This passage describes the absolute shock that paralyzed the Jews when they arrived at the concentration camps. I can’t imagine how utterly terrified the children must have felt… The moment when Elie was separated from his mother and sister was the lasttime he’d ever see them. Ever. It was just a separation of the sexes, but in reality, it was the separation from families, loved ones, etc. I just keep thinking about how the children felt entering the camps… Although they were probably naive to a lot of things, in that moment, they must have all realized that the camp was where they were going to be possibly for the rest of their lives. I wonder how the SS guards who had children felt when they were watching these innocent lives so shaken apart. How did/do these men live with themselves? How could they go home from their shift at the camp to hug their children, kiss their wives, love their family, when they know that they’ve just spent a day taking all those things away from someone else?
Cindy, you’re insight on the lives of the SS men is captivating. It’s true, how could anybody go from ripping families apart and sending them to their death and go home and provide love for their families. How could they sleep at night after hearing the screams of children and not relate that to their own? How is it that so much hatred and murder take place and no one really know about it? At the beginning of the passage Elie is struck with confusion, as with all the new prisoners. They did not know the horrors that lie within the camp. How could something like this manage to remain so mysterious. "How was it possible that men, women, and children were being burned and that the world kept silent?" Elie seemed so dismayed that something like this could be happening in that time period and it wasn’t stopped, people weren’t even being warned. Its hard enough for us to imagine it happening, and here is this boy alluded to the reality that this was happening and he was actually standing within the camp walls.
Click on the picture to visit a nifty online museum related to the Holocaust.
The images of Auschwitz left me with an eerie, sickly feeling. I can’t even imagine being ushered into a place like this - a place so full of death. The thought of Nazis and German people believing that the Jewish needed to be isolated and contained made them sound less like human beings and more like a plague, and the camps were the vaccination. With the images being digital it seems like a distant, almost fictional, place. Its hard to believe what went on behind that barbed wire fence. Its hard to believe that the SS had so little mercy for so many innocent lives. Reading about their goals of making the camps more effective in order to “dispose” of more Jews is horrific. They were treated as a sickness, completely inhuman. The map showing how many railways lead to Auschwitz in order to provide a quick and effective routine was astonishing. Seeing so many railways leading to the same tragic end is devastating, but at the same time seeing it on a computer screen seems to alienate it. It seems as though nothing like this could ever happen, it shouldn’t have ever happened, and none of us will truly understand what it was like.
The question I asked is actually greatly debated and discussed. Is there a historical answer? Is there a psychological answer? Why did ordinary men turn into willing executioners? I am not entirely sure if there is a straight answer, or even an answer at all. I agree with what Cierra has said; I believe that it was a gruesome time and that survival was of the utmost importance for most. However some believe there may be a greater psychological answer. There were no social restraints during this massacre. All humanity had been deserted. Is it not possible that half the population murdered the other half because, simply put, they could? Was it this, albeit dark, philosophical outlook on human nature that led to the death of the Jewish people in Jedwabne?
Something to chew on…
Why do you think so many residents in Jedwabne were willing to brutally murder the Jewish people whom they had lived with for years? Who or what is to blame?
During this time all people were going to extreme lengths for their own survival, even amongst the Jews in other cities, ghettos, or camps they were turning on themselves and killing each other for a slice of bread. Essentially what people wanted was their own survival, and when in a group setting, like the residents in Jedwabne, it only heightens the lengths they will go to ensure their survival, even if in the long run. They are listening to what negative things are being said about the Jews, and believing these things, and during times of war and having lived in post-war (WWI) Germany they want to prevent themselves from suffering and dying again. All in all it is very difficult, I find, to pinpoint someone or something to blame, although Hitler and the Nazis should not be left unnoticed, but it does go beyond that to the effects that the Great War had on Germany, and how Germany ended up dealing with it all with Hitler rising to power, which did lead to terrible events such as this mass murder at Jedwabne.
I strongly agree with Catherine’s noted point on a philosophical point. The gruesome acts committed by ordinary citizens seem at first confusing and bewildering. It is hard to believe that any one would turn around and murder someone they had known for years only based on prejudice claims. Of course the influence of Hitlers and the Nazis was strong and persuasive, but ultimately the peoples actions were fueled by the non-existent consequences. In today’s society if a group of people were able to murder another, and the authorities turned a blind eye, is it possible that an event similar to this could re-occur? Yes, probably.
"I was Doctor Mengele’s Assistant" was unfathomably disturbing and horrific. I found it so hard to keep reading, the events seemed to get worse just when I thought they couldn’t. The part about the prisoners eating the flesh of boiled corpses was graphic and repulsive and shows the desperation that they were pushed to. Working under the guidance of a lunatic such as Doctor Menegle would be a life scarring experience - that is if you were lucky enough to survive the death camps after witnessing the tragedies.
I have to doubt how much actual scientific research was furthered by these experiments. They seem to be entirely sadistic and something straight out of a horror movie. It’s as if the doctors were performing random experiments without any realistic goals. The results were even twisted to further the Aryan myth. It seems like such a waste, that at the very least, these cruel experiments made no significant contribution to medical science.
I have to agree with you, Nick. The experiments don’t seem to carry any actual scientific value. With the example of giving people Polygal 10, which inhibits blood loss, then proceeding to shoot them at point blank range, the results are obvious. No one is meant to survive something like that. The experiments seem just a way for these doctors to take out their hatred of other races and those with handicaps. Saying that it was for research was just a way for them to cover up their true nature and perhaps even let them live with less or no guilt. The experiments are nothing less than barbaric and hold no value scientifically today.
I found this shocking and appauling due to the experiments conducted on these people and how much evil was compiled in these doctors. I would find any information found through these “experiments” as discreditable. Any conclusion that was drawn through doing these horrible acts, including cutting someone open when they were alive, are completely biased. I believe that these Nazi doctors were not out to find medical and scientific information, but only to use this as a torture techinque that they could avoid feeling guilty over. These experiments done on these innocent people should not be used for actual scientific facts because they are normal people, just like any one else. Anyone that would have been abused in such ways would have the same reaction, it had nothing to do with race or the so called ‘impurity’ of being Jewish.