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Elie Wiesel and Dehumanization - the Methodical Dehumanization of a Race

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The Methodical Dehumanization of a Race

Even though people live in different countries, have different traditions, and believe in different things, humanity as a whole seems to have certain needs met in order to survive. Besides the obvious necessities, food, water, and oxygen, there are other inanimate things such as love, hope, and faith that also allows people to function properly. In order for a person to be destroyed, physically and/or mentally, there needs to be multiple human necessities deprived for a certain amount of time. The concentration camps the Jew's were put in were an ideal environment for the breakdown of an entire group of people. The methodical cruelty of the Nazi's dehumanization methods led to some Jews losing their faith in God, themselves, and their hope for survival. Elie Wiesel's memoir, Night, proves that the horrific and cruel treatment of the Jews in concentration camps ultimately caused some to lose faith in mankind.

Dehumanization isn't a sudden process, it's a slow, methodical process. It could be described almost as the chipping away of the core things that define us as human beings. The concentration camps used by the Nazi's were the perfect environment for this process, as stated by Susan Sanderson in her Critical Essay of Night , ""Eliezer is focused into a new world, one in which the norms of humanity do not apply. As time progresses, Eliezer and his fellow prisoners lose more and more of the qualities that define them as individuals and as Jews." The process wasn't necessarily welcomed by the Jews but the constant and consistent of the cruelty used by the Nazi's can be "seen in Akiba Drumer, who initially sees the concentration camp as a sign of God's love and then looks for future hope in a biblical verse that predicts imminant deliverance but eventually he loses faith and thus his will to live" (Witalec). He even states this change himself, "I too had become a completely different person. The student of the Talmud, the child that I was, had been consumed in the flames. There remained only a shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered into my soul and devoured it."(Wiesel).

Now although it's clear that some people in the camps did realize and even witness their own dehumanization, Elie Wiesel consciously made an effort to not let himself become dehumanized. He explains, "We were masters of nature, masters of the world. We had forgotten everything-death, fatigue, our natural needs. Stronger than cold or hunger, stronger than the shots and the desire to die, condemned and wandering, mere numbers, we were the only men on earth"(Wiesel). Even though tortured physically, mentally, as well as emotionally Elie was aware of his own thoughts and actions and the actions of others around him. Ted Hager describes Elie Wiesel's actions perfectly in his Review Of Night, "the authors style is precise and brief; he catches a person or a scene in a sentence. He lacks self-pity but not self-awareness." Self-Awareness might be the single quality that helped Elie Wiesel make it out of the concentration camps. The maturity level he shows is way beyond his age. This maturity is shown when after every story he analyzes his actions giving him self awareness and in the end the mental tools necessary to make decisions that ultimately kept him alive, "Thereafter, Eliezer promptly makes an atonement to overcome his selfish instincts and helps his father with a renewed sense of respect for his moral principle"(Galens).

In the concentration camps things didn't make sense for many of the people. They had questions like, why would people do this to us, who could be so cruel, and why isn't god stopping them? Once people are put in a position of dire need for an answer, they blame faith. The eventual loss of faith is caused by the Jews not having answers to their questions about fate. Wiesel even says it himself in Night, "Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never." Faith is not something that has definite answers ever, so when such cruel acts are done, people become more urgent to get answers for these questions since they have nowhere else to turn. Their previous answers to unanswerable questions were given by family, friends, and their rabbi's, but when those people are side by side with you, answerless as well as hopelessness, it becomes rather easy to lose faith in everything. Even a rabbi "forsakes his faith wondering, 'How can I believe, how could anyone believe in this merciful god" (Witalec). In Journey Into Night, Ted Estess states:

"The change in his journey from a spiritual odyssey to a physical one is accompanied by a shift in Eliezer's stance on religious matters. At the beginning of the story, Eliezer takes the mysteries of the Kabbala to be the key to what is ultimately real. Later



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