Elie ment that now that they had crossed the borderline of Hungary, they were entering in enemy territory, that is to say the domain of the Nazis. Once they crossed into Nazi grounds, anything could happen to them. These short sentences that Wiesel uses to explain the horrible things that happen to him, it adds to the dramatic influence of the book. Instead of explaining every detail, he states it very clearly in a few words. This is probably one of my favorite techniques that a writer can use, not because it is short, but because it adds to the effect of the story.
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Abbey, you are totaly right about the uncertainty expressed in this sentence. But I think it goes a little beyond that. It foreshadows the gravity of their ignorance. They willingly left the comfort and saftey of their homes for the stuffy, cramped, living space of the box cars. They went like lambs to the slaughter. If they weren't blinded by their optimisim, they would have been able to get out of the country, and far away from harm and the Nazis in plenty of time. Their children could have lived to reminece on the happiness of their past lives. Instead, they have no idea what will happen to them once they cross the border and out of their homeland. But what I don't totally understand is whether Weisel meant that their eyes opened right then and their, or later when they realized what the ovens were for. Either way, it was to late to change the way things were to play out.-Genesis
Leaving Hungary meant leaving everything the Jews ever knew. Up to this moment, they kept telling themselves that everything would get better and that the deportation might not be so bad. Once they left Hungary, however, reality struck. They had been forced out of their homes and villages, and now out of their own country. The security that they had left was gone, and all they had now was each other. By using short fragments, Elie hints about the impending sorrow that will await them at the concentration camps. He wanted to emphasize that they realized their fate too late. Knowing that they had been warned before, it came to them as a slap in the face. Because of their optimism, the Jews allowed themselves to fall into a trap when they had every opportunity to escape. Now, however, they had nowhere to run. They no longer had an escape, and their fate was set. Their once happy and content families would now be broken apart and destroyed, along with their optimism.-Sonya
This brief fragement sentence perfectly declares the sheer horror of their situation. To be honest, with the most dire of sitations, you don't need a speech from Oprah Winfrey or the Queen of England to describe the horror of the Jews' realization. Sure, things had been bad by then, but now, they realized they were truly heading to Hell. They were going to the point of no return, the lion's den. The fragmentary delivery of the realization also makes clear that Elie is simply too dumbfounded and panicked by that realization. Well, to be honest, they are still unaware of the true horros of where they're going, but nevertheless are having their eyes opened right now.