Loss Of Identity Among Jews In Nazi Concentration Camps: "Night"

Individuality is the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind, especially when strongly marked. The book Night, by Elie Wiesel, demonstrates his loss of individuality as well as the other Jews in concentration camps. The book is about Elie’s life starting with him as a young Jew living in Sighet. He was a very religious boy and lived a happy life until the Nazis came and took all the Jews to concentration camps. There they lived terrible lives, struggling to survive every day. However, after several years Elie is finally liberated. In the novel, loss of individuality is shown both emotionally, with Elie’s loss of character and personal importance, as well as physically with changes in his appearance that make him the same as everyone else. Elie describes his loss of emotional individuality by describing how he lost certain personality traits that make him who he is. At the beginning of the book, Elie is an emotional person who is very sensitive. By the end, he never cries and doesn’t care about things that would have had him bawling before he was in the concentration camp. “I had never asked myself that question. I cried because… because something inside me felt the need to cry”. “I did not weep, and it pained me that I could not weep. But I was out of tears”. The second quote is after his father’s death, which is absolutely devastating, and he does not even cry. Throughout the book, all he cared about was not losing his father.

Staying alive for his father got him through the concentration camps and kept him alive. His father was the most important thing to him at the start, but by the end all he could think about was food. He lost the qualities that made him himself and became like everyone else. His natural instincts kicked in, making him care about nothing but his survival. He lost all morals, faith, and personality traits and became a self centred person without any individuality; a shell of who he was. The terrible things they endured emotionally completely changed every single person, including Elie, stripping him of the characteristics, such as his sensitivity as well as his faith, that made him who he is. Elie also reflects on his loss of personal importance by explaining how he no longer felt human and did not care about his life. At the start of the book, he was living his life like an average, religious child. He studied Kabbalah and believed in the importance of life. But after going to the concentration camps, he was completely changed. The Nazis reduced all of the Jews self-esteem by threatening them and treating them horribly. When their self-esteem was brought down they lost faith in themselves followed by faith in God. This led to them doing whatever the Nazis told them to because they did not care about anything; they were like a machine. “I was putting one foot in front of the other, like a machine”. Also, in the camps he did not care about his life. Everything was so bad that if he died he would most likely have been happy. “I remained in Buchenwald until April 11. I shall not describe my life during that period. It no longer mattered”. By taking away their self-value and will to live, you can either control people better or they just die. Many people died simply because they did not want to live, which is called psychogenic death. Around 6 million Jews died because of the Nazis and how they treated them with so little value, killing them for any small reason or simply because they felt like it. The others that did not die were easy to control because while losing their will to live, they also lost their will to fight back. All that mattered was making it to the next day and for that to happen they have to do whatever they are told making them easy to control.

With the loss of personal importance, all Jews died or became easily controllable machines without any individuality or differences who did whatever the Nazis told them to do. There are many changes in all the Jews physical appearance, stripping them of any creativity or individuality they had based on their clothes or weight. Even in this time, one found joy in expressing them through their clothing and style choices. Their clothes are something that differentiates them from each other and expresses their individuality and without it they are all the same. The Jews get their clothes stripped as soon as they enter the camp. “The orders came: Strip! Hurry up! Raus! Hold on to your belt and your shoes”. This leaves them all equal. They look the same, naked and cold, without individuality. They are also all extremely skinny. Elie was very skinny and worried he would be selected for the gas chambers but even he, who was extremely skinny, was not selected. “My head was spinning: you are too skinny… you are too weak… you are too skinny, you are good for the ovens) His thoughts show how skinny and weak he was, yet there were people skinnier and weaker because he was not selected. The Jews being so skinny, eliminates any individuality they may have had based on their weight. By not feeding them enough, giving them minimal soup and a small amount of bread, and making them all wear the same prisoner uniform, this created minimal physical differences between all prisoners. This helps the Nazis easily identify the Jews from themselves and eliminate the feeling that they are special or different. Everyone is transformed emotionally by the end and the loss of physical differences is the icing on the cake that takes away much of their individuality. By making the Jews all look similar, by changing their weight and clothes, this played a big role in their loss of individuality.

The changes the Jews went through, both physically and emotionally, in the concentration camps resulted in their loss of individuality and they have been changed forever because of it. Jews were stripped of the characteristics that made them special and different, such as Elie with his sensitivity and faith. They were also treated so poorly that they no longer valued their own personal importance and many would rather die than continue to live in the camps. Their clothes were taken from them, their hair was chopped and they all lost a lot of weight and were extremely scrawny, making them very similar physically with little individuality. Loss of individuality can affect people all over the world, not only in concentration camps, by making them lose sight of their passions and who they are as it did to the Jews in the novel Night.

01 February 2021
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