Photographs and newsreel footage detailing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of World War II reveal scores of skeletal looking human beings who were systematically starved to death. The prisoners, among them Elie and his father, were given just enough rations, usually only soup and bread, to allow them to sustain enough energy to work. Obviously, in many cases the prisoners would do almost anything to attain extra rations. One particularly brutal scene comes in section seven as the train carries the Jews from Gleiwitz to Buchenwald. The German civilians are throwing pieces of bread into the train cars in order to watch the men tear each other apart to grab a morsel. Even a son falls upon his father just to get the bread from his hands:
He collapsed. His fist was still clenched around a small piece. He tried to carry it to his mouth. But the other one threw himself upon him and snatched it. The old man again whispered something, let out a rattle, and died amid the general indifference. His son searched him, took the bread, and began to devour it. He was not able to get very far. Two men hurled themselves upon him. Others joined in. When they withdrew, next to me were two corpses, side by side, the father and the son.
This scene most certainly played itself out more frequently than not as the Germans carried out their mass extermination. Otherwise civilized men were reduced to beasts in order to simply provide enough nourishment to keep themselves alive. At the end of the book, Elie reveals that after a year in the camps he had been reduced to looking like a "corpse."