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Night By Elie Wiesel Essay, Research Paper
Genocide throughout History
Throughout the history of mankind, horrific acts of genocide have been committed. The Crusades, the Native American being murdered by the Europeans, the Forced Famine in the Ukraine and the Killing Fields of Cambodia are all examples of genocide (Altman,55). The word genocide comes from the Greek phrase genos meaning race or tribe and Latin root cide meaning to kill (Altman,13).
Genocide can be defined as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial, religious group by killing members of the group, causing serious bodily of harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about it’s physical destruction, imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Altman,14).
When a planned genocide is occurring, ethnic cleansing is usually hand in hand. Ethnic cleansing is the systematic destruction of cultural heritage (Sells 1). Genocide and acts of ethnic cleansing are usually executed by an organized group of people with a clear goal: annihilation of the chosen victims. One of the most horrific genocides of all time was committed by the Nazi’s against the Jews during World War II. After the Holocaust occurred, the nations of the world vowed to prevent another genocide. However, ethnic
cleansing and genocide’s still occur today in places like Bosnia and Kosovo. The portrayal of genocide in Elie Wiesel’s Night demonstrates the Nazi’s goal of annihilation, which parallels the goal of the Serbs in Kosovo.
The Holocaust in Germany during World War II was one of the most horrific moments in human history. The Goal of the Nazi’s was to exterminate all 11 million Jews in Europe; this included those Jews in neutral and unconquered countries (Altman, 56). The Nazi’s accomplished their goal by rising to power, using techniques such as propaganda. Hitler portrayed his victims as evil (Altman, 14). The term Hitler used was “Untermenschem” meaning subhuman (Ayer, 9). Jews were not the only victims of the Nazi’s. Gypsies, communists, male homosexuals, Jehovah witnesses, Poles, political enemies, and the physically and metally handicapped also suffered (Ayer, 9). Even thought Hitler killed many people, Jews were his most targeted victims. Hitler’s process of exterminating his victims was inhuman and extremely organized. Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat for all of Germany’s problems. Hitler made glorious speeches to his people about the importance of the Third Reich Empire or “master race.” Hitler strongly believed that German speaking people were superior to all others. Hitler explained to his people the necessity of an empire and “lebensraum,” translated to living space. Hitler began to act upon his goals when he established the Nuremberg Laws. These laws placed sever restrictions on Jews by not allowing them to own businesses or shop in stores owned by members of the Third Reich. The transportation of Jews into ghettos came about. Ghettos were designated areas in Europe’s cities that were blocked off. Jews
were forced to live in the ghettoes, in horrible conditions. On average there was approximately 13 people to a room. The starvation of the Jew’s in the ghettoes was part of Hitler’s plan. Ringelblum was a victim of Hitler’s cruelty, forced to live in a ghetto during the year of 1941.
“Lice infest every room, death lies in every street. The children are no longer afraid of death. In one courtyard, the children played a game of tickling a corpse.” He writes (Altman, 53). After years of suffering in the ghettos, the Jews were killed. They were transported in cattle cars to concentration camps scattered across Europe (Anderson, 1). The concentration camps were Hitler’s “final solution” to the Jewish problem.
The living conditions in these concentration camps were atrocious. While the Jews were alive in the camps, they were not treated like humans; they were treated like animals. Elie Wiesel describes his terrifying experience in Aushwitz. “Not far from us, flames were leaping from a ditch, gigantic flames. They were burning something. A lorry drew up to the pit and delivered its load- little children. Babies! Yes, I saw it with my own eyes… those children in the flames” (Wiesel, 30). In the concentration camps families were torn apart. Only the strong survived initial selection. Women, children and the elderly were the first to be executed. The Nazi’s motto for children was “Nits breed Lice” (Ayer, 39). The Nazi’s goal was to kill off the Jewish children before they grew into adult “undesirables.” Men were kept alive to work in forced labor camps. Ellie Wiesel describes his terrifying experiences in a concentration camp. In the death camps millions of Jews were murdered in the gas chambers and then burned in the crematories. The Nazi’s used other methods to exterminate their victims as well. The
“Einsatzgruppen” was a Nazi execution squad. They would force their victims to dig their own graves, strip naked, then stand on the edge of their grave, where they were shot (Altman, 55). Hitler ordered the liquidation of a ghetto in Poland. The Polish Jews were shot down in the streets and hanged. All those who survived the initial attack were driven into a large building. The building was sealed and sharpshooters stood outside the building to kill any Jews who tried the burning building. Hitler nearly succeeded in his goal of exterminating the Jews. 70 percent of all European Jews perished (Altman, 61). Three million Polish civilians were killed (Altman, 64). One third of the Gypsy population perished (Altman, 71). Hitler’s genocide was only five million short of reaching his ultimate goal. How many lives could have been saved had the Nazi’s been stopped?
Nations around the world were well aware of Hitler’s concentration camps but they chose not to care, they remained silent. As Elie Wiesel stated in his novel Night, “How could it be possible for them to burn people, children, and for the world to keep silent?” (Wiesel, 30). Millions of victims could have been saved if other countries had opened their doors to Jewish refugees (Totten, 149). The world was busy dealing with their own economic problems, they simply weren’t concerned about the fate of the Jews in Europe. This was due to existing anti-Semitism and simple indifference. During the Depression, when Hitler rose to power, poverty, and unemployment were rampant. Nations were afraid that the influx of refugees, especially Jewish ones would only
magnify their own economic crisis. These nations did not raise their immigration quotas, or even offer refuge to the Jewish people during the war. If they had, millions of
innocent lives could have been saved (Ayer, 13). The same indifference and Anti-Semitism existed in Germany during World War II. Ordinary Germans who had nothing to do with the Holocaust might have heard rumors about the crimes against the Jews in Eastern Europe, but they were more preoccupied with staying alive and making ends meet in an increasingly difficult wartime situation. The Jews quite literally were out of sight and out of mind. By the time the German people became fully aware of the validity of Hitler’s goal, he was unstoppable (Totten, 142). As Elie Wiesel so accurately stated, “Germany will forever bear the mark of the nation’s crime” (Altman,43). All these factors combined made the Holocaust of the Jews during World War II possible. Helping the Jewish people during World War II wasn’t really a choice but rather a matter of decency (Schneider, 1). Humanity chose not to help their fellow humans in a time of need.
The Holocaust in Germany during World War II is extremely similar to the ethnic cleansing that has been and still is happening in Kosovo, in the former Yugoslavia. Both genocides were driven by hatred towards a particular ethnic group. Both the Serbs and the Nazi’s singled out their victims because of their ethnic background. The Jews and Muslim ethnic Albanians were specifically targeted for annihilation. The Serbs and the Nazi’s both committed atrocities against their victims.
Throughout history, the Balkans, a small area in Southern Europe has been a place of hate, fear and atrocity (Vesilind, 1). The Balkans are constantly riven by
centuries old ethnic and religious hatreds. The violence that exists in the former Yugoslavia has many causes. The recent crises in Kosovo and Bosnia are caused by civil
wars between the Serbs, Croats and Muslim Albanians. The Muslims are Slavs who converted to Islam. The Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Croats are Roman Catholics. These groups of people simply can’t live together (Anderson, 26). Under rule of the Ottoman Empire, the people of the former Yugoslavia all shared a common culture (Vickers, 12). Kosovo is known as the cradle to the Serbian nation. The Serbs sacrificed thousands of men in the last stand against the Ottomans in 1389. Since that time, all Serbs are born with an instinctive devotion to Kosovo (Vickers, 12). Both Serbs and Albanians regard Kosovo as their source of national and cultural identity. This fuels the Kosovo crisis today (Vickers, 13). Yugoslavia was a patchwork nation, remains of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. Ethnic groups formed uneasy alliances under the Communist regime of Marshal Tito (Altman, 87). Tito ran a strict communist form of government. He sealed the borders, outlawed religion, adopted Stalin’s plan of collectivized farming, banned private property and imposed total control over his people through the use of his secret police (Hammer, 3). After World War II, Tito made no attempt to modernize or industrialize his nation. He only put ethic traditions and the old ways of the village into a deep freeze (Anderson, 31). When communism fell, Yugoslavia literally fell apart and the provinces declared independence. This is how Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, etc. came into existence (Altman, 87). Under communist rule, the people of Yugoslavia were not allowed to express their ethnic heritage.
“In the Balkan region, there remains a great schism, which does not exist in other parts of Europe. It lies between the modernized cities and the rural countryside. Until recently, cities such as Sarajevo, Belgrade and
Kosovo, intermarriages and cultural fusion were prominent. However, the Balkan village has always been a hard and pitiless place, one where ancient feuds are nursed and passed on for generations and where change and outside influence is deeply distrusted. In reality, many of the villages consist of one large, extended family. In the Balkan villages there is a deeply ingrained medieval code of honor and loyalty to one’s family and clan above all others. This is true for Muslim and Christian villages alike. Even those who escape the village and become city dwellers seem to return to the grip of these ancient feuds in moments of crisis” (Anderson, 30).
The collapse of the state and the economy led the Balkan people to once again openly embrace the traditional laws and loyalties of the village and hatred toward other ethnic groups (Anderson, 32). The crisis in Kosovo is caused by the goal of the Serbian people, to exterminate and erase all traces of Muslim civilization.
The tragedy in Kosovo is caused largely by the Serbian religious nationalist’s militarization of Kosovo (Sells, 2). The Serbian population is radicalized and supports the policies of ethnoreligious extermination (Sells, 1). The Serbs not only supported the extermination of the ethnic Albanians but took part in the actual killing. The Serbian people, like the Third Reich in World War II are trying to create a master race and more
living space for themselves by exterminating their enemy. “The Muslim population became the principle victim of brutally aggressive military Serbs operations to depopulate coveted territories in order to allow them to be repopulated by the
Serbs”(Sells, 3). The Serbian population openly encourages the ethnic cleansing of the Kosovar Muslim Albanian people. The Serbians used ethnic cleansing to eliminate their enemy. They used tactics of savage terror, mass killings, rapes, and brutalization of civilians (Sells, 1). The goal of the Serbs was to make the Albanian race unpure, to taint the blood of there vowed enemies, to expel the population from Kosovo and ultimately kill all those who remain.
The Ethnic Cleansing performed by the Serbians against the Muslim Albanian population in Kosovo involved brutality and murder. The Serbs used ethnic cleansing to accomplish their goal of annihilation of the Albanians. This included destroying monuments, libraries and all other traces that their targeted people ever even existed (Sells, 1). The systematic destruction the Albanians were executed through massacres, mass arrests, forced expulsions from Kosovo and “silent ethnic cleansing” (Altman, 10).
The reasoning for the Serb aggression in Kosovo is similar to the ethnic cleansing atrocities that occurred in Bosnia in 1992. In Bosnia, Serb forces surrounded Sarajevo and shelled the civilian population for 50 days. 9,284 were killed and 54,398 were wounded (Altman, 87). In the Bosnian village of Foca, similar acts of genocide were committed by the Serbs against the ethnic Albanians. Religious nationalist Serbs started a systematic campaign of annihilating every trace of Muslim civilization. Mosques were destroyed. The state run prison was converted into a rape camp where Muslim women
and girls were brought and held for days. They were then released to spread the word of terror (Sells, 2). The Serbs used the tactic of fear to expel the Albanian population from
Kosovo. One refugee remembers, “The Serbs came and they killed 11 of our people. Murdered them right before our eyes. And why? They wanted to strike fear in the rest of
us. ‘Go to NATO’ they shouted, ‘Go to Clinton, this is Serbian territory’” (Vesilind, 1). The Serbs were brutal and relentless in their ethnic cleansing campaign. Suzana Jashari, a nurse in Pristina, a city in Kosovo, tells the horrific story of how she was forced to leave her patients to die in her hospital.
The Kosovo Liberation Army took over the hospital and ordered all visitors and those able to could to evacuate the building. One woman was gravely ill. After much groveling and pleading I was permitted to give her a blood transfusion with 2 pistols jabbing into my neck. Then they forced me to leave the hospital. I could hear my patients screaming as they killed them all anyway” (Vesilind, 2).
Yusug Zhuniqi tells the story about how the Serbs forced 150 villagers to flee
from their town. The Serb forces then separated the men and older boys from the women and children. 50 men were stripped naked, backed into shallow water and shot with automatic weapons. He played dead and was able to crawl out of the bloody creek hours later (Hammer, 65). This story is strikingly similar to that of Moshe the Beadle’s from the novel Night and how he survived a Nazi massacre. Another man Visar returns to his village in Kosovo. 8,000 thousand families lived in his village before the war, now only 83 remain. Visar’s old friend Isar came running to greet him and to explain how the
Serbian police invaded his home. Isar jumped out of his window with his youngest son. The rest of his family was shot. He sobbed as he tried to explain the gruesome task of
removing the brains of his twelve-year-old daughter from his floor (Hammer, 69). The Serbs not only destroyed the personal lives of these people, but also took over the government in Kosovo. As Serbian power and military presence in Kosovo increased,
400,000 ethnic Albanians fled Kosovo. The majority of these refugees were young men, trying to avoid the draft and a certain death in the Bosnian war. This mass exodus of young men became know as “the silent ethnic cleansing” (Vickers, 272). The goal of the Serbs was not only to decrease the Muslim population, but also to increase their own population. “The silent ethnic” cleansing accomplished both. The lack of young men combined with the forced rapes helped spread Serbian blood. The Serbian take over of the government resulted in a campaign to “conserve resources.” They did this by shutting off electricity and running water in communities that were predominantly Albanian. The Serbian financial police confiscated approximately one million dollars from the destitute Albanian Muslims (Vickers, 277). The Serbian take-over of Medicare led to an increase in infant mortality. Albanian women did not want their babies to be delivered by Serbian doctors. 85% of all Muslim Albanian mothers gave birth without medical attention. Most Albanians refused to attend hospitals because of the widespread belief that the Serbian vaccinations caused sterility. (Vickers, 274) This was another example of how the Serbs went about accomplishing their goal of annihilation. NATO, the North American Treaty Organization and the United Nations finally stopped the
genocide. The United Nations and NATO bombed the Serbs into agreement to stop their killings. At the end of the attempted genocide, thousands were left dead and 300,000
refugees were homeless. The ethnic cleansing performed by the Serbs in Kosovo was inhumane.
After the Holocaust during World War II, the offenders were placed on trial and punished for the mass murder they committed. The victims were promised that another
genocide would never occur. Yet despite these utopian goals of peace and harmony, people are still being killed today because of their ethnic back round. In Bosnia and Kosovo, thousands of people were brutally murdered because of their heritage and religious beliefs. Genocide and ethnic cleansing still occur in nations around the world. Persecution of a targeted victim has been a repeating theme throughout human history. The cycle of hatred and suffering continues even into the twenty-first century. Will world peace ever be possible?
Roger Cohen. “Austria’s Right Wing Throws Europe a Curve.” New York Times
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Peter Schneider. “The Good Germans.” The New York Times Magazine
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Steven Erlanger. “Indecision Feeds the Dogs of War.” The New York Times
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Joshua Hammer. “Into Kosovo.” Outside Magazine Aug. 1999: page 65.
Linda Jacobs Altman. Genocide: The Systematic Killing of People. Springfield, N.J:
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Samuel Totten. Century of Genocide. New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1997.
Scott Anderson. “The Curse of Blood and Vengeance.” The New York Times Magazine
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Author unknown. NATO Offical Homepage.
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Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia. Availablehttp://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/reports.html, 2/19/00.
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