Dogs and the Holocaust
It is said that dog is man’s best friend. For decades dogs have served as a human companion used for hunting and guarding. They are also aides for people with disabilities to improve their health-related quality of life. More recently, dogs are even being used in psychological recovery programs. Dogs can help bring about comfort and decrease loneliness. “Medical research has shown that contact with dogs can decrease feelings of anxiety and stress. This evidence relates to the following Holocaust literature: Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, Maus, and A Scrap of Time. What all of these novels have in common is that they feature the presence of a dog. Authors feel the need to insert dogs into this literature because the Holocaust is so devastating that these qualities can’t be found in people. They are used as symbols to counteract the hardships the characters face along their journey during the Holocaust time period. The appearance of dogs in Holocaust literature is significant as they are used for companionship and serve as protection and provide loyalty. Misha is about a Jewish girl who walked across Europe by herself during World War II and spent months living in the forest. It is the story of a defenseless child who travels great distances and faces many hardships that no other young girl could ever survive. Misha escapes from her foster family’s home and wanders off to find her real parents. It is not realistic for a girl of her age to survive alone in the woods during World War II because she has no food, clothes, weapons, or direction. After enduring many struggles, she comes across a friendly pack of wolves. This is unusual in that wolves generally don’t provide comfort for humans and they usually attack them. This unique pack of wolves adopted Misha as a new member of their family. She learned how to be a part of the pack as a young wolf that ate and howled with them among other habits. The author incorporated the wolves because Misha had no other companions. She had a bad relationship with her foster parents and escaped in order to search for her biological parents whom she never found. Her journey was very lonely, and there is no way that she would have survived without the aid of this extraordinary family of wolves. The wolves, also considered dogs, would prey on other animals in the wilderness so that Misha had food to eat. Prior to meeting the wolves, she was forced to steal food from people’s homes or beg strangers for a sliver of bread. Misha’s relationship with the wolves is significant because she found qualities in them that she did not find in human companionship. She genuinely considered them to be her family. Evidence of how strongly connected Misha felt with the wolves can be found in the quote, “Seeing the strong family ties between members of the pack, I felt not only deep sadness for my own shattered family but also gratitude for the chance to be a member of theirs,” (Defonseca, 158). At this point in the novel, Misha met a new family of wolves in the woods after disconnecting from the original pack she met after escaping. The way she described her encounters were very similar to how somebody acts around a group of strangers. An example of this is when Misha first befriends the pack of wolves. She did not feel safe enough to sleep right beside them at night because she didn’t want to intrude on their den. She even named each of the wolves based on observations she made about them. This makes the wolves seem more human-like. The wolves performed specific rituals when it came to hunting. Misha acquired dog-like behavior by licking and biting with the wolves in a playful manner. The dogs had a certain order of urinating based on superiority in the family. The father would go first followed by the mother, then the young wolves, and Misha would go last. Misha clearly felt as though she were a part of the wolf pack family and found...
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