holocaust paper

holocaust paper - Lawren Wylie Destruction of the...

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Lawren Wylie “Destruction of the Importance of the Individual: The Drowned and the Saved Essay” Professor Dawson; TA: Jean Smith History 4C:Western Civilization Series November 27, 2007
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The ideals of the Enlightenment emphasized the importance of the individual—how the individual could affect change, influence the events in his life, and shape his own destiny. The events that took place in areas of German occupation during World War II undermined and exploited ideals of freedom, independence, and uniqueness in the victims of the Nazi concentration camps. In The Drowned and the Saved , Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi revisits the degrading and brutal experiences of the Nazi Vernichtungslager —the concentration camps. Levi maintains that the dehumanization that occurred in World War II Nazi concentration camps antithesized Enlightenment philosophy that emphasized individuality, autonomy, and secular beliefs. The importance of the individual was the forefront of Enlightenment ideals—ideals that praised the unique and distinctive qualities that separates one individual from another. The Vernichtungslager antithesized the ideology of the individual, and instead sought to destroy identity and enforce uniformity to dehumanize inmates. The inmates were stripped of everything that made them distinctive—which was particularly achieved through the coercion of nakedness. Levi recounts that “one entered the Lager naked…deprived not only of clothing and shoes (which were confiscated) but of one’s head of hair and all other hair…public and collective nudity was a recurrent condition…offensive because of its useless redundancy” (113). Such deviation from individuality and the significance of the individual greatly shamed the inmates—and emphasized the deviation from Enlightenment individuality. Even in death, Levi states that none were unique, and that death became an accepted reality—“we are all in the ghetto, that the ghetto is walled in, that outside the ghetto reign the lords of death, and that close by the train is waiting” (69). The Enlightenment emphasis upon the individual shattered 1
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This note was uploaded on 06/08/2009 for the course HIST 4C taught by Professor Dawson during the Fall '07 term at UCSB.

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holocaust paper - Lawren Wylie Destruction of the...

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