"'What a shame, a shame that you did not go with your mother…I saw many children your age go with their mothers…' His voice was terribly sad. I understood that he did not wish to see what they would do to me. He did not wish to see his only son go up in flames."
Upon arriving at Birkenau, the SS officers forcibly divide the men from the women and cause Eliezer and his father to separate from the rest of their family. Shlomo takes this separation particularly hard, and his devastation emphasizes the unique bond he shares with his son as well as his regret over the loss of Eliezer’s childhood. At this stage of their journey together, Shlomo remains the protector and Eliezer the protected, a relationship that will ultimately reverse as the horrors of camp life take a greater toll on the older prisoners.
"He felt time was running out. He was speaking rapidly, he wanted to tell me so many things. His speech became confused, his voice choked. He knew that I had to leave in a few moments. He was going to remain alone, so alone…"
Despite initially thinking that he was safe from the selection, Shlomo learns that he must stay in camp for another, more decisive selection and feels certain that he will face death. The rapidity with which he speaks to Eliezer in what he believes will be their final moments together highlights just how much he yearns to maximize his time with his son. Rather than expressing any selfish fears of dying alone, his sole focus in on reinforcing the bond he has with Eliezer.
"He looked all around him, taking it all in as if he had suddenly decided to make an inventory of his universe, to determine where he was and how and why he was there. Then he smiled. I shall always remember that smile. What world did it come from?"
Eliezer and his father take shelter in a shed during the prisoners’ journey through the snow and vow to take turns resting to ensure that neither dies in their sleep. Upon waking up at Eliezer’s whisper, Shlomo dons this memorable smile, one which seems to reflect his thankfulness for the way in which his son has embraced a caretaker role in their relationship. In this moment, he finds faith and purpose in their love for each other, and the knowledge of Eliezer’s unwavering presence is enough to bring a smile to Shlomo’s face.