When did Wiesel say the travelers left their illusions behind?

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As the train arrives at Birkenau in chapter three of Ellie Wiesel’s memoir Night, the people on the train have to abandon their belongings. Ellie says that when they get off the train “the beloved objects that we had carried with us from place to place were now left behind in the wagon and, with them, finally, our illusions” (p 29).

In the opening chapters of the book, Moishe the Beadle returns to Sighet to warn the people of the terrible things he has seen. His descriptions are so terrible that they cannot believe what he says as true, so they brush off his warnings. Later, in chapter two, Mrs. Schächter warned the train screaming that she saw fire looming outside the train’s windows. Since none of them could see the flames, they assumed she was mentally ill and dismissed her warnings. Her warnings were impossible to accept, so they told themselves she was wrong, holding on to their illusions that everything would be okay—that they would all be okay.

However, now that they’ve reached the concentration camp, they realize too late that she was correct. As the train doors open and the passengers disembark, they see SS men every few steps aiming machine guns at them. Gathered together, they leave all their memories and belongings behind and walk together until a man with a gun separates them into two lines: men and women. Elie doesn’t just lose his belongings, he also loses his mother and sisters.

They were warned several times, but they could not believe them. Now, they leave behind their possessions and any illusions of hope that the terrible warnings were not coming true.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 28, 2019
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