachter and her ten year old son. Her husband and two older sons had been mistakenly deported in the first departure, and this event had precipitated Mrs. Schachter's descent to madness. Elie relates how the older woman's moans had eventually turned into piercing screams about a fire in the distance. Although many of her fellow passengers had attempted to calm her in the initial stages of her nightmare, all were soon emotionally drained by her periodic screaming fits. Eventually, in desperation, some young men had rained blows on her to keep her quiet; Mrs. Schachter was eventually also bound and gagged as a means to secure her silence.
Although none of her fellow passengers could initially see the fire Mrs. Schachter was screaming about, her nightmarish warning soon proved prescient. When the passengers reached Auschwitz-Birkenau, they were provided a chilling glimpse of 'flames rising from a tall chimney into a black sky.' The stench of burning flesh in the air was both disconcerting and sickening.
Thus, Mrs. Schachter's nightmare not only foreshadowed the horrific suffering of the Jewish people, it also foreshadowed the dehumanization of a society bound by uncompromising racial purity theories. Not only were whole communities coldly executed and cremated, those still living often succumbed to apathy and cruel violence as a means of coping. Meanwhile, much of the German populace themselves became apathetic to the suffering they witnessed. In all, Mrs. Schachter's nightmare was horribly prescient.