Elie grew up in Sighet, Transylvia (currently Romania).
When the book opens, Elie is living in Sighet, a small village in Transylvania, which is present-day Romania. Elie explains how his family was able to live in their house when the ghettos were created.
TWO GHETTOS were created in Sighet. …. The street we lived on, Serpent Street, was in the first ghetto. We therefore could remain in our house. … We gave some of our rooms to relatives who had been driven out of their homes. (p. 30)
Ghettos were created by the Nazis to keep the Jews in one place. If a Jew was not already living in the area, then the family would need to move. Since the family was on the corner of the ghetto, they had to board up the windows that weren’t on the ghetto side, Elie tells us.
In the ghetto, Elie describes a life that returned to normal except for barbed wire and German raids. The Jewish population protected itself, and Elie was able to depend on his family and his faith. The German raids were troubling though. They would come into the village, and into the ghettos, and deport the Jews out.
Elie refers to Sighet as “the little town in Transylvania where I spent my childhood.” It means a lot to him. Later on, a relative asks for him as Eli from Sighet, but he does not recognize him. To Elie, two things are important as a child—his village and his religion. The war, and his experience in the concentration camp, changes his faith in both. He sees an entirely new side of his village, which the Germans change forever. The scars of the ghetto are impossible to forget. The concentration camp also shakes his faith in God, and religion, in undeniable ways. His childhood is rewritten.