Due to the harsh conditions and inadequate clothing, Elie develops a serious infection in the bottom of his foot that causes his leg to swell; it gets so severe that he can no longer even stand on it. Elie is at first conflicted; in the hospital things seem a little better. He is given more food, time to rest, and even sheets to sleep on. However, a very sick Hungarian in the bed next to him reminds him that the Germans have no use for sick Jews and sternly instructs him to "leave the infirmary before the next selection."
The surgery goes well, and Elie finds the doctor trustworthy and comforting. When he awakes, his doctor tells him that he must rest for two weeks. However, after two days, the lines of battle are rumored to be nearing Auschwitz, which sends everyone into a frenzy of activity in preparation to desert the camp. Those in the hospital are told that they can remain behind, but Elie becomes convinced that everyone left there will be killed.
More than impending death, Elie fears losing his father: "We had already suffered so much, endured so much together. This was not the moment to separate." Unsure if his foot will make the journey impossible, he sets out with determination to prepare for departure in order to remain together.