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The Holocaust as an Event without a Witness
Seventy years have passed since the end of World War II, and many literary works had been written during all that time, both scientific and artistic. One of the most important and discussed problems is the mass extermination of the Jewish people during the war. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews in just a few years, and they did it very cruelly and sophisticatedly. Today, there are a number of detailed statistics and evidence regarding the stay of Jews in concentration camps. There are the most incredible details of what happened inside the Nazi terror. And yet, this event is called an “event without a witness.” If there are no witnesses of the Holocaust, how can the details of one of the most horrific events of the 20th century be known now? Who still talks about what was going on behind the walls of the concentration camps? This work focuses on the analysis of the Holocaust, to be exact, on the definition of the link with the concept of the Holocaust as the "event without a witness." How it is possible to know the truth about the event about which no one has not been talking?
The fact that each witness conceals some inability of the evidence was mentioned earlier in 1983. A book by Jean-Francois Lyotard ‘Le Differend’ was published the same year, in which he creates a logical paradox ironically on the basis of the recent theses of revisionist historians. This paradox concerns the notion of "witness" and "situation".
Supposing that one have reported about human beings, which were endowed with the gift of speech, have been placed in a situation about which one of them now cannot tell. Most were killed; the survivors began to speak about their experiences very rarely (Cohen, 43). And when they began to do it, their testimony transmitted only a very small part of what had happened to them before. So how does one make sure that this situation was in general? Possibly, it is just a figment of imagination of the informant. Either situation did not occur at all or it did but then one’s informant testimony appeared to be false, because they would either die or be silent. To see gas chamber with one’s own eyes - that is the only condition that gives the right to speak about its existence and a chance to convince the incredulous. However, people must also prove that they carried death to anyone who saw it. The only acceptable proof is that a person is dead. But the dead cannot testify that the cause of their death was just a gas chamber.
A few years later, S. Felman and D. Laub, researchers at Yale University, had proposed to determine the Shoah (Holocaust), as "an event without a witness." In 1990, S. Felman developed this idea in the form of a review of the eponymous film by Claude Lanzmann. Shoah is not just an event without a witness; it is this event in a double form. However, it is impossible to witness about it from the inside: no one witnesses inside “from death”, strangled voice for the voice does not exist. However, the witness outside of it is also impossible: an external observer of the events is excluded by definition (Cohen, 51).
One of the symbols of Nazi crimes is considered a death camp "Auschwitz-Birkenau" (from German - KonzentrationslagerAuschwitz-Birkenau) located near the town of Oswiecim in Poland. This infamous concentration camp became a place of mass destruction of civilians in the history of humankind.
The main task of the German concentration camps was the physical destruction of the prisoners after their use of slave labor. People who had been found incapable were killed immediately and severely. Children, the elderly, disabled, sick, and wounded were listed to the category of "suicide" a priori. Mothers, who had been recognized with an ability to work, were forcibly torn from their children. The total number of victims of the death camps "Auschwitz" is still not established (Cohen, Boaz, 117). According to various estimates, they fluctuate from one to 4 million people. Prisoners of the camp were destroyed in crematoria or died because of inhuman working conditions, hunger, cold, cruel punishments, epidemics, and medical experiments.
One of the guards at Auschwitz, Rudolf Hess, estimated the total number of victims of about 2.5 million during the post-war tribunal. He said that he had never knew the total number of destroyed and had not been able to establish the exact number. Nazi criminals claimed that he survived only in the memory of some of the figures relative to the biggest destruction operations. Experts say that Auschwitz was a place of the most massive destruction of civilians in the history of humankind. Among the two dozen of other concentration camps, which had been established during the Third Reich, the Auschwitz-Birkenau was a "leader" in the number of victims. To compare the extent, 60 thousand people were tortured in the camp Dachau, 70 thousand – in Buchenwald, 1.5 million – in Majdanek, 800 thousand – in Treblinka.
Killing people was put on the conveyor and carried out with the use of the latest inventions of science. The best technicians and engineers of the Reich were looking for the cheapest ways of the mass destruction of entire nations and races. One of the results of their work was the invention of a kind of tandem - the gas chamber + crematorium.
Their practical application has been brought to automatism. After arriving at the camp, prisoners were sorted on suitable and not suitable for use. Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities were carried directly to the train platforms and distilled to the gas chambers and crematoria (Cohen, Boaz, 109). Victims were herded into so-called "dressing room". People were ordered to undress completely, and then they were supposed to "shower". Actually, the accidents were led to the gas chamber. After the order duty, a "doctor" opened bottles of poisonous gas "Zyklon B", and their contents were sent to the gas chambers through the vent pipe. A few minutes later, victims died from suffocation and poisoning. Subsequently, human bodies were sent to be burned in the crematorium; and the resulting ash was used to fertilize agricultural fields.
The extent of medical experiments were just appalling. Dozens of men and women were exposed to high doses of X-rays with the further removal of genitals. Effects of irradiation and subsequent operations of castration had terrible bleeding that led to the death of most of the test. Those who managed to survive waited for a sad fate at least. Due to disability, the victims were killed by lethal injections or burned in crematoria (Rubin, 118).
The Nazi "doctors" also tested on prisoners new drugs, vaccines, and treatments. In addition, serious injuries were applied on the unfortunate prisoners in order to identify experimentally the best ways to treat serious wounds in the laboratories. To this end, the victims were implanted various objects: fragments of metal, glass, rusty nails, splinters, and dirt. A development of various infectious diseases developing in wounds was explored actively too. Most of experiments led to a painful death test. A considerable number of victims were children, because they tested lethal doses of tranquilizers.
Despite all the horrors and deprivations of life behind, a barbed wire of many prisoners managed not only to maintain a human face but also to demonstrate the wonders of humanity and sacrifice. One of those people was amazing Catholic pastor of the Polish-German origin Maximilian Kolbe. He was arrested for opposing the Nazi atrocities in early 1941; then he became a prisoner of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The priest not only endured all the hardships of camp life but also tried to keep neighbors in the barracks and preaching the good word. In July 1941, one of Maximilian Kolbe’s neighbors managed to escape from the barracks. The reaction of the camp administration was ruthless – 10 people were executed out of the barracks and severely punished in the face of others.
Polish sergeant Frantisek Gaevnichek was among the victims of random Schutzstaffel guards; he was a young man and father of many children. Kolbe could not let that happen. The priest stood out from the prisoners and offered his life in exchange for the life of the sergeant. Camp executioners had taken this sacrifice and sent pastor in "starvation chamber", where he and another nine prisoners had to spend about three weeks without food and basic sanitary facilities. During this time, some prisoners died from hunger; others, including Maximilian Kolbe, were executed by lethal injection of phenol on August 14, 1941.
The victim of a Catholic priest was not in vain; the saved Frantisek Gaevnichek survived in the concentration camp, became a free man, and lived a long life. Years later, the pastor was beatified; and, in 1982, by Pope John Paul II ranked Maximilian Kolbe in the saint martyrs.
THE NOTION OF “EVENT WITHOUT A WITNESS”
This concept does not exist because there is really no people who survived and told the truth. The main meaning of this concept lies in the fact that those who survived cannot describe what happened to them and their relatives in concentration camps. The brutality of the Nazis overstepped the limits and even went beyond the understanding of the human mind. Situations and conditions that had happened could not be described in words. Few of those who were lucky to survive and tell their story claim that the Nazis had tried all sorts of ways to destroy all evidence of their crimes, as if they knew that they would have to answer for all they had done. All the developments in technology, torture, and military strategies were kept in a closely guarded secret. All the evidence was destroyed or stored on classified sites. As for the genocide of certain races, the Nazis had never left witnesses alive because they might tell those horror stories in the future.
Almost every one of those who survived and managed to tell what had happened in the barracks and in the area of the camp compared a stay in the concentration camp with a stay in hell. The Nazi crimes cannot be called human. A person is not capable of such actions in relation to others. The Holocaust as a phenomenon has no witnesses also because there have been cases when the survivors just could not talk about what happened. Sometimes it was forbidden to speak, and every testimony was punished harshly. For example, in Lithuania, local residents helped the Nazis to exterminate the Jews, in every way trying to find and talk about the place where there were hiding at least one Jew. For a long time these facts were not disclosed or published in any historical or documentary edition.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
In September 2000, the International Union of Jews was established; they set the task to unite all existing Jewish organizations associated with the former ghetto and the Nazi concentration camps. People belonging to these organizations are at an advanced age (70 years and above), it is the outgoing generation of the last witnesses of the Holocaust. Despite the terrible trials, which these survivor people could overcome by a miracle, they spend a significant work to identify sites of mass destruction of the Jews during the Second World War. They also acquaint the public with the criminal ideology of fascism and the Nazis committed crimes against humanity, collect the documents and the publication of memoirs for their participation in the creation of movies and erecting monuments in the place of death of the Jewish population. A danger of the rising tide of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism is particularly clear to the former prisoners of ghettos and concentration camps (Schweidson, 115). But the most necessary thing for them is that there should be made efforts to expose the Holocaust deniers.
Since then, the Union headed by Professor Efim Gologorsky did a great job, which allowed to hold talks with the leadership of "stigma Handicap", as a result of which it was possible to increase the monthly allowance of former Nazi prisoners living in the CIS countries. MSEBUF was adopted during the World Congress of Russian Jewry and participated in the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and the Russian Jewish Congress. A number of monuments and memorials to the victims of the Holocaust in Ukraine and Belarus was established with the participation of the organization. The organization's work is active and consistent in the evaluation of the crimes of the Nazism. So, an appeal to President of Romania Traian Basescu was adopted at the International Conference dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners of ghettos and concentration camps in the territory of the CIS, held in Odessa in September 2009. According to it, on the territory of Transnistria, Romanian militarists had destroyed hundreds of thousands of Jews. The former ghetto, the last witnesses of the tragedy of the Jewish people, demanded to apologize for the atrocities committed on the orders of Antonescu, which had led to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the law to prevent any attempts downplaying atrocities of Romanian Nazis in 1941 -1944 years. (Cohen, 43-44).
The main topic of discussion at the conference was the plan of action of the Union. Dr. Yitzhak Arad, Deputy Chairman of the Public Council "Yad Vashem", gave a lecture on "The Holocaust in the occupied territory of the USSR" at a meeting of the Board of MSEBUF. He stressed that the actions of the German Nazis and their local collaborators in the occupied territory of the USSR destroyed about 2.7 million Jews (Schweidson, 117). Yitzhak Arad spoke in detail about the destruction of the Jewish population in the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Belarus, in the North Caucasus, and in the Romanian occupation zone -Transnistria.
Many people still deny the Holocaust, claiming that this is just an invention of the Jews through which they receive a greater benefit today. These data on the number of victims is understated in every way. The material that describes the real events of genocide of the Jewish people in the history books is infinitesimal. The term an "event without a witness" can be used justifiably when describing the relationship of the Nazis towards the Jews. The concept of the absence of witness describes the attempt to hide the bitter and awful truth from the society. To be a witness is to have a direct relationship to what was happening. Perhaps, the horror that overwhelms those events causes people’s fear to renounce the truth. However, most likely the term "event without a witness" conceals a more political significance.
Cohen, Boaz, and Rita Horváth. "Young Witnesses In The Dp Camps: Children's Holocaust
Testimony In Context." Journal Of Modern Jewish Studies 11.1 (2012): 103-125.
Cohen, Sharon Kangisser. "Choosing A Heim: Survivors Of The Holocaust And Post-War
Immigration." European Judaism 46.2 (2013): 32-54.
Rubin, Eric Beck. "Georges Perec, Lost And Found In The Void: The Memoirs Of An Indirect
Witness." Journal Of Modern Literature37.3 (2014): 111-126.
Schweidson, Edelyn. "The Silence From A Petrified Past." International Forum Of
Psychoanalysis 7.2 (1998): 113-119.
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