Throughout history and to this day, we have witnessed discrimination in some form or another. Mass genocides have taken place during the past such as the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, the Nanking Massacre and many more. But what exactly is genocide? Genocide is a systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group. Such tragic events have caused the death of millions of innocent people, a ruined nation, poverty as well as many psychological disorders the victims face. But some may ask, how could people have allowed such horrors to occur? It is simply because the international community had turned a blind eye against the matter, which had caused these enormous crimes to be inevitable. The only way we can prevent genocides and become a more humane society is to learn and remember the past atrocities that have occurred. Both Elie Wiesel, survivor of the Holocaust and Immaculee Ilibagiza, survivor of the Rwandan Genocide have witnessed and encountered horrific treatment in the hands of their oppressors.
The Holocaust was Hitler’s plan to exterminate all Jews and other minority groups so that more room can be made for the Aryan race. “We no longer had the right to frequent restaurants or cafes, to travel by rail, to attend synagogue, to be on the streets after six o’clock in the evening.” (11) After the Nazi power had gained control of Germany, they spread anti- Semitism, which was aimed to systematically isolate Jews from society and drive them out of the country. Young Germans were taught to avoid contact with Jews because they were like parasites. As the war was coming to a turning point, Hitler planned the final solution to completely annihilate Jews in which he set up ghettos and force labor camps in land occupied by the Germans. Ever since the Jews were packed into cattle cars to be deported, they were being dehumanized. “The three veteran prisoners, needles in hand, tattooed numbers on our left arms. I became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name.” (Wiesel, 43) often at times, when something horrendous happens, we pray to our religious figureheads for protection. We see them as well respected beings that protect us from evil. However, when atrocities so terrible occur, one would question their faith in God. After having to witness young children and innocent people be thrown into furnaces, dig their own graves, work and starve to death, Wiesel starts to question whether or not God is really protecting them. “ Blessed be God’s name.. Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because he caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Day?” (Wiesel, 66) Wiesel since his young years have always loved to learn about his religion and the power of God. Never had he thought one day he would rebel nor question his faith in Him. The experiences in the ghettos and his countless encounters with death has caused him to no longer accept God’s silence. When we are faced with danger, often times we only think about saving ourselves. It’s not because we are selfish and evil, it’s because that is how humans are. Everyone in a particular situation will try and do what is best for themselves. The quote “Every man for himself” can be explained when Wiesel went looking for his feeble father during the alert. “I went to look for him, yet at the same time a thought crept into my mind: if only I didn’t find him! If only I were relieved of this responsibility, I could use all my strength to fight for my own survival, to take care of myself.” (Wiesel, 106) this thought shows how the experiences in the death camp have altered Wiesel’s personality. You had to struggle to survive even if it meant killing a love one at a time so horrendous like this. Surely he was ashamed of thinking this however having the responsibility of watching over his father...
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