Section 9 Summary
Elie remains at Buchenwald until April 11. The time between his father’s death and his release are a blank. Nothing matters in life; nothing can touch him. He is transferred to the children’s block (he is fifteen years old) along with six hundred others. The end of the war is approaching. The Allied armies are approaching. However, the only thought that Elie has is of food. All his dreams are about food.
On April 5, there is a delay in the call to gather in the square. This has never happened before; everyone is sure something has happened. Two hours later, the loudspeaker announces that all Jews must come to the assembly place. Elie is sure that this is the end for the Jews, that Hitler’s Final Solution of the extinction of all of them is about to take place. The guard tells the children that this is the only thing they can do. However, one of prisoners tells them to go back to their block and stay there, which they do. There is a camp resistance organization that has armed itself and is prepared to fight back should the final extinction commence. They will not let the Jews be exterminated.
A general roll call is announced in which all the prisoners will have to present themselves. The head of the camp announces that Buchenwald will be liquidated (abandoned and destroyed). Ten blocks of prisoners will be evacuated each day. There will be no more bread or soup.
Five days later, with still twenty thousand prisoners in the camp, the decision is made to evacuate everyone at once. The camp will be blown up. As everyone is massed in the assembly square, the air raid sirens begin to wail. The prisoners return to the blocks, planning to evacuate the next day.
The prisoners have had no food for six days. The next morning, the resistance movement takes action. They rise up in arms everywhere. With guns and bombs overhead, the children lie flat inside the blocks. The SS officers flee. The prisoners are in charge of the camp. That evening, the first American tank arrives.
The prisoners think of nothing but food. Elie contracts food poisoning and spends two weeks hovering near death. When he is able to stand up, he looks at himself in the mirror. He sees the face and the eyes of a corpse. It is the first time he has looked in a mirror since he left the ghetto the year before. Elie states that the look in the eyes in the mirror, looking back at him, has never left him.