Dehumanization During the Holocaust

One of the easiest things to do when something goes wrong is to point fingers. We do this to censure someone else for our own hardships. This can make us feel like we have power over that certain individual or individuals. During the Holocaust, the Nazis berated the Jews for their economic hardships. The book Night describes how Jews were deceived into thinking the Nazis were helping them, but they were really led right into the heart of Nazi cruelty: the concentration camps. In the book, Elie was a highly spiritual person who had mad respect for his father and cherished his family. As the book went on, Elie was introduced to the concentration camps and a new trait emerged: courageousness. Elie had to be very courageous to deal with this extreme form of dehumanization. Dehumanization is the process of treating humans as less than human, slowly draining all that makes those people human beings. In Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, Elie and his fellow Jews experience the devastating process of dehumanization, which results in the emotional and physical effects that make it difficult for them to survive.

During the Holocaust, the Jews had to deal with severe consequences for trying to escape. A German officer told the Jews while they were loading into their car “There are eighty of you in the car, the German officer added. If anyone goes missing, you will all be shot, like dogs” (24).

The human and dog relationship is a human owns a dog. The dog is therefore obedient to their masters or they will be punished. In the Holocaust, the Germans treated the Jews like they were dogs. This relationship between the Jews and the Germans is exactly like the relationship between humans and dogs. The Germans ‘owned’ the Jews, just like humans own dogs. The Jews had to be obedient to their masters (the Germans) or they would be punished or in most cases, killed. This violates the Jews’ needs for safety. The Nazis made it so that even if a Jew made a little mistake, they would be shot and killed. This is significant because it puts all the Jews in an emotional state of fear all the time. This made survival harder because the Nazis could shoot them for making one wrong move.

Part of the Nazis strategy during the Holocaust was to strip all Jews of their identities. This strategy was implemented to slowly drive the Jews crazy, giving them an excuse to execute them quickly. Elie in the beginning stages of the camps was already experiencing his loss of identity when he “became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name” (42). The Jews were stripped of everything in the camps, including their names. This left them all ordinary and hopeless against the mighty struggle they had to face in the near future. The Nazis had now taken away the names that were the last thing that made the Jews feel different from each other. This violates the Jews need to feel accomplished and having some sort of achievement in their lives. Now, Jews had to restart and work their way back up in society after all the things that made them unique, including their names, had been destroyed and buried one hundred feet under solid earth. As the Jews were stripped of their identities, they slowly became emotionally unstable. This made it very hard for the Jews to survive because they could lose their minds at any point and be shot for doing something they aren’t supposed to be doing.

Another part of Nazis strategy was to deprive Jews of food. The Nazis starved everyone, including children. Children, especially growing children, need the right amounts of food to grow properly and stay healthy. Taking that away could damage a child’s health significantly. During a hanging ceremony, Juliek said to Elie “The ceremony, will it be over soon? I’m hungry…” (62). All Jews were starved to the point they felt they could not go on. This ultimately led to the fall of most Jews. The hunger the Jews experienced was so bad, they would do unspeakable things just to get a bite of bread. Jews would kill other Jews and trample Jewish children for food. This is all driven from the Nazis strategy to starve the Jews to the point where they acted like animals. The Nazis violate the Jews basic need for food. The Nazis purposely did not give the Jews the right amounts of food each day to drive them insane. This made the survival of the Jews very difficult because they were in such a bad physical state, they were fighting every moment to stay alive. It was also difficult to survive because of the lack of food put them into an emotional state that they could not move past no matter what they did.

Hitler’s ultimate mission was to eliminate all Jews from existence. In the camps, however, the Nazi officers’ duty was to keep the Jews in the harshest conditions they could bear to live in. This included not giving the Jews enough warmth to be able to survive the cold. The Nazis did not even let the Jews take a hot shower. After being liberated, Elie thought “The idea of a hot shower fascinated me” (104). The Nazis gave the Jews whatever they felt the Jews deserved.

Since the Nazis thought of the Jews as less than human, they did not feel that the Jews deserved the warmth they needed. They did not allow Jews to take warm showers or even give them good bed sheets to keep them warm at night. The Nazis directly violated the Jews’ basic need for warmth. They made the conditions so bad, that the by the time the Jews got liberated, they had not been warm for months. The Nazis did not even allow the Jews to be warm in the winter. This proves the Nazis took away everything from the Jews, leaving them distraught and struggling to get even the basics for survival. This made survival very difficult for the Jews during the Holocaust.

The dehumanization in the Holocaust included severe consequences, starvation, harsh lifestyle, and loss of identity. Not only did the physical and mental states of the Jews make it difficult for them to survive, but it also made it very difficult for the Jews to live with themselves. Dehumanizing others and taking away their needs strips away all humanity from the dehumanizers. Eventually, they will continue to raise the severity of their dehumanization until the conditions became unbearable for the dehumanized, leading them to go insane or die. If people continue to treat each other badly, then the world will continue to fall into the everlasting hole of pain and suffering. The hole will continue to get bigger and bigger unless humans put an end to this. People should look for other ways to deal with their problems instead of pointing fingers. They cannot continue to put the blame on others or the Holocaust will continue to repeat itself over and over again in an endless cycle of death and suffering.