Final Exam Essay 3 final - Spilkowitz 1 Stephan Spilkowitz...

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Unformatted text preview: Spilkowitz 1 Stephan Spilkowitz HIST 371, Sec: 6 Professor Weiss Final Exam Question 2:H Dear Crazed History Student, Before you proceed with you plans to destroy one of three very informative and moving works on the Holocaust; Night and Fog, Night, and My Stripes Were Earned in Hell, allow me to convince you of the importance of preserving each of these works, regardless of the fact that they each provide facts and accounts regarding the most terrible display of human cruelty the world has ever witnessed--the Holocaust. Each of these works provides a different and valuable perspective on the Holocaust, which together paint grander, more informative, accurate, and emotional picture of the Nazi genocide. Night and Fog offers a graphic yet moving look at the physical evidence and remains of the Holocaust through authentic footage and concurrent narration detailing the environment of, and horrific events which occurred in, the Concentration Camps. Night, offers a personal testimony which follows the Holocaust experience of a young Hungarian Jew through the hardships faced in his deportation, imprisonment, and liberation. My Stripes Were Earned in Hell also offers a personal account of the Concentration Camp experience; this time from the perspective of a 22-year-old captured French resistance fighter. In the event that you choose still to eliminate one of these works, I must recommend that it be My Stripes Were Earned in Hell. This is not because this work is not useful; it is merely for the fact that Night and Fog and Night provide more detailed and moving accounts of the Holocaust, and therefore are more necessary to preserve. December 10, 2007 Spilkowitz 2 The most valuable aspect of Alain Resnais' Night and Fog is the authentic video footage of the victims, survivors, and artifacts of the Concentration Camps. The film has a wealth of knowledge, and provides a clear and comprehensive timeline of Hitler's Final Solution, from its inception, to its interruption. In a time span of only thirty-one minutes, Resnais chillingly portrays the horrors of the Holocaust through real, unabridged footage accompanied by a simply stated, yet powerfully moving account of the Nazi death camps, established for the efficient extermination of European Jews and other "enemies" of the Third Reich. Several scenes in the film also help to put into perspective the sheer number of lives lost in the Holocaust. The warehouse full of human hair, along with the mountains of personal paraphernalia--shoes, glasses, and combs, helps to give the number 6,000,000 some meaning. Perhaps the most difficult yet powerful scene in the film is the image of mass graves being filled with thousands of skeletal corpses with the number of dead being so great, that a bulldozer was necessary for the movement of the bodies. Night and Fog has been regarded as one of the most touching and influential Holocaust films ever made. The visual footage offers undisputable evidence for the horrors of the Nazi genocide, and serves both as a reminder and as proof against any doubts or challenges made regarding the severity of the Holocaust. Aside from brute facts, and images of the aftermath, personal accounts of the Holocaust help greatly to put the events into perspective and educate people of the atrocities that were committed on a daily basis. Elie Wiesel was a twelve-year-old religious Jew living in Sighet, Hungary when in 1942, along with the rest of the Jews in his town, he was deported to a Jewish ghetto. Wiesel provides a chronological account of the Holocaust, beginning with the establishment of race laws and the law requiring Jews Spilkowitz 3 to wear a yellow Star of David at all times. He explains that in the beginning, his community was optimistic that conditions would not worsen and the war would soon be over. Though his arrival at Auschwitz was a rude awakening to the reality of what the Germans had in store for the Jewish people, when at once he was separated from his sister and mother (left only with his father), and subsequently witnessed SS officers throwing Jewish babies into a pit of flames. Wiesel outlines how morals, sanity, and health deteriorated among those imprisoned as a result of the Nazis torturing, starving, and working their prisoners nearly to death. While trying to maintain their Jewish identity, much of the community, including Wiesel lost their faith in God. Wiesel examines the result of this loss of a sense of humanity in frightening detail. One such example is when the prisoners were being transported by train to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Over one-hundred (twelve of whom survived) people were packed into a cold train car without any sort of rations. The only form of water came from what little snow could be gathered while in the train car. At one passing station, a German rail worker tossed a piece of bread into the train, where what ensued, Wiesel describes as a stampede. He witnessed a son kill his own father to get to the bread, when once he had obtained the bread, was then killed by other hungry prisoners. The barbaric way in which these people were treated created a mentality in which each individual had to do anything they could to survive. Wiesel also describes the joy with which SS guards surveyed the hardships of the prisoners. Wiesel asserts that no "children" survived the Holocaust, for the horrors he witnessed and the degradation he lived in soon erased any bit of "child" left in him. Beyond losing his sense of childhood, he speaks of how by the time he was liberated, Spilkowitz 4 after his father had been killed while pleading for water, his emotions were vacant. Night offers a powerful look not only at the atrocities of the concentration camps, but also at the nearly complete demoralizing and dehumanizing effect those atrocities and conditions carried with the prisoners. Jean Pierre Renouard's My Stripes Were Earned in Hell also offers an interesting personal account from the point of view from a non-Jew who experienced the Concentration Camps. Renouard focuses largely on the working conditions of the prisoners in the camp. The mental and physical fatigue from working sixteen hour days in a petroleum refinery, which was periodically bombed by Allied planes, took a heavy toll on the prisoners who were forced to work. Yet working was the best way one could secure one's own survival, at least temporarily. Renouard also offers an interesting look at the diversity within the concentration camps, which were filled with prisoners from all over Europe in the forms of Jews, Gypsies, common criminals, and political enemies. The most moving part of the book is when the prisoners in his camp were marched to the Belsen concentration camp to aid with the disposal of thousands of bodies. Renouard remembers specifically that when British soldiers liberated the camp, an officer proclaimed that in his four years of fighting the war, he had never seen such a terrible sight as he had come to see at Belsen, though at that point, Renouard was immune to the atrocities. Although a moving piece of literature, My Stripes Were Earned in Hell is lacking in the actual history of the Holocaust. Both Night and Night and Fog, offer a complete look at the timeline of the genocide, while Renouard begins his story on the train to Neuengamme. While Renouard's work focuses mainly on his own personal experiences Spilkowitz 5 and feelings, in Night, Wiesel examines how the mentality and behavior of the concentration camp prisoners changed as a whole. This sort of examination of how an entire community was affected by life in the camps is much more interesting, meaningful, and beneficial to the remembering of the Concentration Camp experience than the account of one individual. Night also touches on more aspects of the life of a Concentration Camp prisoner; the relationship with family members, the struggle for food and clothing, and the terrible conditions in the transport trains. Again, it is not to say that My Stripes Were Earned in Hell is a negligible work, it does offer an interesting perspective of specifically, the working conditions in the camps, and also the experience through the eyes of one of the many non-Jews who were also victims of the Holocaust. Yet the moving detail with which the atrocities of the Holocaust are portrayed in Night and Night and Fog offers a more universal and emotional look at the barbarism of the Nazi killing factories--the Concentration Camps. ...
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This essay was uploaded on 12/13/2007 for the course HIST 3710 taught by Professor Weiss, j during the Fall '07 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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