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Holocaust-Elie Wiesel

By fluteangel1997 Jan 01, 2013 1441 Words
They Did Not Die Alone
In the 1940s, Nazi Germany expressed a deep hatred towards Jews, therefore leading to the death of over six million men, women, and children, creating what we now know as the Holocaust. In order to truly understand what happened under the Nazi regime, one must understand that there were dark, evil forces at work; and that through one man in particular, Adolf Hitler, these forces destroyed nearly two-thirds of the Jews on the planet. During the Holocaust, millions of lives were lost and millions more were affected in ways that we will never fully grasp. By watching the Oprah Special featuring the harrowing experience of Elie Wiesel, my perspective of the Holocaust was affected in more ways than by watching the movie The Boy in The Striped Pajamas because it showed evidence of struggle, heartbreak, and the pain that Jews went through living in concentration camps.

Although The Boy in the Striped Pajamas depicted the cruelty of the Holocaust through the eyes of young Bruno, the Oprah special showed the strife through the eyes of a man that had been through it himself. Elie Wiesel begins by recapping what is was like to be taken captive at the hands of Nazis at the age of fifteen. Viewers are able to see how he fought through the strife of living in multiple concentration camps. He lived there for most of his adolescence; he breathed the air, walked through the endless stretches of grass, slept in the crowded, filthy cabins, yet remarkably, he survived. Also, by watching the interview as Oprah accompanies Elie Wiesel back to Auschwitz, one can get a better idea of daily life in the camps. Elie recalls memories of his life, and as he speaks of the harsh Nazi treatment, the crowded bedchambers, the way he lost all the happiness he once had, Oprah began to weep, realizing what this man had gone through. Next, Elie begins to speak of the immense hunger Jews dealt with living in concentration camps. He tells Oprah of the pangs of hunger that loomed over him night and day, and how people were reduced to skin and bones. As pictures appeared on the screen, the evidence was frightening. In a small cabin, men lie in their beds, their ribs showing through their skin, their faces pale, their eyes gaunt, looking almost dead. As the interview progresses, Elie leads Oprah to the gates of Auschwitz, the concrete walkway that led Jews to their doom. It is there that Elie recalls his first glimpse of the camp, and recounts memories of his family. He looks off into space, remembering his little sister in her red coat holding his mother’s hand. He remembers them being led away by the Nazis along with other woman, while he and his father were taken elsewhere. Being young and naïve, at the mere age of fifteen, Elie did not realize until his later years, that really, his mother and sister were being led to their death. As he stands holding hands with Oprah, I was able to see the memories swirling through his head, the immense pain hiding in his eyes. Unlike innocent Bruno who had no idea what Jews went through, Elie was able to recall memories to allow viewers to better grasp the reality of the Holocaust.

As well as recalling his memories of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel was able to show Oprah pieces of evidence depicting Jews’ struggles in the concentration camps. He begins by leading her to the gates of Auschwitz where he remembers getting off the crowded train and catching his first glimpse of the massive, concrete units that housed millions of Jews. As one looks at the large, looming buildings, the endless acres of grass, and the massive gates, they are able to see the fear and anguish Jews first experienced when they arrived. Soon after, Elie takes Oprah to the housing units, in other words, where prisoners slept. As they enter the small cabins that housed countless Jews, the struggle of a Jew’s daily life surfaced. It can be seen from the bland walls, the rotting, wooden floors, and the small, frail beds, the difficult lives Jews went through. Later, Elie takes Oprah through an area where tons and tons of Jewish hair are stored in long glass encasements. He explains to her that when Jews first arrived at camp, their heads were shaved bald to prevent lice from spreading. Looking at the mounds of hair, Oprah like myself, was touched. Last but not least, Elie shows Oprah another room with glass encasements, this time filled with mounds of shoes. Like Oprah, I am particularly touched by the baby shoes. While watching the interview, thoughts kept swirling through my head ( thoughts of the lives these babies could have lived if they had just been given the chance. By providing evidence of what Jews had to live through at the concentration camps, I was able to get a clearer picture of the horrors of the Holocaust.

In contrast to the heartbreaking ending of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Oprah Special gave hope to viewers that Jews who survived the Holocaust, such as Elie Wiesel, were able to make something out of their lives. Although Elie originally made a vow to keep silent, he was encouraged by others to let out his pain. He turned to writing as his safe haven, and to date, he has published over thirty books, his most famous called Night. Elie also won the Nobel Peace Prize, was appointed to chair the President's Commission on the Holocaust, and he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Achievement. Along with becoming an influential writer and receiving many honors, Elie Wiesel became a world known speaker and professor. He is a professor at Boston University where he teaches in the Department of Religion. As well as teaching, Elie has spoken to numerous groups of people about his experience and his journey to become the man he is today. Next, as well as making a future for himself, Elie learned to find beauty in life. In 1969, he married Marion Erster Rose, and in 1972, they had a son together. This goes to show that Elie was able to make room in his heart for love, and was able to regain happiness. Lastly, when asked by Oprah about his view of the Holocaust, Elie stated that he does not have hate in his heart; rather, he is full of sadness and anger, disbelief that humans could be so innately evil, so cruel as to take the lives of millions of innocent people for the sheer reason that they were different. As he speaks, we witness through the depths of his eyes, the nature of both human cruelty and human grace—and we're left grappling with what remains of Elie. We’re left wondering why he has so much strength to not hate and to love life. His answer numbed me and honestly, changed my perspective of life. Elie was a man who lived through hell without ever hating; a man who has been exposed to unbelievable torture, but still manages to find love; a man who has faced the most cruel form of human nature, but still has the strength to believe in God and to experience joy. It was through his courage that I gained courage. Because he was able to make a life for himself, and because of his positive outlook on life after so much suffering, Elie Wiesel had a great impact on my perspective of the Holocaust.

Tying everything together, I believe that the Oprah Special touched me in more ways than The Boy in the Striped Pajamas because it gave color and meaning to the word “pain.” Through the eyes of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, one is able to better understand what the Holocaust was like for a Jew living in the 1940s. Seeing Elie Wiesel speak gave me hope that despite all the pain in life, there is hope. I was able to feel the sufferings of the Jews, and it angered me, yet I found hope that love can be found, peace can be gained, bitterness can end, and anger can be defeated. Although the Holocaust is a tragedy which can never be forgiven, what is important is that we keep in our hearts the memories of those who perished. It is in Wiesel’s own words that this can best be described. He says, “They fought alone, they suffered alone, they lived alone, but they did not die alone, for something in all of us died with them.”

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