Chapter Summary: Part 4

Our preview performances are over, but the chapter summaries are not!  Read on to find out how Elli’s memoir concludes, or go out and read the book for yourself!

Though life in the new labor camp is made somewhat gentler by better food and warmer clothing, Elli’s condition is still far from ideal, and they are often forced to work in inhumane conditions, including working in subzero temperatures without their coats.

Fearful of the cold, Elli and several other inmates hide, but are soon found by one of the S.S. men–nicknamed the Goat for his uneven gait and buckteeth. Though the Goat has been kind to Elli in the past, he shows no such gentleness now.  Their punishment is to stand out in the cold without food.  Elli returns to her bunk, cold and starving.

As she watches the dawn break, she recalls a dream where she and her father are cloaked in shadows.  A bird of gold flies through the darkness, flooding it with light.  Elli’s father calls to her to look at the bird, but Elli is afraid to look at its frightening beauty.  It circles her father until he turns into a statue, his eyes raised to the sky.

The dream comes back to Elli, and with a bitter certainty, she realizes that her father was dead.  She would later find out that her father had died on the fifth day of Passover–the very night after her long punishment by the wall.

Stretch

 Elli and her mother are transferred to yet another labor camp, but they rejoice to find out that Bubi is still alive in a nearby camp!  They arrange to meet him at the fence that divides the men’s labor camp from the women.  As Bubi limps up to them, Elli find that her brother is a specter of the boy he used to be.

A few days later, Bubi finds Elli and her mother.  The inner guards have abandoned their posts.  Elli hopefully speaks of walking through Germany to find their lost relatives; Aunt Serena, Aunt Celia, and her cousins.  Bubi gently tells her that they are the only ones left, and that the gas chambers were not just a nightmare, but a brutish fact.

Soon, the prisoners are ushered into box cars.  No one knows where they are going, but rumors of an American liberation thrill through the camps.  They are transported without food for days until the train comes to an unexpected stop.  They can see white trucks with red crosses just beyond the windows.

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A rare image of liberated Jews from the Bergen-Belson labor camp. It is especially rare to see a child survivor.

Red Cross members hand soup through the bars of the train into the grateful hands of those inside, but it is a cruel trick by the Germans.  Machine gun fire rips through the side of the train, into the very people reaching for the soup.  Bubi is hit in the head and while Elli instantly mourns her brother, Elli’s mother tries to staunch the blood.

The German attack is halted when American planes shoot at the train.  They huddle underneath the train with a few other survivors.

When the attack is over, they are forced back onto the train. Elli is surprised and thankful to find that Bubi is still alive, but many other inmates are not as lucky, and more die on the train ride.  At last, the trains are stopped as American soldiers free the inmates.

A German civilian woman from a nearby village wonders that Elli managed to survive at her age.  Confused, Elli asks “How old do you think I am?”

The German woman guesses she is sixty, and is horrified that Elli is just 14 years old.

Elli and her family are finally liberated, but they feel far from it.  Only thirty-six people out of five hundred who were sent to the camps have returned to her hometown.  They return home to the news that Elli’s father is died two weeks before liberation.  For Elli, her village is no longer her home.

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Though Elli wants to go to Palestine, her mother and brother wish to go to the United States.  After their harrowing experience, they have vowed to never be apart from each other, and so Elli reluctantly agrees to go to America.

As their boat sails into the harbor of New York, the immigrants launch into the anthems of their homeland.  Elli’s mother tells her, “We shouldn’t be among the last ones to step ashore.”

Elli nods.  “Let’s be among the first.”

 

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