Section 2 Summary
There is not enough space for all the people on the transport train, so the Jews must stand or occasionally take turns sitting. The young people flirt in the darkness, and the others pretend not to notice. Thirst and heat take their toll after two days. Having some provisions, they eat a little but are always mindful to leave some for the next day.
When the train stops on the Czechoslovakian border, the Jews know that they are leaving Hungary. A German officer tells them that if they still have any valuables, they should hand them over now or be shot. He tells those who feel ill to go to the hospital car. Since there are eighty people in the car, there had better be eighty people when they arrive, or else they will all be shot.
A woman known to the Wiesels, Madame Schachter, is with her ten-year-old son. Her husband and other sons had been mistakenly transported previously. Because of the tragedy, Madame Schachter has lost her mind. In the dark, she cries out, “Fire! I can see a fire!” The others by the window look out but see nothing. They tell the woman to be quiet but she still cries out. Someone tries to calm her, but she continues to warn of fire. Her young son tries to make her be quiet. Eventually some men tie her up and gag her. Their nerves are all on edge. Somehow she gets loose and again cries out, “Fire!” They tie her up again, even strike her. All through the night she continues to cry out. During the day she is quiet, but when night returns, so do her cries.
After several days, the train stops. They discover that they are at Auschwitz, but the name means nothing to them. They hear that it is a good work camp where the families can stay together. Madame Schachter stands up and again cries out, “The fire! The furnace! Look over there!” They all look out but again see nothing. After several hours, the train begins to move and Madame Schachter cries out again. The others look out, and this time they see flames coming from the top of a tall chimney, along with a terrible burning odor. The doors of the train open and guards order them at. They are at Birkenau, the reception center for Auschwitz.