On the cattle cars, the people have to take turns sitting. They don't have enough provisions so they try to conserve food and water. The heat is terrible. Some young couples have sex without worrying about privacy. When they reach the Czech border, a German officer informs them that this is their last chance to hand over any valuables. Anyone found with valuables later will be shot. If any one of the eighty people on the car disappears, all eighty will be shot.
It's been a harrowing period in the village, but now things have gotten much worse. The physical discomfort is real, and the threat of death has been made explicit.
The train continues. A woman named Madame Schächter, who has been separated from her husband and her two eldest sons, loses her mind. Her youngest son tries to comfort her as she cries hysterically. On the third night of the journey, she screams that she can see a fire and wakes everyone up.
Everyone has their own limits of what they can bear before. Mrs. Schäcter becomes the first victim Eliezer witnesses. Her screams about fire make her seem a madwoman.
The women and the son try to console Madame Schächter, but she continues to say that she can see fire, a furnace. The rest of the people's nerves are near the breaking point. Some young men tie up and gag Madame Schächter to keep her quiet. Several more times Madame Schächter manages to scream about the fires, and she is gagged again, even beaten.
Madame Schächter's screaming is making a terrible situation worse, and sympathy is in short supply. The beating of Madame Schächter is the book's first example of powerless prisoners taking out their anger on those weaker than themselves.
The train arrives at a place called Auschwitz. Two men are allowed to get water for the car. They come back with the information that this is a work camp, families will not be split up, conditions are okay. The people feel hopeful.
The Jews continue to cling to the hope that the worst—the unimaginable—won't happen. They think that they can survive hardship, so long as families stay together and take care of each other.
At night, the train moves into the camp. Madame Schächter again screams about flames, but this time they can all see flames shooting out of a chimney. The air smells like burnt flesh. The train stops in Birkenau, the reception center for Auschwitz, and everyone is herded off the train.
Probably nothing could prepare Eliezer for what he sees at Birkenau. It's almost as if Madame Schächter, in her madness, is the only one who foresaw the inhuman reality of what awaited them.