Victims of the Holocaust:
Stripped of Dignity

By Melissa Flores
Port Saint Lucie, FL


 

I have never had to go to sleep in fear, knowing that I was at the brink of death; knowing that at any moment I could be another lost memory. I have never had to deny my Filipino heritage and say I was otherwise. I have never had to cower at the barrel of a gun, nor have I ever been victim to mass discrimination. Although I have never experienced such aggressive prejudice, I myself have been put into situations where I have felt uneasy and racially divided. I can tell by the way one looks at me; I am automatically judged. But isn't judgment a way of life? According to Nancy Etcoff, such judgment is proven to be instantaneous:
We notice the attractiveness of each face we see as automatically as we register whether or not they look familiar. Beauty detectors scan the environment like radar; we can see a face or a fraction of a second (one-hundred-fifty milliseconds in one psychology experiment) and rate its beauty, even give it the same rating we would give it on longer inspection. (7-8)

Visual discrimination plays a major role in everyday life, like merely applying for a job. Everyone is visually pre-scanned by each other, regardless of his or her thoughts, personality, or even humanity. During World War II, through acts of extensive genocide, millions of innocent people suffered the brutal consequences of this misfortune as judgment was unjustly imposed upon them.

Humanity is defined as mankind, kindness to other people, and the condition or quality of being human ("Humanity" def. 1). Every person is born with the right to be respected as a human and to be treated like the other's equal. However, there are times when "humaneness" is disregarded and is instead replaced with an utter loathing as seen through the dreadful happenings in the Holocaust.

They called it Shoah. Six million of them were abused, defamed, and murdered. They were forced to wear insulting yellow patches shaped like the Star of David on their clothing, were stripped of their belongings, and restricted to certain areas in Europe, forming ghettos. Herman Kruk, who kept a chronicle for five years in the Vilna Ghetto, described treatment in the ghettos saying, "The beatings at the gate when people came back from the city do not stop. Not only do they take everything people bring home.. .but it is all accompanied by ugly insults and bloody beatings" (318). But the ghettoes were only the beginning. After the ghettoes came extermination, decided upon in 1942 during the Wannsee Conference. Jews were isolated in concentration camps, where they were brutally starved, gassed or shot. These innocent people were degraded for the most trivial reasons: they were Jewish, they were different, and there was a surplus. They lacked the light hair, light skin, and the German accent. Supposedly, they were also "responsible" for all the corruption in the world. And for anti-Semitic Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, this was enough reason to exterminate them ("Holocaust").

Although the Jews were largely affected by the Holocaust, the Nazi party terrorized other groups such as homosexuals, Romany gypsies, Polish, Russians, Slavs, and some Catholics and Protestants. Homosexual men were forced to wear pink triangles, and homosexual women were forced to wear black. About 100,000 of these men were arrested, and about 15,000 (documented) of these men died in concentration camps. Gypsies were killed because Germans believed the Romany, although of the Aryan race, were impure because they mingled with Asian countries and their people. Slavs were shipped to death camps, as German troops destroyed their Soviet villages ("Holocaust").
 

Nazis continued to rid Europe of the elderly, disabled, and insane. Because these people needed extra care, the Nazis believed they were an extra weight and resorted to extermination.

In 1939, the T-4 Euthanasia Program was endorsed by Hitler which persistently murdered the deformed and the mentally ill ("Holocaust"). Recalling an account labeled "The Aktion of 84 Old People" in the Vilna Ghetto, a Jew named Herman Kruk states, "Policemen holding lists went around taking old people, the chronically ill, and the crippled.. .The most awful scenes took place because they didn't want to give up old people. Some were thus saved, and eighty-four old people were taken away" (330).

This mass genocide annihilated a total of about 11 million people. This direct action of heartless killing reduced the victims, once classified as humans, to nothing. These people once had lives with friends, family, successes, failures, and obligations, but their right to experience {hem葉heir humanity要anished. Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager during the time of World War II wrote in her diary, "It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality." One by one, lives with endless chances and possibilities were thrown away through a crime that never paid. The Holocaust should be remembered by all people葉eaching about it in schools, making an effort to watch documentaries, or listening to a first-hand experience from a Holocaust survivor葉o reinforce the long-term effects of discrimination and the extent it can reach, while at the same time Blessing it should not happen again.

Prejudice and judgment will always be present within our society, whether it is toward j.ieas, things, or people. The only way we can battle such offensive prejudice is by taking initiative, spreading the word, and stating the facts; the Holocaust is only one fact. But how can one student tear down the walls of bigotry? Many believe that students, like me, cannot make a difference, for I am not yet an adult; my signature on a petition, for example, may not have the power to bring about a second glance. But through everyday acts羊esponding in opposition to racial comments and avoiding racial sentiment toward others用rejudice may dwindle, even though I am only one person residing in a small town versus millions of people throughout world. No matter how small, every action counts, and just like a smile, it goes a long way. I am already setting an example for children younger than me, such as my cousins, because I want their generations to live in a world free of genocide and racism, for like the current situation in Darfur, innocent lives are once again being lost. History is in the process of repeating itself, and it is up to the generations of the future to put this violence and injustice to a halt.

I have never had to go to sleep in fear, be someone else, deny myself, or be violently threatened, and I hope by combating prejudice one step at a time, I won't have to; no one will.


Works Cited

Etcoff, Nancy. Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. New York: First Anchor Books, 2000.

Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The Definitive Edition. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

"Holocaust." Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. 2005.
"Humanity." The New Lexicon Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language. Deluxe Edition. New York: Lexicon Publications, Inc, 1989.

Kruk, Herman. The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania. USA: Yale University Press, 2002.
 

 


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