The Holocaust


The Holocaust Essay, Research Paper

The Holocaust was a catastrophic, cataclysmic event in history that took place

over 55 years ago, but why is it still so important to us today? One of the many

reasons it is still widely discussed today, is because of the many rights it

violated for the Jews as human beings. The main goal of the holocaust was for

Nazis to try and kill every Jewish person alive in Europe. Many Nazi leaders

tried their hardest do to this, and went unpunished for their actions. All of

this tradgedy and calamity started when Adolf Hitler came into power.

Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich came to power in 1938, the Jews in Europe

knew they were in trouble. Hitler blamed them for Germany’s rapid fall as a

world power and he made sure they were to be punished for their supposedly wrong

doings. Elie Wiesel’s novel Night, is about his own

family’s struggle to survive the terrifying years of the early

1940’s. Wiesel exists in a minority of Jews who lived to share his

unfortunate and disturbing experiences. Elie, his three siblings, and


were from Sighet, Transylvania. Most of the townspeople believed that living

in Sighet put them far out of Hitler’s reach, but they eventually were forced

to face the harsh reality near the end of the war. This came as a surprise to

them because the Jews had been following the path of the war

closely by listening to the radio. The Jews of Sighet began to question

themselves and ask is it possible for one man and his Fascist party to wipe


an entire race of people. Although Elie

217;s family was financially stable, their ownership of the family store made

them more visible to the Nazi’s, and therefore put them in great danger.

Elie pleaded with his father to sell the family business and liquidate it so

they could move far off to a place where Hitler could not get to them. He

feared that the Fascist party was coming to wipe out the town of Sighet and

that his family would lose everything that they dreamed of and worked for.


father insisted that

they not sell the business because he felt there was no reason to fear the

Nazis because they would not come as far as Sighet. He figured by that time


war will be over and Hitler will lose his power of Germany. In addition, his

father argued that they were too old to start over in a new place and that


would be suffer financially. Elie’s father decided to take his chances.

While reading, I felt that at this point the Jews should have taken the

situation much more seriously then they were because now German army cars were

approaching there town.

The town was in shock, no one thought it would go this far and it did. The

soldiers pulled up in there steel helmets and the emblems that signified death

head, but it was unexpected that the soldiers would actually be kind. Some

stayed in Jewish homes and were even polite. One soldier brought chocolates


Madame Kahn, a captured Jew. “The Kahn family even said they were

likeable and everyone felt rejoiced and at ease (Wiesel 8).” As a result

of many of the soldier’s kindness, the townspeople were still not

prepared for the ultimate attack. What they did not know was that the Nazis

were only waiting for reinforcements to help secure the town before beginning

extermination. It was the week of Passover and all the synagogues were closed

by the Nazis. Instead, the Jews gathered for prayer at the Rabbi’s house.

His house later became known as the house of prayer for the people of the

town. Passover is supposed to be a time of prayer, food, drink, and singing

for seven days of happiness, but how much happiness could come from this event

knowing that the Nazis were preparing them for deportation to concentration

camps where they would be enslaved with work and little food. The townspeople

stayed strong and for the most part stayed upbeat about the situation keeping

there tradition alive through prayers, eating good food, and singing songs to

ease the tensions. The Nazis continued their attack by arresting the Jewish

leaders of the community and controlling the town. Life for the people of

Sighet quickly changed. Jews could not leave their homes for 3 days or they

would be killed. Gold, jewels, objects of any real value had to be handed over

to the soldiers, but Elie’s father was smart and buried the family

valuables in the seller. After three days, every Jew was issued a yellow star

that had to be worn at all times in order to preserve their lives.


cafes, and synagogues were taken away from the people and they were not


out in the street past six o’clock. The town of Sighet was to be split

into two ghettos, a large one right in the middle of town that took up four

streets, and the other one would be spread out all over the town in small side

streets of the district. Elie’s family lived on Serphant Street, which

was in the large ghetto in the middle of the town. Some of the rooms in his

house had to be given up for relatives who have lost everything they owned.

The townspeople came together to form a little Jewish Republic because all


had was each other to help make it through these tough times. They appointed

the Jewish police, office for social assistance, labor committee, a hygiene

department and a government of machinery. T

alk of deportation began to spread throughout the town. The Jewish Republic

would not be able to prevent the deportation. The people would only be able


bring what they could carry and everything else has to be left behind.

Everyone was asked to leave their houses and form a line outside to receive

there deportation times Many of the Jews knew that if they made it to the

concentration camp and they could be sent straight to the crematory. In

readying themselves Elie’s parents said, “We must fast as much as

we can before we are deported because we do not know when they will be feeding

us next (Wiesel 16).” The synagogues were used as huge stations for

checking baggage to be sure that people were not jewel smuggling. From there

they were sent off to be put in wagons that tightly fit eight people, one

window with bars so no one could escape a few loaves of bread and two buckets

of water. In the wagon they were not allowed to lie down; they were only able

to sit if they others decided to stand and take turns. The time came for

Elie’s family to be deported.Ellie’s family, like the other Jewish

families, went through the station were put into their wagons. Elie’s

family was split up at this point. His mother was put in one wagon with his

little sisters and Elie and his father were put into another one. After two

days of being tortured by thirst in the wagon, the heat became unbearable.

Food was never enough to satisfy their hunger. One Jewish woman, Madame

Shacter became delirious after her and her husband was separated at the

station. The whole ride she moaned and weeped. At night she would scream


there was a fire, but sure enough, they were always false alarms. When the

wagon finally stopped at the camp, the woman yelled fire again, but this time

she was right. She saw the chimney to where the Nazi’s burned the Jews.

They had reached Auschivitz concentration camp where the families would be

separated and meet the Angel of Death. “The Angel of Death was the most

feared and powerful man besides Hitler for the Nazis (Wiesel 33).” Their

fate was in the hands of one man, and in just a few short seconds one could

either be dead or tortured for the next few years. All the Jews were ordered

out of the wagons and immediately Elie and his father began to look for his

mother and wife. When they found them, it was too late– his mother and


were on there way to the crematory to be killed. As Elie and his father


in line to learn their destination from the Angel of Death, others were giving

him and his father advice on how to stay alive. They told them to lie about

their age because anyone over 40 or under 18 would be murdered. His father


over 40 and Elie was under 18. Without that helpful information they both

would have been sent straight to the crematory. As Elie and his father


the camp, they were issued prison- like clothing and all the hair on there


was shaved off. Next, they were all sent to work. Reflecting on the


Elie said, “If I was sent to the crematory I would have run straight for

the fence and jumped on it (Wiesel 39).” The fences were electrical and

anyone who touched it would be shocked to death. He felt that if he was going

to die it would not be at the hands of the Nazis. He would be able to rest in

peace if he killed himself rather then having some Nazi kill him. Every day,

they had to face the guards of the camp, who were mostly so cruel to the Jews,

but some of the Nazi’s were nice and tried to befriend the Jews, but

those who were lenient towards the Jews were executed by being hung. The Jews

were given very little food and very little time to rest. Each week they had

one day off and that would be on Sunday, on that day they could do almost

whatever they wanted. They were even treated a little better by receiving an

extra portion of food or bread that is all the Jews were served. Because of

these conditions the older Jews began to die because their bodies we not able

to fight the hunger and the harsh winters they faced with the little clothing

they were issued. Elie was young and was able to withstand rougher conditions

then most of the others in the concentration camps. He also had a little

something else; he would not give in to hunger and the bitter coldness because

he would not leave his father there by himself. They both used each other as

motivation to keep themselves living. Elie looked in his father’s eyes

and knew the harsh conditions were taking its toll on his father. Near the


of the war with Russian soldiers coming to the rescue the Nazi’s began

deporting Elie’s concentration camp once again. Just like in the

beginning if one was not up to par with their health and physical ability that

person would be sent to the crematory. Elie knew his father might not pass,


thought he might not even pass because of his foot condition. Elie had to get

surgery on his foot because it became badly swollen from a puss buildup and

faced amputation but the doctors at the camp caught the problem in time and

corrected it with the surgery. With the Russian’s attack on the

concentration camp the Jews were issued as much clothing as they would need to

face the bitterness of the cold to march to the next concentration camp to

steer clear of the Russians. As Jews were forced to flee the camp people were

being trampled on and killed because the officers were forcing them to run

faster and if anyone was to stop they would be shot on the spot. With

Elie’s foot conditions he was unsure if he was able to make the journey,

he was just recovering from surgery and with no shoe on he reopened his wound.

Blood flowed into the white snow as he ran alongside his father who urged him

to keep running. The pain soon left his mind because he could not concentrate

on that anymore; all he cared about was making it to the next camp alongside

his father. On the way many of his friends and colleagues were shot because

they were not able to keep up with the rest of the group. They stopped


and the officers without thinking shot one after another. Everyone felt the

pain and the sorrow of their friends being shot but they knew they had to move

on or they would be next. The gate to the new concentration camp was near,

they made the march. It was more of a triumph for the Jews because now they

could rest and get the attention they needed if they were wounded. They were

glad just to be alive and to make it through everyone being trampled on.

Elie’s father became very ill and was not able to make another march to

another concentration camp if they had to leave again. As he begged his son

for water a soldier told him to keep quiet but he paid no mind to the soldier.

The soldier cracked him over the head with his gun and his father lay there

still. He was still breathing but close to death. “I awoke on January

29, 1945 at dawn. In my father’s place lay another invalid. They must

have taken him away before dawn and carried him to the crematory. He may

still have been breathing (Wiesel 106).” Elie d

id not weep because there were no more tears left for him to cry. “It

pained me that I could not weep. But I had no more tears (Wiesel 106).”

For the next couple of months Elie was to await his freedom, keep hope alive

that he was going to make it out of this concentration camp. Word hit that


Russians were on attack again and the Nazis were preparing another move to a

new concentration camp. This time they moved to late and the attack began and

after a few hours the attack was over. At the foot of the gate they saw the

first American tank. “The first act of as free men was to throw

ourselves onto the provisions. We thought only of that. Not of revenge, not of

our families. Nothing but bread (Wiesel 109).” Shortly after the rescue

Elie became ill with food poisoning and was transferred to the hospital and

spent a few weeks between life and death. Elie had made it to freedom and


wished his family could have been there to share the joy of being free

again.Many Jews died for no reason during this era of madness over in Germany

during the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. Millions upon millions lost their

lives and were separated from their families. Elie and his family were

separated at the station back in Sighet. Elie and his father had to watch his

mother and sisters go off to the crematory, many families had to watch their

family members go straight to death or even watch them die as they are being

beat to death because there work is not up to par. Elie now only has a life


loneliness without his family to look forward to and the horrible memories of

seeing people be killed or how his friends suffered to their death. That is a

great deal of trauma for one child to witness at such a young age. The


they were issued and tattooed on there forearms will always remind them of

those terrible

days at the concentration camps. Those memories alone are enough to drive one

to be crazy and not want to live on. Elie went on to be an accomplished



professor at Boston University and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Elie is


success story who made it through those tough years and became one of the most

influential writers of the Holocaust. This was his story and how he survived

and became a hero.

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