During the Second World War, and unspeakable injustice occurred. Six million Jewish people were slaughtered solely based on their religion. Men, women, and children were taken from their homes and taken under control of the Nazi?s. Their valuables were stolen. They were put to work in concentration camps where they were starved, beaten and tortured. Their identities were stolen, their names taken away, and identification tattoos were engraved in their bodies. Scientific experiments were preformed on these people with no anesthesia. Men and women alike were dragged to death pits where they were shot in the back of the head at point blank range, falling into mass graves while other were gassed in large chambers and tossed into the crematories.
Although the holocaust was a time of wrong doings, it helped to shape the identities of the following generations. It is important to learn about the Holocaust and the effect that it has had on individuals and society,this helped to shape who we all are today.
By learning about the Holocaust, we learn the importance of group conformity and how it is important to be able to find a balance between this and your individual identity. We learn that, ?Memories, even painful memories, are all we have. In fact, they are the only thing we are. So we must take very good care of them.? (Wiesel) Through texts, such as ?Night? by Elie Wiesel, films, such as ?Europa, Europa? and testimonies from Holocaust survivors such as Jack Trumpeter, we learn about the various struggles that people have had with their identity and how they dealt with it and how it has made them what they are today.
The main character within the book ?Night? was Elie Wiesel himself. Throughout the book Elie struggles with many identity problems. The events of his childhood shaped who and what he is today. While in the camps Wiesel witnesses hangings, beatings, starvation, and torture. He witnesses his family, friends, and fellow Jews degraded and murdered. Weisel?s identity as a person and as well as a religious boy, was stolen from him. Wiesel searches throughout the book for his God. At one point he inquires, "Where is God now? Where is He? Here is - He is hanging here on this gallows..."(Wiesel, 62) With this quote we can feel the hurt and loss Wiesel must have felt. Within the concentration camps, the Jewish people had nothing but their faith to hold on to, and when this one single thing that you have is torn away from you, just imagine the torment Wiesel must have felt while experiencing the destruction of his faith. Wiesel mentions that his God was "murdered" by the Nazis people. He blames the Germans for his lack of faith during the hardest period of time in his life. Wiesel witnessed so much evil that his belief in the existence of God continued to weaken. Again he asks, "Where is my God? Where is He?"(Wiesel, 61) His religious identity was stolen from him. He used to be a religious person, but after such acts of inconceivable horror, how could he believe in God? People worship God because of the hope, faith, and passion that God brings to their lives. God would not let this sort of thing to happen. Or at least that is what people would like to think, but I think he's only testing their faith.If they believe and keep faith they will endure.
Likewise, within the film ?Europa, Europa? Solomon Perel was taken away from his family, home and friends. He was forced to run away. At the young age of thirteen, Solomon was able to fool the Nazi men. He concocted a fake identity, called himself Joseph Peters, and tricked the men into believing that he was actually a German orphan. The Nazi?s took Solomon in as their own and treated him like a hero. They called him ?their good luck charm?. He had to watch the destruction of his own people, including a friend of his, be killed, beaten, and tortured. He saw decapitated children and bodies being thrown out of apartments windows. He had to sit there and listen to the same man that wanted to adopt him talk about how repulsive the Jewish people were. He rode trains through the ghettos, seeing the poverty and death that was swarming through the area. I can't even begin to imagine how confused he was. Solomon asks an actor during the film if it is hard to pretend to be someone else. The actor replies by saying no, and that it can be a whole lot easier than being yourself. Solomon asked such a question in reference to himself and the situation he was currently in. He had no one to turn to while he was living this awful life of torture. He had to hide his identity from his girlfriend, his friends, and teachers. He had to change all of who he was just so he wouldn?t be killed.
Similarly, a man named Jack Trumpeter was born into a time where he had to be hidden because he was Jewish. Trumpeter was born in 1942, during the heat of Nazism, in Northern Holland. As soon as he was born his parents knew that they had to send him into hiding for if they didn?t, they knew that he may be one of the many males that were dragged out into the streets, laid on their backs, and beaten in the legs until the couldn?t walk. Trumpeters parents knew if the Nazi?s were capable of doing this, they were capable of doing anything. Trumpeter wasn?t given the name Jack at birth. Originally he had a very Jewish sounding name, so his parents knew that they must change it. They changed his name to Jack and sent him into hiding in central Holland. By the time Trumpeter was only three years old, he was living with a new family with a new name. Not surprisingly, Trumpeter suffered from a nervous breakdown at this young age. Trumpeter, the family he lived with, and his parents all ended up moving to the United States. Shortly after, he suffered from yet another nervous breakdown. Trumpeter does not remember his childhood. Perhaps this is because he was able to block it all out. I know that if I was in his situation, I would. This must have played a huge impact on who he is is today.
I personally don?t know how people were able to be strong enough to survive through such tough times, not only physically but also emotionally, mentally, and more than anything, religiously. To me, it is hard to learn about such a time when such hatred took place. I cannot even begin to imagine how or why people can hate each other so much that they feel the need to have such anger toward other human beings such as this. It makes me feel sick to know that the human race is capable of such self-destruction.
It is important to learn about the Holocaust and the effect that it has had on individuals and society as a whole for this helped to shape who we all are today. By using the Holocaust, we learn the importance of group conformity and how it is important to be able to find a balance between this and your individual identity. We must be able to have a self-identity, but as we can see, during the Holocaust that was difficult. It was more about self-preservation than anything. We learn that, "Memories, even painful memories, are all we have. In fact, they are the only thing we are. So we must take very good care of them." (Wiesel) Through texts, such as "Night" by Elie Wiesel, films, such as "Europa, Europa"and testimonies from Holocaust survivors such as Jack Trumpeter, we learn about the various struggles that people have had with identity. In all the horrors of the Holocaust, we have learned that being an individual is one the greatest blessings that god has given us and that we should not have to live in a society that denys us that individual right.