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The Holocaust Victims and Perpetrators

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The Holocaust was the period between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945, a time when Adolf Hitler was at the helm of Germany. The Holocaust is also referred to as Shoah in Hebrew. The Nazi Germany circulated propaganda that the Jews were responsible for the grievances of the Germans, so they made deliberate efforts to fight back. Hitler devised what he called the “Final Solution,” according to which the Nazis subjected the Jews to harsh treatment, before they started murdering the Jews in cold blood in June 1941. They killed Jews in the Soviet Union, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, among other European nations. The Nazis did not face much resistance in Europe because the majority of the European countries made it difficult for the Jews to leave the continent. In the end, Hitler’s operation led to the murder of 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children.

Oskar Schindler was a German businessman who managed to save the lives of over 1,000 Jews from the Nazis. In the movie Schindler's List, the Jews are projected as faint with no means to resist or retaliate against the animosity they went though in the hands of the Nazis. Schindler also shows that the Nazis were determined to make the Jews suffer for all the misery the Germans had gone through, which they blamed on the Jews. Furthermore, it did not matter to the Nazis that some of the captives were innocent children, but what mattered to them is that they carried the blood of the people they loathed so much. This is the same picture painted by Primo Levi, a Jewish author, in his book Survival in Auschwitz. Levi was of Jewish ancestry with an Italian citizenship who was taken into captivity on December 13, 1943 by The Fascist Militia. In his book, he portrays the Jewish population as victims of unwarranted hostility from the Nazis, not to mention that innocent lives were lost during the Holocaust. Levi goes ahead to say that the Jews did not have the capacity to defend themselves because they lacked the necessary resources including funds, military, expertise, and contacts (Levi 13). In Italy as well, the Fascists and the Nazis had no regard for families, and they bundled all the Jews in detention camps irrespective of their age. In both the movie and the book, the Jews felt dejected and hopeless because the Shoah caught them unawares, and they did not receive any support from the rest of the world, which at the time was also in war.

A person watching Schindler’s movie or reading Levi’s book would agree that the Jewish victims are ‘on the bottom’, as Levi prefers to put it in the second chapter. The Jews were on the bottom because they were helpless with no means to fight back for lack of an organized military, funds, and expertise; thus, they sat patiently waiting for death to come. Furthermore, they were caught unawares by the developments that transpired with every new day since they did not have contacts or spies who could leak information to them to help them plan their next course of action. Moreover, the rest of the European countries made it difficult for the Jews to leave the continent, which indirectly put the Jews at the mercies of the Nazis and other pro-Nazis militia (Levi 22). The Jews felt more helpless because the rest of the world did not oppose the brutality of the Nazis. It is also clear that the Jews were despondent because parents could not provide care and protection to their children because they did have the power or capacity to do so since they were all held captives. However, there were those parents who managed to send their children out of Europe; but even then, they were disconsolate because they would not be there to raise them. 

Levi wrote another book called The Drowned and the Saved, which detailed the days that led to the chaotic uprising in October 1944. According to the book, the revolt led to the death of millions of Jews, and only a few survived (Levi 56). Those who survived included Levi, who was a laboratory assistant in a synthetic rubber plant, among other Jews who held positions such as those of waitresses, sweepers, bed-smoothers, messengers, barracks chiefs, kettle washers, night-watchmen, interpreters, and clerks. Those who survived are the saved, and those who died from the bloodshed of the revolt are the ones who drowned.

Most perpetrators in the film Schindler's List are portrayed as willing perpetrators of the brutality meted out to the Jewish community. These perpetrators are portrayed as people whose mental universe had been configured to the Nazi ideology, such that they were willing to commit the atrocities in the name of defending the establishment. The two soldiers who shoot one of Schindler's friends go about the killing in a manner that does show any remorse or feelings for the victims. Similarly, the sniper who kills the workers in the field seems to enjoy every bit of his actions; he is not particularly moved by the plight of the suffering. In fact, the sniper indulges in sexual fantasies before he engages in the next killing.

Schindler appears to be the only insider that empathizes with the suffering Jews. Others are portrayed as willing tormentors who are very eager to advance the course of their master. Besides advancing the ends of Nazism, this group appears to be bent on the objective of drawing sufficient capital from the plight of the masses. In this film, the Nazi soldiers, who go about burning the bodies of Jews, do not appear remorseful. They undertake the activities with a certain mechanical detachment as if they were burning some inanimate forms. Their actions are governed by hatred and are sustained by the Nazi philosophy of racial exclusiveness. However, it could be argued that many of the perpetrators had not engaged much reflection in the activities that they undertook. This is most evident at the point when Schindler addresses the soldiers who are about to exterminate the Jews in his concentration camp. He tells them that they could choose to go home with righteous consciences or as murderers of the innocent. He awakens them to the gruesome reality of mass murder such that none of the soldiers is willing to take part in the killing. At this precise moment, the entire platoon walks away sparing the lives of thousands of Jews under Schindler. From this particular example, it could be argued that the perpetrators were brainwashed by the sensational and racist philosophies of Nazism, which shielded their collective conscience from the inhumanity of their actions for the entire period that the Holocaust lasted. 

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