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The Extermination of Jews Documents

The first 13 of the 18 documents, collectively called The
Extermination of the Jews, were not in any way new stories to me. In fact I
came into this book with the same attitude that I usually do when faced
with Holocaust stories, that of “Yes it was horrible, but I know all about
it already. This reading isn’t going to do anything to my attitude.” I,
as I always am in thinking such a thought, was wrong. No matter how much
you know, no matter how many Holocaust survivors speak to you, no matter
how much you read about it, no matter how much the atrocities are ingrained
into you mind, you can never be immune. You are always horrified by this
extermination, and every time that you read about any incident you are more
disgusted than the last. You are always reminded that these people that
were being slaughtered like animals were not much different than yourself
or anybody that you know. It does not matter whether you are Jewish,
Christian, Muslim, or any other religion, you have to sympathize with these
people because they 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,
but the vicious, blood-thirsty Nazi murderers who were the animals.


Many of these readings reminded me of the question “Where were the
people? Where were those who said, ‘NO! This is wrong!’? Why would no one
stand up to such an obvious wrong?” The ninth document shows how the Nazis
eliminated Jews’ rights. It amazes me that there weren’t more non-Jews who
would speak out against these ridiculous, arbitrary laws. Can fear truly
silence a person to the point of just accepting the dehumanization and
deaths of millions of people? I still cannot bring myself to believe that
this is human nature. No thinking human being could accept this, yet an
entire nation bowed to the insane will of a madman. Clearly, somewhere in
human nature is an innate passivity possessed by many people. This
passivity must be so powerful that it can silence those who wish to be
active, who will stand up for what is right. Is it not reasonable then to
think that ,despite all of the good intentions and courage that people
display, it could happen again.

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Document five shows how a person can be fooled into believing in the
superiority of one group over another. Globocnik must have felt this way or
he would never be able to make boasts about burying bronze tablets in order
to commemorate his murderous work. What does it take to make a human, the
only known sentient creature, pride himself of doing something that is
below even the barest of creatures? It was this document that was the most
shocking to me. Where the others show the suffering of those the Nazis
captured and killed, this one shows in ghastly detail how some delighted in
the misery these people.


The final five documents attempt to show varying explanations as to
how this abomination known as the Holocaust could have occurred. The
first, an excerpt form Machiavelli’s The Prince shows reasons that Hitler
was able to retain such control over the population. He states that fear
enables a ruler to retain perfect control over those he rules. Indeed this
was one of Hitler’s strategies. He scared people into not reacting by
using the threats of imprisonment and death. The statements made by Hobbes
attempt to prove that man is naturally evil. Although upon first glance at
the Holocaust one may think that this is true, it seems that a more
accurate representation would be that some people are evil, and that they
when in power can influence the primarily neutral population. Locke’s view
of the rationality in man’s nature seems an absurd optimistic opinion after
reading all of the offenses against humanity. Although there may well be
people governed by rationality they quite obviously cannot make up the bulk
of those living or such illogical random acts of cruelty and evil , such as
the Holocaust, could not occur. Ardrey makes statements that there is a
natural instinct for man to be aggressive. Indeed this may be true, as it
explains the behavior of the Nazi executioners. Without some sort of
murderous tendency it would not be possible to kill that many defenseless
people. Skinner’s opinion that the actions of a man are a direct result of
his surrounding situations effectively explains the reasons for the
Holocaust happening. The surrounding conditions of economic depression and
a general anti-Semitic attitude enabled Germans to accept something that
they would abhor under other circumstances. Providing the hatred of the
Jews was not an accepted attitude, Hitler would not have been able to
implement his “Final Solution”.


In actuality it would seem that none of the philosophers that deal
with human nature are entirely correct. Instead a combination is probably
true. Maybe some people are evil by nature, but there is a great enough
population of logical, good people to normally keep the general attitude of
a neutral nature. It is when those of a warlike nature come to power that
such an evil policy as genocide may be instituted. 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 I have heard
before, most of the facts expressed here were completely new to me. I have
always been taught that the world stood idle while the Nazis proceeded to
slaughter the Jewish people. Never, however, were the stories of those who
stood up, those who did what is the humanly right thing to do, told to me.

Bravery should not have been a factor. People should have reacted despite
of their fear if they saw the slaughter of an entire group of people for
truly no reason. Unfortunately this was not true. The goodness of those
who did something, such as Father Lichtenerg and King Christian X of
Denmark, should be acknowledged, not as acts of superhuman kindness, but
as acts 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 guilty as the
Nazi murderers themselves? Did they just as much deserve to be put on
trial at Nuremberg? Fear is a powerful force, but is it one that should be
an excuse for the destruction of our basic, human sense of right and wrong,
to the extent where we allow the vile act of murder to be carried out
without intervention? I can never for one instant imagine a person not so
angry and disgusted by these deplorable criminals that he or she would just
say, as the man did in the case of Catherine Genovese, “I didn’t want to
get involved.” Didn’t want to get involved? This was not some stupid
squabble over some ridiculous point. THIS WAS MURDER! Human lives were
needlessly lost because people were too absorbed in their own fears of
being hurt or of losing power. The reaction of the American Jews was
inexcusable. In fact, it seems even more horrible than that of the others
that succumbed to passivity. They let their own people die. How can
anyone find any excuse for something like that? The book states that the
world most intellectual, thinking people did nothing. If this is so how
can they claim the title of intellectual? Is the failure to react not
enough to show that they have no right to hold the title of a thinking
person?
It is sad to have read the words uttered and written by those who were
the victims of the Nazi atrocities. The section of the book is titled
Behavior Under Stress, but upon reading the outpour of emotions conveyed by
the victims one can plainly see that the word stress, or any other, could
describe the situations of these people. The section that struck me the
hardest was the one called “We Got Used to…”. It simply amazes me that
people could become accustomed to the dreaded conditions that existed
within Auschwitz. To live ones daily life knowing that any day could be
the day of your own slaughter, to witness it happening to those around you,
to have to wait for it in the pains of hunger, disease, and beatings, is a
situation which I cannot see myself not becoming insane under, much less
getting used to. To think that these people’s disastrous fate was brought
about because people were too afraid to speak up makes me sick.


It is stated that those who served under Adolf Hitler were proved
perfectly sane by the Rorschach tests administered to them. As Molly
Harrower points out, this is much more scary than if the results came back
saying that they were the most horridly evil psychopaths ever to walk the
earth. Because the test shows that they were sane, it provides clear
evidence that human nature is such that the corruption of the mass media
can lead to the corruption of the mind in even the most “normal” of
individuals. This shows that we must actively think about everything put
before us before accepting it. If we do not we run the risk of becoming as
bad as those who served under the king of the murderers, Adolf Hitler.

Still another 9-12th grade Holocaust paper:
As with the first reaction paper, the first grouping of readings did
not surprise me, as I have had experience dealing with things such as those
displayed. The first two excerpts from Brave New World and 1984 were
recognizable to me as I am familiar with both works. Orwell’s book, the
one with which I have had the most experience with, had the scene which I
had always deemed the most frightening excerpted from it. O’Brian’s
prophetic view of the totalitarian state is shocking and appalling.

Unfortunately the reason for the terror felt when the description is given
is because it is shockingly real. Orwell based his description of Oceania
under the rule of the Party was actually based on the regimes of Stalin and
Hitler, and thus it is perfectly possible that it could happen in our
world, not only a dystopian science fiction novel. Huxley shows how
appealing to a people’s sense of a stable situation even if they must
surrender all that is individual about them to the state. The Controller
attempts to relate that there are truly different ranks of people, some
meant to lead and some to serve in sub-human condition. Both of these
ideas were prevalent in Hitler’s Germany, and both are reprehensible by any
who value their sense of individuality.


The readings from number 76 to 79 are even more examples that
demonstrate how not only that things comparable to the Holocaust could
happen again, but how they are a constant in history. Is it part of human
nature to look for a scapegoat? Repeated examples show that some people are
simply blind to the evil inherent in activities as vile as the enslavement
and mass killing of someone simply because of their ethnic grouping. People
think that Hitler was evil and destructive, well thy are right, but so too
were those Americans who advocated the concepts of slavery, and the denial
of rights to those of Japanese descent during World War II. Clearly there
must be some dark aspect in human nature that causes us to behave so
hatefully towards others. If this is true how can humans hope to continue
to exist as a successful species?
By far the reading that held my attention the most, even more than the
ones about death, destruction, and slavery, was the one called Obedience to
Authority. It seemed to answer many of my questions concerning the servile
nature of people expressed in the previous reaction paper. It does however
raise even more questions as it provides answers. What is going through a
person’s mind as he knowingly inflicts unbearable pain on someone who has
done him no harm at all? How is the power of authority enough to override
the human conscience? The sociologist makes an excellent point when he
states ,”what is the correct balance between individual initiative and
authority?” Indeed this is a question that we must ask if we are to
proceed in a workable society. We cannot have a world without leadership,
but similarly we should not surrender our individuality to the state or we
come closer to the negative utopias described in 1984 and Brave New World.

x

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