The Holocaust Violated Human Rights
The Holocaust is taught as a mass genocide of the Jews, but more than five million others would undergo persecution, torture, tattooing and murder. The events that took place during the Holocaust were a definite violation of human rights and social injustice. Adolf Hitler rose to power as dictator of Germany during a time when Germany was experiencing severe economic hardship. He promised the Jews that he would bring them through this rough time. Adolf Hitler was a wise politician and an excellent organizer (Landau 5). With the German defeat in World War I, Hitler became leader of the Nazi regime.
His rule began January 30, 1933 and ended May 8, 1945 with the end of the war in Europe. It was Hitler’s vision that the best way to solve the problems that Germany had was to conform to a master race that would control Europe (Fischel 13). He used many devious techniques to convince the German people and many others that they should eliminate all of the people that stood in their way and thus the “Great Germans” would prosper (Schoenberner 45). The destruction of the European Jews was not part of a divine plan, but a human one that Hitler had planned.
After Hilter took control of Germany, the terror began. “Jews were characterized as an active and dangerous enemy that endangered the nation” (Fischel 13). Within months of Hitler’s rise to power, he and his government enacted new laws that basically removed Jews from public life and took away their right as citizens. Students and librarians had to free the libraries of all the “undesirable” literature (Schoenberner 17). At this time, public parks forbid Jews from entering. Theaters, concert halls, and museums did not allow entry to the Jews. Schools expelled Jewish children.
The Nazi regime demanded all Jewish people to give up their jewelry, radios, and to turn over all of their assets. All Jews had a nightly curfew of eight o’clock (Schoenberner 33). After Hitler invaded Poland, over two million Jews fell into the hands of the Germans. Any Jews over the age of twelve had to be marked. The mark was an armband worn on the upper arm that bore the blue Star of David against a white background (Schoenberner 34). During the Holocaust, the Nazis established concentration camps soon after Hitler took control of Germany.
During the war, the Germans created ghettos, transit camps, and labor camps to imprison the Jews. After Hitler launched the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, the murdering process of Jews began. There were extermination camps and death camps that contained gassing facilities (Wollenberg 15). All European Jews now had the mark of death. It was at this time that the Germans began to practice their inhumanity. There was no secret of the violence that the Jews suffered. Everyone, young, middle-aged, or old could witness the destruction of public morality (Wollenberg 15).
One eyewitness account of what took place during the Holocaust is Elie Wiesel’s Night. His autobiography gives an account of what happened to the Jews as well as how Hitler destroyed human rights during his reign. Wiesel uses his personal accounts to show just how horrible the Holocaust was to the Jewish people. One example of this is when Wiesel found out that children were being killed by the Nazis. “Not far from us flames were leaping from a ditch, gigantic flames. They were burning something… little children. Babies! Yes, I saw it – saw it with my own eyes… those children in flames” (Wiesel 41).
Wiesel had to deal with his family being separated and tortured as well as his own account with facing injury and death and trying to survive. “Men to the left, women to the right! Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Yet that was the moment when I parted from my mother…we were alone. I saw my mother and sister disappear into the distance” (Wiesel 38). The violation of human rights began in Germany with Hitler’s rise to power and his plan to rid the country of all Jews. What started in small Jewish owned shops ended in the concentration camps and gas chambers set up by the Germans.
The Jewish people experienced death and their rights being taken completely away. Elie Wiesel experienced all of this and lived to tell. Adolf Hitler violated all human rights during his reign. The right to freedom, the right to not be subjected to torture and inhumane treatment and the right to life itself were among the three that Elie Wiesel and his family could not have. Freedom was the first human right to be violated during the Holocaust. The Nazis would knock down the doors to their homes and demand that the Jewish people give up their gold, jewelry and any other objects of value.
Everything had to be handed over to the authorities. During this time the Jews had strict curfews placed upon them and specific areas of cities were considered off limits to them. Public transportation was no longer allowed (Resnick 28). In the autobiography Night, the author experiences this first hand. During dinner one night, there was a knock at the door, and the home was invaded by the police. At this time, Wiesel’s family had to hand over all of their valuables to the Nazis (Wiesel 20). This was not the only time that the right to freedom was violated.
The Nazis forced the Jews out of their homes and deportation to concentration camps had begun (Resnick 53-54). The author of Night experienced this and uses very vivid details of the day that he and his family faced deportation from the ghetto. “The Hungarian police struck out with truncheons and rifle butts, without reason, their blows falling upon old men and women, children and invalids alike. One by one the houses were emptied, and the street filled with people. The heat was intense. Sweat streamed from faces and bodies. Children cried for water. ” (Wiesel 25).
The right of freedom was certainly gone for this family and the Jewish population. Elie Wiesel’s father wept as he marched alongside his wife, son, and daughter as they did not know what still lie ahead for them. The next stop on this long journey was the concentration camp, but first the Jews would have to face torture and inhumane treatment along the way. Torture and inhumane treatment was another violation of human rights that the Jews suffered during the Holocaust. The definition of torture is that of causing severe physical and mental pain as a means of punishment.
The Germans succeeded in this endeavor as they tortured the Jews. There were many ways that torture was forced upon the Jews during this time in history. The Nazis did not give the Jews any water and at times they would give very little food, often withholding food altogether causing death by starvation. The author of Night also experienced this while in the concentration camp. “In the morning, black coffee. At noon, soup. At six p. m. , roll call. Then bread and something. At nine o’clock, bed. ” (Wiesel 51). This is what the day was like for the Jews in the concentration camp, torture by starvation.
Starvation was not the only means of torture though. The Jews experienced much more to include families being separated, men in one camp and women and children of non-working age in another (Feig 31). Mass killings were another way that the Germans used torture on the Jews in the concentration camps. The Germans did not limit the killings to just men. Children, even babies, were torn from their mothers, and both mothers and children were forced into the gas chambers and crematoriums (Resnick, 69). Throughout the concentration camps smoke would rise from the chimneys and the smell of burning skin was in the air.
In the book Night, the description of these events make the reader feel like they are actually there. The mass killings were not just in the gas chambers, the Nazis also gunned down as well as hung the Jews. One day in the concentration camp, the author had to witness a mass hanging of several Jews. “The three victims mounted together onto chairs. The three necks were placed at the same moment into nooses. The three chairs tipped over. The Jewish prisoners were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen and blue. ” (Wiesel 71). The other mass killings took place by the Germans lining the Jews up in front of large holes dug into the ground.
The Jews, gunned down, dropped to their death into the large hole (Schoenberner 58). The author of Night gives vivid descriptions of lying in a bunk in the concentration camp and hearing the mass shootings, as well as the yells of those being gunned down. Inhumane treatment was yet another way that Jewish human rights were violated during the Holocaust. Inhumane and degrading treatment of the Jews took place in many different forms. Some Jews froze to death because the Nazis forced them to stay out in an ice hole until they died. Others were hung upside down, completely naked for three hours until the camp guards eventually killed them.
The camp guards would use sticks to force sand in the mouths of the Jews. This was nothing compared to the human experimentation that the Jews had to endure. Some of the medical experiments included castration, artificial insemination, sterilization, and abortions (Feig 55). Some of the doctors performed operations like organ removal without giving the Jews any type of medication for pain (Weber). Elie Wiesel experienced this first hand when he had to have an operation on his leg. When asking the doctor if it was going to hurt, he was told it would hurt a great deal but he should grit his teeth.
They did not put him to sleep to do the operation, but he did pass out from the pain (Wiesel 85). There were many other ways that the Germans used inhumane treatment on the Jews. Surgeries, as well as other inhumane treatments were used on the Jews. The most notable of inhumane surgeries would be those where the German physician would sew different body parts onto different people. All, of course, done with no anesthetic at all therefore causing excruciating pain and most times death to the Jew involved (Weber). There were many inhumane treatments performed on the Jewish people, too many to list all of them.
Some of the Jews thought that they were going to the showers, but to their surprise, they arrived at the gas chambers. Most went hand-in-hand as a family. This is the way that they died, hand-in-hand. The Jews were set free in 1944 and all inhumane treatment ended at this time (Resnick 88). It was the end. The days of being confined, tortured, and tormented were over. Hitler had fallen, but only after he had violated the human rights of all Jews in Germany. Over six million Jews were tortured and killed. It was now that the narrator of Night was free.
The first acts of freedom, the only thoughts he had…not of revenge, not even of their own families that had been lost or killed, was food, the one main staple that they had been deprived of and now needed. After the liberation, he spent several weeks hospitalized for food poisoning. “One day I was able to get up, after gathering all my strength, I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging on the wall. I had not seen myself since leaving the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror a corpse gazed back at me. The look has never left me. ” (Wiesel 119). The Holocaust is one of the worst events in the world’s history.
The senseless mistreatment and slaughter of over six million Jews when Hitler came to power in 1933 did not end until 1945. Elie Wiesel, the author of Night, endured it all yet lived to tell his story of the violation of human rights that occurred during Hitler’s reign. Elie Wiesle was a boy with a strong faith but during the Holocaust he found himself wondering where God was in all of this. What Wiesel suffered during this time was comparable to the suffering of all Jews. He fought for his life, sometimes seeing a small amount of hope that was only destroyed. Wiesel and he Jews fought for everything they had, from possessions to their lives. Many try to understand the events of the Holocaust, but only the survivors know the pain of the events that violated their rights as human beings. The freedom that was taken away from them and the torture that they endured, both physical and medical, were more than one could stand, yet they survived. Elie Wiesel was one of the first of the survivors to write about his experiences during the Holocaust. He once made the statement, “the Holocaust was not something people wanted to know about in those days. Wiesel worked with only one goal in mind. He wrote of his experiences to educate others on the troubles of the Jews around the world. Through his experiences he hopes to make all people aware of the injustice that takes place around them. His final hope is that what took place during the Holocaust never takes place again. In conclusion, the Holocaust violated all human rights. Hitler and his German regime took away all freedom from the Jews. The Jews had to endure torture, mistreatment, and even death because they were Jewish. The mistreatment of any human in this manner violates the right to freedom.
The Jewish people endured so much tragedy and death, and it is almost impossible to think that there were actual survivors of such mistreatment and torture. Yet they did survive and they lived to tell and teach others of the violations that occurred. Elie Wiesel is one that survived, and his book Night is his terrifying look into his experiences as a Jewish prisoner during Hitler’s reign. To read and hear of Wiesel’s personal account is devastating, and it is very hard to overcome the facts of such awful violations of human rights.