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In Night by Elie Wiesel, the Jews of Sighet are not prepared for what happens to them, despite the warnings they were given. The transition from free citizens to being rounded up in a ghetto happened incrementally but fairly quickly. Once the soldiers have all the Jews rounded up, it is an easy thing to herd them onto the trains like cattle.
The next morning, we walked toward the station, where a convoy of cattle cars was waiting. The Hungarian police made us climb into the cars, eighty persons in each one. They handed us some bread, a few pails of water. They checked the bars on the windows to make sure they would not come loose. The cars were sealed. One person was placed in charge of every car: if someone managed to escape, that person would be shot.
The wheels begin to turn, and that is the last time any of them will see the outside, except the few who are fortunate enough to be near the window, until they arrive at their destination.
The trip is miserable, punctuated with the eerie screams of Mrs. Schächter, apparently having visions or some kind of psychotic episode. With eighty people in the car, there is no room for them to do anything but stand. Bathroom functions are unpleasant and the food situation is less than ideal. They are suffocatingly hot and desperately thirsty, and the screaming woman is driving them mad. This goes on for days. Elie recalls:
A few more days and all of us would have started to scream. But we were pulling into a station. Someone near a window read to us:
Nobody had ever heard that name.
The train eventually deposits its cargo in Poland at the infamous concentration camp called Auschwitz. We know the significance of that name today, but the Jews at that time could not really have known exactly what that one chilling word was going to mean to them and to the world.
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