What causes the historical legacy of the Holocaust particularly disturbing is that, while exterminating Jews, the Nazis were also trying to humiliate/dehumanize the ‘chosen people’ in just about every way possible. The book Night by Elie Wiesel illustrates the validity of this suggestion.
tailored to your instructions
for only $13.00 $11.05/page
Body of the paper
One of the reasons why the Nazis were able to proceed with murdering millions and millions of innocent Jews, without experiencing even the slightest remorse, is that they convinced themselves that the latter were in essence subhuman. There were several different ways, in which Nazis used to dehumanize Jews. For example, one of Wiesel’s most horrifying memories appears to be his experience of having been transported to Auschwitz in sealed cattle cars: “Was there a way to describe the last journey in sealed cattle cars, the last voyage toward the unknown?” (Wiesel 2). Apparently, by transporting Jews as if they were animals, Nazis strived to emphasize the transported people’s less than human status.
This, however, was only the beginning. Upon having arrived in Auschwitz, the Jews experienced the sensation of a certain relief, as the very inscription over the concentration camp’s gates was suggestive of its function as a labor-camp: “ARBEIT MACHT FREI. Work makes you free” (Wiesel 40). However, as they realized later, this inscription was thoroughly deceptive. After all, even though some of the camp’s inmates have worked there for a while, Auschwitz’s true function was concerned with its ability to serve as a huge ‘death factory’, where people were being put to death on an essentially industrial scale. The earlier mentioned inscription was meant to mislead Jews, as to what kind of a fate was waiting for them in the camp, so that they would be more cooperative (Friedman 210). The same could be said about the actual purpose of those ‘shower’ inscriptions, which used to hang over the entrances to gas-chambers.
However, there was even more to it – it appears that by deceiving the arrived Jews in the earlier described manner, the Nazis also wanted to dehumanize ‘chosen people’ to an extent of having them unaware of the camp’s true purpose, right until the time they would be escorted to the gas-chamber (Schwarz 7). In their minds, the Nazis used to draw parallels between the Jewish inmates in Auschwitz, on the one hand, and the livestock in slaughterhouses. Some of the inmates (such as the character of Eliezer) did sense it unconsciously, which explains why, throughout his book’s entirety, Wiesel tends to talk about Auschwitz in terms of a slaughterhouse. We can also hypothesize that, apart from serving an essentially utilitarian purpose, the Nazis’ dehumanization of Jews was also meant to appease the sadistic instincts, on the part of ordinary Germans. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated, in regards to the scene in which German civilians throw some bread to the escorted Jews and watch the ensued fights over it, “Soon, pieces of bread were falling into the wagons from all sides. And the spectators observed these emaciated creatures (Jews) ready to kill for a crust of bread” (Wiesel 101). There is indeed a good reason to think of the Nazi ideology, as being nothing short of a mind-disease.
The fact that, as it was shown earlier, the Nazis did make a deliberate point in dehumanizing Jews, as an integral part of how they went ‘solving’ the ‘Jewish question’, confirms the legitimacy of the paper’s original thesis.
Friedman, Regine-Mihal. “The Double Legacy of Arbeit Macht Frei.” Prooftexts 22.1/2 (2002): 200-220. Print.
Schwarz, Daniel. “The Ethics of Reading Elie Wiesel’s Night.” Style 32.2 (1998): 6-11. Print.
as little as 3 hours
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.