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?NIGHT’ by Elie Wiesel tells us his story of the time he spent in a Nazi death camp. It’s
a story of the dehumanization of the Jewish inmates at the hands of the Germans and the world who closed their eyes and minds to the reality of what was happening before them.
The dehumanization according to Elie’s experiences (pg. 8) started on the 7th day of Passover in 1944. The leaders of the Jewish community were arrested. Jews would not be allowed to leave their houses for three days. The Jews no longer had the right to keep in his house gold, jewels or any objects of value.
When the Jewish citizens were deported from their homes they were put into cattle cars like animals (pg. 20). When the Germans took charge (pg. 22) they made it clear that they looked down at the Jews, ” . . . you’ll all be shot, like dogs . . . ”
But the biggest change and dehumanization came in the camps. The Jews were thrown into ditches of fire and just burnt with out a second thought. They were given numbers; “I became A-7713 after that, I had no other name.” (Pg. 39)
Life at the camp was regulated by bells. (Pg. 69) It gave me orders, and I automatically obeyed them.” The bells were another sign; your brain didn’t question the bells and your body just responded to them.
The years in the camps worked on the Jewish inmates. The last test of humanization took place in the cattle cars to Buchenwald. The inmates had always been told to watch out for themselves, they should care only for themselves and their needs. Hunger had brought out the animal instinct in the inmates. For a piece of bread son’s were killing their fathers. (Pg. 96) His son searched him, took the bread, and began to devour it. What we thought would never happen, happened. Family was looked at as holding the inmates back, slowing them down and risking their chance for survival, instead of sticking together and holding together as a whole unit.
What happened in ?NIGHT’ at the beginning hits pretty close to home, here in the U.S. The Jews at the beginning of the dehumanization (pg. 10) were no longer allowed to go into restaurants or cafes, to travel on the railway, to attend synagogue, to go out into the streets after six and then the ghettos, sounds like pieces of our own history with our African American citizens; doesn’t it? It our job as this generation of citizens to watch with our eyes and hear with our ears and react with our hearts and souls so that no people of the world ever are dehumanized like those with the empty eyes and hearts that survived the death camps.
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