Section 7 Summary

Loaded back on the train, Elie, his father, and the other prisoners become lethargic, unable to fight against approaching death. When daylight appears, Elie sees a cluster of human shapes covered with snow and frost. He sees a man who has frozen to death. Beside him, his father does not move. Elie tries to awaken him but gets no response. If his father dies, Elie states, Elie has no reason to live.

The train stops in the middle of a deserted field. SS officers open the door, telling the prisoners to throw out the dead bodies. The living rejoice because it will mean more room. The dead are stripped of their clothes and thrown out into the snowy field. Elie desperately tries to wake up his father, slapping his face repeatedly. At last his father’s eyes blink. The guards move on.

The prisoners are given no food. They live on the snow that blows through the openings. Ten days pass. At one stop someone throws in a piece of bread. The prisoners dive for the crumbs as the German guards laugh at them. Elie flashes forward to a time in Aden (in Yemen in Africa) when a French tourist threw out coins to the local children. They scramble to get it, reminding Elie of the prisoners fighting over the bread on the train. Elie begs the woman to stop, but she states that she enjoys giving “charity.” Elie sees an old man crawl from the huddle with his hand clutched to his chest. Initially, Elie thinks the man was wounded, but he soon realizes that he has a crust of bread. The old man’s son beats his father, trying to get the bread. The others throw themselves on the two, who are soon crushed under the burden. Elie is horrified that he saw a fifteen-year-old son try to keep the last morsel of food from a father.

One night, Elie wakes up to find someone trying to strangle him. His father cannot stave off the attacker, so he calls for Meir Katz, a friend from Banu. At last Elie is freed. Later, Katz tells Elie’s father that he is fading fast. Mr. Wiesel tells him to hold on and to not lose faith in himself.

On the last day, someone warns the prisoners not to stay seated but to get up and move to keep from freezing. They all get up and move a few steps when a cry breaks out. Someone has died. The others also cry out, this death of all deaths affecting them. The cries spread from car to car. That evening, the train arrives at Buchenwald. Of the one hundred men who got on the train, only a dozen are left alive.