|"When he entered politics, he seemed a comic figure-
-a lock of hair falling over his forehead, a square moustache, a public
speaker who ranted and raved. Some people called him mad. Others laughed
at him. They did not laugh for long" (Chaikin 1). Hitler’s
propaganda against the Jews spread like the Black Plague across Europe.
One had only to stand in his midst, hear his voice, and chant his name
to be infected. One had only to look like a Jew to die. The horror began
with burning of books, flames licking away words that could not be
erased from memory. However, the books were only a small piece of an
entire race of Jews.
This was but a prelude;
Where books are burnt
Human beings will be burnt
In the end. (Heine 35)
Next, ghettos are installed, causing the Jews to become cut off from the outside world. Gradually though, normality returned, and the barbed fences faded from mind if not from sight. The Jews existed together, alive, and away from the indifferent stares of the German soldiers, but not for long. "The general opinion was that we were going to remain in the ghetto until the end of the war…then everything would be as before. It was neither German nor Jew who ruled the ghetto--it was an illusion" (Wiesel 10). Deportation followed as the stench of death crept along the sidewalks, through the train stations, and into the very souls of the Jewish people. Nazis hunted Jews for sport, for pleasure, and for sick gratification. "The search was thorough. it included Jews who no longer practiced their religion, Jews who had converted to Christianity, even Christians who had only one Jewish grandparent" (Chaikin 3). The unthinkable existed, and evil ruled the lives of the Jewish nation. The hatred of Jews that infested the hearts of thousands and destroyed the lives of millions was not quick and painless. Instead, the hatred dug into the depths of the Jewish people’s minds and refused to be forgotten.
The hatred towards the Jews suffocated their spirits during their persecution and suffering in the concentration camps and after liberation from them.
Horror, death, and humiliation are what greeted the Jews as they arrived at the concentration, or "death" camps. However, nothing could prepare them for what they would have to strive to live through and endure.
Humiliation was only the beginning of their journey through this never-ending nightmare. The suffering the Jews endured cannot be described in words, but only in the eyes of those who survived. "We were no longer human beings anymore, but only numbers…Within a couple of weeks [sic] we all became thin, numb [sic] and as listless as those who had been before us in Auschwitz" (Jagermann 4). Death filled the Jews’ thoughts and nightmares, which hung over their heads in the form of foul smelling black smoke. To many this was "hell in its purest form" (Jagermann 6) and a night to which an end did not exist. "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed" (Wiesel ix). Survival became the only word in the Jews vocabulary as they watched their friends and loved ones murdered before their eyes. The "civilized" society that slaughtered them also forced the Jews survival instincts to intensify as they struggled through each day.
As survival became more difficult, belief that a just and loving god could let such evil happen also became increasingly strained. A small number still prayed, but many did not have the spiritual strength to continue to believe in a love they could never see. God was dead to the Jews, along with everything for which they cared.
Six million died in these death machines. "Behind each digit, starting with number one, was a pair of eyes, a face, a living [sic] vital human being" (Chaikin 137). Most were corpses before their last breath released them from the pain of such a harsh reality. Death, black and foreboding, was no longer something to be feared, but an escape from the piles of decaying bodies, the senseless beatings, starvation, and a life that was no longer worth living.
Life did continue, as the cycle never ends, and those left living were liberated and freed from the grasp of the Germans. "One morning we heard tanks and [sic] someone came into our barrack and said: ‘Kids, we are free!’ But nobody moved, [sic] because nobody had any strength left over to be happy. All of us were already so apathetic, that even with the best of intentions, this is almost indescribable" (Jagermann). Liberation was the miracle for which the Jews were awaiting. They were finally free but still prisoners of their past hardships. Many died during the first few weeks of liberation, still on the edge of death from the many months of torture
Unfortunately, some were also too far gone physically and mentally to be helped. "There [sic] was a man who had a knife in his hand, [sic] he must have weighed almost seventy pounds. And [sic] he was slicing away at a corpse and eating the raw flesh" (E.10).
The British were unknowing of the remnants of the horrors etched in these "ragged group of human beings" (Herder 2) when they began to rehabilitate them. However, this did not matter as the Jews rejoiced for being treated as humans again. The soldiers helped the Jews to regain physical strength by supplying them with medical support and helping them through physical therapy. "The British soldiers taught us to walk again, just as one would teach a small child" (Jagermann). As they prepared for the life they one knew, "civilization" was not ready for them to return. the flames of prejudice against them continued to spread, and many countries would not allow the Jews to reenter. Those who should have welcomed the Jews turned their backs and scorned them, crushing the hopes of the Jewish people once more.
"Because [sic] a civilized man could commit such grotesque acts, and because a civilized world did not try to stop such actions…the nightmare must never be forgotten…it must never be permitted to happen again". (Chaikin 4). How many people have to be slaughtered, humiliated, and degraded before the world understands the depth of evil of which the human soul is capable? One must never forget the starving children, senseless beatings, and blank stares of the Jews who could no longer go on.
The Holocaust nightmare was darker and more sinister than hell itself and must never be allowed to reoccur.
Chaikin, Miriam. A Nightmare in History: The Holocaust 1933-1945. New York: Clarion Books, 1987.
E., Lucille. Story of Liberation. Internet. 27 Feb 2000
Heine, Jacob. Concentration Camp Dacahau, 1933-1945. Munich: Comite International
De Dacahau, 1978.
Herder, Harry. Liberation of Buchenwald. Internet. 27 Feb 2000
Jagermann, Judith. Memories of My Childhood in the Holocaust. Internet 27 Feb 2000
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: MacGibbon and Kee, 1960.
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