As Elie and his father are catching a bit of rest in a shed on the march/run to Gleiwitz, Rabbi Eliahu, his mustache ice-laden, finds the father-son pair and inquires about his own son. Elie notes that this rabbi's words always bring peace, and his countenance has never lost its innocence.
For three years, the rabbi and his son have endured everything together: physical abuse, starvation, and camp rotations. And now, the rabbi is in desperate search of his son, having lost him somewhere along the road. He notes:
We lost sight of one another during the journey. I fell behind a little, at the rear of the column. I didn't have the strength to run anymore. And my son didn't notice. That's all I know. Where has he disappeared? Where can I find him?
At first, Elie can't recall seeing his son, and Rabbi Eliahu leaves without any idea regarding his son's location. And then, suddenly, Elie does recall an important memory. As they ran, Rabbi Eliahu's son had run alongside Elie for a while. But the horrible realization Elie has is that the rabbi's son left him on purpose:
His son had seen him losing ground, sliding back to the rear of the column. He had seen him. And he had continued to run in front, letting the distance between them become greater.
A terrible thought crossed my mind: What if he had wanted to be rid of his father?
Elie realizes that the rabbi's son is no longer willing to risk death for a father who may not make it through this new form of torture. He prioritizes his own life over providing support for his father, and he does so without telling his father about his plan. He abandons his father in an effort to give himself a better chance of survival.
That night, Elie prays to God that he will never become the son that Rabbi Eliahu's son has become.