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The Holocaust itself was an exercise in mass dehumanization and extermination of millions of people. The definition of Dehumanization the process of depriving a person or a group of positive human qualities. There are endless examples of dehumanization throughout world history and throughout Elie Wiesel’s Night that showcases and demonstrates dehumanization. Some examples include,when the Jews were assigned the star of David and their numbers, the relationship between the prisoners and the relationship between the guards and the prisoners, and when the guards were being transported.
In Wiesel’s Night the Jewish people had to wear the Davids patch. In Night Elie’s father states “The yellow star? So what? It’s not lethal.” This statement would turnout to be false as the star set them apart from everyone else and placed a target on their backs, this was one of many tactics used to label the Jews others. While the Jews were in the camp the jews were given numbers to be used as a substitution for a name. Wiesel states “I became A-7713. From then on I had no other name.” In this quote, the Nazi mark the new prisoners with a number, stripping their names away, any family history, traditions and religious values held in their names become totally insignificant. Just a bunch of random numbers and letters. In taking the peoples names from them, the Nazis also took part of what made them human. In addition the Jews faced much worse.
One of the prisoners stated “You…you….you… ‘They pointed their fingers, the way one might choose cattle or merchandise” (Wiesel 49). This quote demonstrates how the prisoners began to see each other as animals or objects. The ones pointing at Wiesel and his father are Kapos, given special authority to degrade the other inmates. To survive, the prisoners had to forget everything and potentially even use each other to preserve themselves. Wiesel states “One day when we had come to a stop, a worker took a piece of bread out of his bag and threw it into a wagon. There was a stampede. Dozens of starving men fought desperately over a few crumbs. The worker watched the spectacle with great interest.” This quote reinforces the fact that there was no respect or dignity for Jews. Hitler created a persona that paved Jews out to be horrible worthless people and this was accepted by the country.
Wiesel states“…climb into the cars, eighty persons in each one”, “ … shoved us inside, a hundred per car: we were so skinny!” (Wiesel 103). “We had a hundred or so in this wagon. Twelve of us left it.” These three quotes show the progression of bodies in the cattle cars as time went on. They started with 80 and eventually up to 100 after they were starved, and all but twelve survived. Prisoners were transported to the camps in a number of ways: usually by train, but people also arrived on foot if the camps were close by from their original destination, or occasionally by truck.
The prisoners were generally not told their specific destination, although in later years it Was often made clear that they were being sent “to the east”. By the early 1940s, most prisoners had heard rumours of camps in the east and the conditions inside. This, in addition to the experiences they had already lived through, would have resulted in crippling fear and anxiety. The journey to the camps usually took several days, although some transports could take weeks. Prisoners were extremely tightly packed onto their transport, so much so that it was usually impossible to sit or kneel down. A typical transport contained approximately 1000 people.
Dehumanization was a tactic that was intentionally used by the Nazis. They broke people mentally and inflicting physical pain. They diminished them to machine like existences that stopped knowing how to feel or react. The Jews stopped being afraid of death, or resisting it. In fact, they began to accept that death would be their eventual fate. When the Jews received the star of David and their numbers, the prisoners relationships, and how the Jews got transported. These are all things to take into account when talking about “dehumanization”.
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