Dr. T Porter
The Holocaust Experience
Simply put, the Holocaust was the annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazi regime. In 1933 approximately nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be occupied by Germany during the war and by 1945 about two out of every three European Jews had been killed. The European Jews were the major victims of the Holocaust. But Jews were not the only group singled out for persecution by Hitler's Nazi regime. As many as one and a half million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally or physically disabled persons, and more than three million Soviet prisoners of war also fell victim to Nazi genocide. In this section of reading we talk about the categories in which those in the camps fell into. There are victims and perpetrators and we see how the Jewish people themselves played roles in the camps. This sections also talks about gender roles and we have a large divide between three of the historians and how gender played a role in this section. In looking at the history of the Jewish survivors from the beginning of the Nazi occupation until the liquidation of the ghettos, you can see that there are common features and similar psycho physiological patterns in their responses to the persecutions. What was the duration of the trauma? During the Holocaust, was the victim alone or with family and friends? Was he or she in a camp or in hiding? Did he or she use false "Aryan" papers? Was he or she a witness to mass murder in the ghetto or in the camp? In looking at their will for survival we have to look at what was it that they were put through? Power is a strange phenomenon. In those camps the act of playing God seemed to be of fun to them. Terrence Des Pres explains this best by stating: “As power grows, it grows more and more hostile to everything outside itself. Its logic is inherently negative, which is why it ends by destroying itself. . . The exercise of totalitarian power, in any case, does not stop with the demand of outward compliance. It seeks, further, to crush the spirit, to obliterate that active inward principle whose strength depends on its freedom from entire determination by external forces. And thus the compulsion, felt by men with great power, to seek out and destroy all resistance, all spiritual autonomy, all sign of dignity in those held captive. . .The death of the soul was aimed at.” Yet the Jewish people seemed to have mustered the will to fight to survive. Des Pres concludes that the "survivor is the figure who emerges from all those who fought for life in the concentration camps". Clearly, he believes that survival and resistance were possible. One could also argue that the acts of resistance used by the prisoners to help other prisoners were, in fact, acts of rescue. Certainly, without the help Des Pres describes, many other Jews would likely have died in the camps. In his section Primo Levi describes the lagers as a terrible place for the newcomers. He states that people could not be simply divided into victims and persecutors. Now in looking at his exert we must first look at it openly. Before divulging into the gray zone we must know and understand that Levi though a “prisoner” in the camps he was not in a death camp and he was in the camps before they began killing the people. His account or opinion must be looked at a little differently. According to Levi, the gray zone of protekcja and collaboration springs from multiple roots. The motives of guilt, torture, terror and desire of power have come into play to create this gray zone. The camps, Levi writes, were an inverted moral universe, a ''gray zone'' where irrationality reigned. Precisely, the gray zone is a reflection on the nature of total domination in the accomplished form that it took on in the Lager. The topics of “complicity” and responsibility are tied in with those circumstances and this should help us never forget the extreme and uninterrupted pressure that was...
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