led TheExtermination of the Jews, were not in any way new stories to me. Infact I came into this book with the same attitude that I usually dowhen faced with Holocaust stories, that of “Yes it was horrible, but Iknow all about it already.
This reading isn’t going to do anything tomy attitude.” I, as I always am in thinking such a thought, was wrong.No matter how much you know, no matter how many Holocaust survivorsspeak to you, no matter how much you read about it, no matter how muchthe atrocities are ingrained into you mind, you can never be immune.You are always horrified by this extermination, and every time thatyou read about any incident you are more disgusted than the last.You are always reminded that these people that were being slaughteredlike animals were not much different than yourself or anybody that youknow. It does not matter whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, orany other religion, you have to sympathize with these people becausethey are people. Despite whatever the Nazis tried to make them into,one can easily see that is was not the Jews who were sub-human, butthe vicious, blood-thirsty Nazi murderers who were the animals.
Many of these readings reminded me of the question “Where werethe people? Where were those who said, ‘NO! This is wrong!’? Why wouldno one stand up to such an obvious wrong?” The ninth document showshow the Nazis eliminated Jews’ rights. It amazes me that there weren’tmore non-Jews who would speak out against these ridiculous, arbitrarylaws. Can fear truly silence a person to the point of just acceptingthe dehumanization and deaths of millions of people? I still cannotbring myself to believe that this is human nature. No thinking humanbeing could accept this, yet an entire nation bowed to the insanewill of a madman. Clearly, somewhere in human nature is an innatepassivity possessed by many people.
This passivity must be so powerfulthat it can silence those who wish to be active, who will stand up forwhat is right. Is it not reasonable then to think that ,despite all ofthe good intentions and courage that people display, it could happenagain.Document five shows how a person can be fooled into believingin the superiority of one group over another. Globocnik must have feltthis way or he would never be able to make boasts about burying bronzetablets in order to commemorate his murderous work.
What does it taketo make a human, the only known sentient creature, pride himself ofdoing something that is below even the barest of creatures? It wasthis document that was the most shocking to me. Where the others showthe suffering of those the Nazis captured and killed, this one showsin ghastly detail how some delighted in the misery these people.The final five documents attempt to show varying explanationsas to how this abomination known as the Holocaust could have occurred.The first, an excerpt form Machiavelli’s The Prince shows reasons thatHitler was able to retain such control over the population. He statesthat fear enables a ruler to retain perfect control over those herules. Indeed this was one of Hitler’s strategies. He scared peopleinto not reacting by using the threats of imprisonment and death.
Thestatements made by Hobbes attempt to prove that man is naturally evil.Although upon first glance at the Holocaust one may think that this istrue, it seems that a more accurate representation would be that somepeople are evil, and that they when in power can influence theprimarily neutral population. Locke’s view of the rationality in man’snature seems an absurd optimistic opinion after reading all of theoffenses against humanity. Although there may well be people governedby rationality they quite obviously cannot make up the bulk of thoseliving or such illogical random acts of cruelty and evil , such as theHolocaust, could not occur. Ardrey makes statements that there is anatural instinct for man to be aggressive.
Indeed this may be true, asit explains the behavior of the Nazi executioners. Without some sortof murderous tendency it would not be possible to kill that manydefenseless people. Skinner’s opinion that the actions of a man are adirect result of his surrounding situations effectively explains thereasons for the Holocaust happening.
The surrounding conditions ofeconomic depression and a general anti-Semitic attitude enabledGermans to accept something that they would abhor under othercircumstances. Providing the hatred of the Jews was not an acceptedattitude, Hitler would not have been able to implement his “FinalSolution”.In actuality it would seem that none of the philosophers thatdeal with human nature are entirely correct. Instead a combination isprobably true. Maybe some people are evil by nature, but there is agreat enough population of logical, good people to normally keep thegeneral attitude of a neutral nature. It is when those of a warlikenature come to power that such an evil policy as genocide may beinstituted. yet another 9-12th grade Holocaust essay:More facts give more answers, which lead to more questions.
Unlike the first set of readings, which could have been stories that Ihave heard before, most of the facts expressed here were completelynew to me. I have always been taught that the world stood idle whilethe Nazis proceeded to slaughter the Jewish people. Never, however,were the stories of those who stood up, those who did what is thehumanly right thing to do, told to me. Bravery should not have been afactor.
People should have reacted despite of their fear if they sawthe slaughter of an entire group of people for truly no reason.Unfortunately this was not true. The goodness of those who didsomething, such as Father Lichtenerg and King Christian X of Denmark,should be acknowledged, not as acts of superhuman kindness, but asacts of a human level when the rest of the world was acting with sub-human passivity.Were those who did nothing when they had the chance as guiltyas the Nazi murderers themselves? Did they just as much deserve to beput on trial at Nuremberg? Fear is a powerful force, but is it onethat should be an excuse for the destruction of our basic, human senseof right and wrong, to the extent where we allow the vile act ofmurder to be carried out without intervention? I can never for oneinstant imagine a person not so angry and disgusted by thesedeplorable criminals that he or she would just say, as the man did inthe case of Catherine Genovese, “I didn’t want to get involved.”Didn’t want to get involved? This was not some stupid squabble oversome ridiculous point.
THIS WAS MURDER! Human lives were needlesslylost because people were too absorbed in their own fears of being hurtor of losing power. The reaction of the American Jews was inexcusable.In fact, it seems even more horrible than that of the others thatsuccumbed to passivity. They let their own people die. How can anyonefind any excuse for something like that? The book states that theworld most intellectual, thinking people did nothing. If this is sohow can they claim the title of intellectual? Is the failure to reactnot enough to show that they have no right to hold the title of athinking person?It is sad to have read the words uttered and written by thosewho were the victims of the Nazi atrocities.
The section of thebook is titled Behavior Under Stress, but upon reading the outpour ofemotions conveyed by the victims one can plainly see that the wordstress, or any other, could describe the situations of these people.The section that struck me the hardest was the one called “We Got Usedto…”. It simply amazes me that people could become accustomed to thedreaded conditions that existed within Auschwitz. To live ones dailylife knowing that any day could be the day of your own slaughter, towitness it happening to those around you, to have to wait for it inthe pains of hunger, disease, and beatings, is a situation which Icannot see myself not becoming insane under, much less getting usedto.
To think that these people’s disastrous fate was brought aboutbecause people were too afraid to speak up makes me sick.It is stated that those who served under Adolf Hitler wereproved perfectly sane by the Rorschach tests administered to them. AsMolly Harrower points out, this is much more scary than if the resultscame back saying that they were the most horridly evil psychopathsever to walk the earth. Because the test shows that they were sane, itprovides clear evidence that human nature is such that the corruptionof the mass media can lead to the corruption of the mind in even themost “normal” of individuals. This shows that we must actively thinkabout everything put before us before accepting it. If we do not werun the risk of becoming as bad as those who served under the king ofthe murderers, Adolf Hitler. Still another 9-12th grade Holocaustpaper:As with the first reaction paper, the first grouping ofreadings did not surprise me, as I have had experience dealing withthings such as those displayed.
The first two excerpts from Brave NewWorld and 1984 were recognizable to me as I am familiar with bothworks. Orwell’s book, the one with which I have had the mostexperience with, had the scene which I had always deemed the mostfrightening excerpted from it. O’Brian’s prophetic view of thetotalitarian state is shocking and appalling.
Unfortunately the reasonfor the terror felt when the description is given is because it isshockingly real. Orwell based his description of Oceania under therule of the Party was actually based on the regimes of Stalin andHitler, and thus it is perfectly possible that it could happen in ourworld, not only a dystopian science fiction novel. Huxley shows howappealing to a people’s sense of a stable situation even if they mustsurrender all that is individual about them to the state. TheController attempts to relate that there are truly different ranks ofpeople, some meant to lead and some to serve in sub-human condition.Both of these ideas were prevalent in Hitler’s Germany, and both arereprehensible by any who value their sense of individuality.
The readings from number 76 to 79 are even more examples thatdemonstrate how not only that things comparable to the Holocaust couldhappen again, but how they are a constant in history. Is it part ofhuman nature to look for a scapegoat? Repeated examples show that somepeople are simply blind to the evil inherent in activities as vile asthe enslavement and mass killing of someone simply because of theirethnic grouping. People think that Hitler was evil and destructive,well thy are right, but so too were those Americans who advocated theconcepts of slavery, and the denial of rights to those of Japanesedescent during World War II. Clearly there must be some dark aspect inhuman nature that causes us to behave so hatefully towards others.
Ifthis is true how can humans hope to continue to exist as a successfulspecies?By far the reading that held my attention the most, even morethan the ones about death, destruction, and slavery, was the onecalled Obedience to Authority. It seemed to answer many of myquestions concerning the servile nature of people expressed in theprevious reaction paper. It does however raise even more questions asit provides answers. What is going through a person’s mind as heknowingly inflicts unbearable pain on someone who has done him no harmat all? How is the power of authority enough to override the humanconscience? The sociologist makes an excellent point when he states,”what is the correct balance between individual initiative andauthority?” Indeed this is a question that we must ask if we are toproceed in a workable society.
We cannot have a world withoutleadership, but similarly we should not surrender our individuality tothe state or we come closer to the negative utopias described in 1984and Brave New World.