Section 6 Summary
As the prisoners walk through the night, the snow and the cold become overwhelming. The SS guards force them to run faster, which Elie sees positively as a means to get warm. He drags his skeletal body forward, feeling that it weighs much more than it does. By his side runs Zalman, a young Polish boy from the electrical warehouse. He is overcome with stomach cramps. When he stops to relieve himself, his is trampled to death by the prisoners. Elie now fears that his wounded foot will cause him to stumble and face a similar fate. It is only his father’s presence that keeps him going.
By morning they run forty-two miles. They come to a deserted village and stop at a warehouse. Cramming into the building, they find that the snow covers the inside as well as out. Elie lies down to sleep but his father pulls him up, afraid that he will freeze to death in the snow. They go outside only to find corpses in the snow. Stepping over them, the father and son find a place to sit down inside a shed. Mr. Wiesel wants Elie to sleep some, with him keeping guard to prevent him from freezing. Two other friends had done the same thing. One is dead; the other falls asleep, certain to die as well.
An old man, Rabbi Eliahou, comes into the shed, looking for his son. They had stayed together for three years, moving from camp to camp. Elie says that he has not seen him. When the rabbi leaves, Elie suddenly remembers that he did indeed see his son, running ahead of his father. Elie is horrified that the son was trying to outdistance the father, whom he felt was soon to die and did not want to be bothered with him. Elie prays to the God in whom he no longer believes that he would not ever do the same thing.
The prisoners march on, the guards driving them ever forward. There is no longer any discipline in the march, just a movement forward as best they can. At last they reach the camp at Gleiwitz. All the prisoners fall down where they are. Elie fears he will be crushed to death. He discovers that under him is Juliek, the violin player from Buna. Juliek confesses that he is afraid of being shot, since he brought his violin with him. Elie loses consciousness, and when he awakes, he hears Juliek playing Beethoven. Ever after, when he heard Beethoven, Elie thought of the young Polish violinist.
The prisoners stay at Gleiwitz for three days. They are not given food or water. Not allowed to bend down, they survive by using their spoons to scoop snow off the back of the person in front of them.