Depiction Of The Horrors Of Holocaust In Night By Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel’s book, Night, is an autobiography on what he went through during World War II. Within the book he describes everything from the Ghettos, to the many death or work camps he was in, and finally his liberation by the United States Army. The Jews faced many horrors that nobody should have to suffer through. These horrors include dehumanization, coping with their losses, and the rationalization of genocide from the Nazi party.
The Jews were dehumanized in many ways during World War II, including separation from their families, forced starvation, and living in a constant state of fear. Elie’s first stop during his journey of the Holocaust was at Auschwitz. Elie and his father enter the line to the left while his mother and sisters go to the right line. This was the first stage of family separation where Elie never saw either his mom or sisters again. This is seen on page 29 where Elie states, “I could see my mother, my sisters, move to the right. Tzipora was holding Mother’s hand. I saw them walking farther and farther away; Mother was stroking my sister’s blond hair, as if to protect her. And I walked on with my father, with the men.” Here Elie like many others watched as parts of their families walked away for the last time. This is a major case of dehumanization as research shows that the separation of a family can lead to anxiety, depression, fear, and confusion among children.
The second act of dehumanization that Elie had to suffer through during his journey was living on a diet of bread and soup. This is seen on page 52 where he states, “At that moment in time, all that mattered to me was my daily bowl of soup, my crust of stale bread. The bread, the soup those were my entire life. I was nothing but a body. Perhaps even less: a famished stomach. The stomach alone was measuring time.” this quote shows that during the Holocaust, the lack of food and nutrition dehumanized the Jews as they were no longer people. All they were, at the time was workers and a hungry stomach.
Three years after the war ended the starvation of the people would be a violation of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which were created because of what happened during World War II. These 30 basic human rights were put into play by the newly formed United Nations in order to protect the rights of the people no matter what race, religion, or sex that they were. The United Nations believed that they had a universal set of laws put into place that it would stop the absolute tragedies like the Holocaust from happening again. Not only that they believed that it was the only way to guarantee rights and freedoms to every person in the world. To this day it has been a major capstone document that has been used as part of many other country’s laws or constitutions.
The third act of dehumanization that Elie experienced during World War II was living in a constant state of fear. This is shown in many ways throughout the book starting with Elie begging his father to move the family to Palestine where they will be safe. Then once they arrive at Auschwitz, they hear that it is nothing more than a death camp and they won’t make it out alive. With the constant fear came the doubt in God which can be seen on page 67, “Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?” This shows that out of fear Elie has lost his faith as in his mind there is no way that God would sit idly while everyone around him was dying and these death camps were being built. With the Jews living in this constant state of fear it ate at their health as living in this state can cause PTSD, depression, anxiety, and memory loss.
The next horror that the Jews had to suffer through was the fact that they had to find a way to cope with their losses after losing their family and many others around them. To cope with the horrors around them many Jews tried to stick to their religion to maintain their hope. In doing this, studies have found that religious coping has helped people be less depressed than others put in their situation. This can be seen on page 66 during Rosh Hashanah,” The evening meal was distributed, an especially thick soup, but nobody touched it. We wanted to wait until after prayer. On the Appelplatz, surrounded by electrified barbed wire, thousands of Jews, anguish on their faces, gathered in silence.” This shows that even though they are all starving they keep up their faith by doing their Jewish traditions. With acts like these it helped many to cope with what was happening in the world around them as they were being dehumanized and suffering.
Finally, we have the rationalization of genocide from the Nazi party. This all started before the beginning of World War II, almost right after the Nazi’s came to power in 1933. Germany had fallen into a bad depression after the sanctions put on them after World War I, so they started to use the Jews as a scapegoat for their problems. In 1935 the propaganda turned to tolerate violence against the Jews. This is the beginning to how most Nazi soldiers rationalized the genocide as it was the Jews fault that they were in economic collapse.
The Nazi party’s use of propaganda against the Jewish people was a huge part of the massive amounts of hate from the German public. They would use half-truths and lies to make a play on the emotions of the German public. Hitler was a master of using propaganda and was appointed as the parties first ever director of propaganda. He was a great public speaker who gave many moving speeches, most of which were blaming the Jewish people for all of Germany’s problems.
Once the war started the Nazis picked up on their antisemitic propaganda to show that the Jewish people were a threat to the Reich and inhuman. This is how the German public began to support removing the Jews from their homes and putting them into the Ghettos. The Nazi propaganda hit its worst when the Jews were forced to send letters back home or to their family saying that they were in good hands and being well looked after. In doing this it shielded from the public eye what was going on within the walls of the extermination camps.
Nazi leaders rationalized the genocide to themselves in many of the same ways that the Nazi party did to the Germans. Heinrich Himmler was a top leader of the Nazi Party and one of the main planners of the Holocaust. Himmler painted the Jews as a horrendous people and traitors to the country. In his 1943 speech, “Extermination,” he stated, “ we know how difficult things would be, if today in every city during the bomb attacks, the burdens of war and privations, we still had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and instigators.“ This here is stating that Himmler himself believes that even though Germany was in war the Jews were still sabotaging them and instigation violence against them.
Elie Wiesel’s book, Night, put a first-person view through the Holocaust from the eyes of a teenage Jewish boy. Within the book, there are many examples of the mental and physical horrors that the Jewish people endured during World War II. Horrors including dehumanization, coping with their losses, and the rationalization of genocide from the Nazi party.
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