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The Extermination of the Jews


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.
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. 


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