In Night, it is the 16-year-old Eliezer and his time within the concentration camps. Dawn tells us of an 18-year-old who survived the holocaust and finds himself working for the resistance. Lastly, Day, guides us through the life of a survivor who, much later in life, is in a life-threatening car accident. Within each of these three daunting works of historical fiction, the main characters lose themselves. After surviving the holocaust, they could not return to normalcy because of the gruesome, inhumane things they had witnessed during their times in concentration camps. These men found themselves in darkness having lost all sense of love, faith and conscience. The dehumanization of war led these men to become people that their old selves would have never recognized. The night begins when Eliezer and his family are still in his hometown. He is learning the history of his Jewish heritage and living a very normal life. Then in 1944, Sighet was evacuated and sent to concentration camps.
Once they arrived they were separated by gender and taken to separate camps, he never saw his mother or sister ever again. They were forced to leave their belongings and take off their clothing. Once they were naked, they were shaved, showered and doused in disinfectant. As if that were not enough they were then tattooed with number which would be how they were referred to the rest of their time there stripping them of whatever identity they had left. This was common in all concentration camps during this period. This dehumanization was what enabled the Nazis to kill them without guilt or remorse, they were nothing. The ideology of the Nazis was that the Jews posed as a threat to the Reich, and were seen as root cause of all of the problems in Germany during that time period. This turn against the Jews may not have been so easily pushed upon the nation had the Germans not been in a complete economic crisis caused by the reparations owed for their part in WWI. Antisemitism was spread through the words of Hitler and the continuous propaganda throughout WWII.
As stated in class, the Nazis were skilled in this art with a combination of movies, publications of (mostly fiction) Jewish crime statistics and a variety of political cartoons, the hatred for Jews continued to grow. All of this fueled the Nazis and encouraged them to keep killing thinking that it would be the solutions they had needed. There was also a blind obedience to authority among the Nazis. Hitler had some kind of control over all of them where whatever he said went. Within the concentration camps there was a sort of hierarchy as well. Regardless of their roles prior to the war, men were turned into mass murderers. In one passage in Night Moshie, one of the members of Eliezer’s town, tells the story of how his train was stopped by Nazis and they were ordered off and to dig their own graves. Every Jew on that train was killed except for Moshie and he watched as “Infants were thrown into the air and used as targets for the machine guns.”
Not only was there a dehumanization among the Jews, there was the dehumanization of the Nazis themselves. They were so conformed to the party that they were convinced that if they did not kill the young that they would be the ones to come after their future generations so they too had to be killed. For Nazis to be able to kill infants and children by the truckload, meant that they were fully convinced of the evil of the Jews. The brutality on behalf of the Nazis was also made easier by things like repetition and routine. Every day they did the same thing. For some it was hastily unloading Jews off of trains, getting them into formation, some operated the crematorium, and some kept the Jews in the camps in line with beatings and killings to serve as an example of what would happen if they disobeyed.
Once they did it a certain amount of times I think they truly became numb to what they were doing. There is an example at one point in the book when they are running in formation from the camp, “Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves the pleasure. If one of us stopped for a second, a quick shot eliminated the filthy dog.” Once they had been given an order it was just that easy. The key word in that quote though is “dog”. It again goes to show how little the Nazis thought of the Jews, they were lowly animals that weren’t worth a second chance. In each of these works, we can also find the loss of oneself in each of the characters, their inner dehumanization. Obviously they all share the commonality that it is lost during the holocaust but it takes a different toll on each one of them. For Eliezer we can see the gradual change as he is whipped, beaten and watches the death of so many he once knew and loved. We see the change when that death no longer has a lasting effect on him.
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