Holocaust in Literature and Film - Essay Sample

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Harvey Mudd College
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Holocaust was a genocide executed by the Nazis under the leadership of German dictator Adolf Hitler who at that time was the Fuhrer of Germany. Many scholars term the Nazi regime as "evil" because of the atrocities committed against over 6 million European-Jews, with the intention of cleansing the entire race. These evil acts were carried out in death camps better known as extermination camps. The horrors of these camps are portrayed in films and texts like A Year in Treblinka by Yankel Wiernik, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi and Still Alive by Ruth Kluger. The authors/ narrators are all Holocaust survivors. The texts uncover the horrors of the camps, a depiction of violation of human dignity. This essay uses the evidence from the books as a reference to understand the true meaning of human dignity and answer the question does protection of human dignity matter?

Nailing Inmates' Ears to the Walls

In chapter five of the book A Year in Treblinka, Yenkel narrates how a Ukrainian guard named Ivan would nail the prisoners' ears to walls. Ivan together with another guard called Nicholas were the ones responsible for operating the machinery of the gas chambers. The author describes Ivan as a sadist who enjoyed torturing his victims while he laughed and joked (Wiernik 14). He often seized upon his victims while they were working and also made them lie on the floor while he whipped them relentlessly. The actions of Ivan and other guards at the camp can be described as evil and complete violation of human dignity.

Their Secret was Death, Not Sex

In her memoir, Still Alive, Ruth Kluger talks about eavesdropping on the conversations of the grown-ups. Pretending not to get asleep in her bed, Ruth would beg the adults who were sitting up late around the table to allow her sleep on the sofa (Kluger 16). There, she would listen to their horror stories about what was going on in Auschwitz. She says that at the camp, the adults didn't speak about sex or anything good but instead talked about stories of death, torture, and misery. Is this because nothing was pleasing to talk about? While sleeping on the sofa, Ruth overhears the grown-ups talking about her cousin Hans. The voices are not very audible, so she only hears little information. Kluger discusses how the Nazis had tortured her cousin at Buchwald extermination camp. The extent of violation of human dignity can easily be identified from the opening sentence of page sixteen of the Kluger's memoir. The conversation among the adults involves only talks about the horrors of the camp because there is nothing pleasant to be said.

Starvation and Gassing

Primo Levi in the book Survival in Auschwitz provides detailed information of the horrors he experienced at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. Levi and other 650 prisoners were transferred from Italy to Poland via a train. The journey to Poland took four days, and the prisoners never received any food or water. He further talks about how the German soldiers separated the weak from the strong on arrival at the camp. The strong were subjected to forced labor whereas the weak were killed by getting gassed in the gas chambers (Levi 65). This act of killing those deemed as unable to work and subjecting the strong to forced labor is an assault on humanity and must be prevented from happening again.


The three texts illustrate the horrors experienced at various Nazi concentration camps in Europe. The experiences are first-hand as narrated by those who managed to survive the Holocaust. What unfolded in the death camps is clear evidence of how human beings can turn into beasts with no conscience against other fellow humans, most being innocent. The action of the Nazis against over 6 million Jews can is a cruel and evil assault on the dignity of humanity. The International Community concerned with the preservation of humanity should put up measures which will ensure that the holocaust does not repeat itself.

Works Cited

Kluger, Ruth. Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2012. Print.

Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity. New York: Collier, 1961.

Wiernik, Jankiel. A year in Treblinka. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2015.

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