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Jon Pinon

Night Research Paper
English I Honors

Just recently, we have immersed ourselves in the true horrors of the Holocaust by
reading the powerful autobiography from Elie Wiesel called Night. Contained in it are
concise descriptions of all the hardships and fatalities faced by Jews in the concentration
camps, all in horrific detail. Wiesel and his family, along with many other Jewish
brethren, were forced to stay in ghettos until they were ready to be taken away to the
concentration camps, where their spirits would be ultimately ripped from them. One thing
in particular that somehow caught my interests was the aforementioned ghettos they were
all placed into preceding shipment to the concentration camps. Therefore, they are to be
addressed without further ado in an effort to expand understanding of the terrible
suffering that was endured.
The ghettos were often-enclosed city districts arranged by the Germans where
local Jews were forced to stay, ultimately separating them from the rest of the
community. Supposedly, the Nazis established these districts whilst the administration
considered what could be done to achieve the goal of creating the Aryan Race (Ghettos).
However, this idea was not originally contrived by the Nazis. As a matter of fact, the idea
of ghettoization had been around since medieval years, where Jews were only allowed to
live in certain areas (Holocaust Education and Archive Research Team). At least 1,000 of
these districts were set up in Germany alone, along with around 356 others in Poland and
the U.S.S.R (Ghettos). In fact, one of the most notorious ghettos was the Warsaw Ghetto
in Poland (Jewish Virtual Library). Three types of ghettos were present in occupied
Europe: closed ghettos, open ghettos, and destruction ghettos. Closed ghettos, as its name
states, were closed off by either walls or barbed-wire fencing, and were commonly where
the Jews of the surrounding areas were gathered. These were the most common type.

Open ghettos contained no physical enclosure, but still had restrictions regarding travel
throughout the area. Lastly, destruction ghettos were highly closed off and were usually
used for 2 6 weeks before the inhabitants were either shipped away or executed
As if isolation from society werent enough, the conditions the inhabitants faced
were dreadful and generally unbearable. The ghettos technically should not have been
that problematic to the Jews (to a certain degree, I must state), being that one of the
religious requirements of Judaism was to live close to one another (Holocaust Education
and Archive Research Team). On the contrary, overcrowding was a common issue, and
the source of many of the other problems. The streets were filth-ridden from the lack of
functioning plumbing, which resulted in human waste having to be disposed of manually.
Starvation was another major factor, as food was rationed by the Nazi officials. Shortages
were not uncommon and, consequently, neither was the orphaning of children. Orphans
begged for bread in the street, only for many of them to be killed off by the severe cold of
the winter. To battle this, children often found ways to smuggle food for themselves and
their families, but at grave risk of severe reprimanding. In addition, houses were either
poorly heated or simply lacked any heating at all, resulting in more fatalities in the
winter. Inevitably, suicides contributed to the consistently growing mortality rate. One
ghetto inhabitant described these ghettos as prisons without roofs. However, prisons
offered somewhat of a life, as opposed to the doomed fate the ghettos provided: painfully
withering away beneath the suffering of your own people (Life in the Ghettos).
The ghettos had their own rules and restrictions to them, overseen by Jewish
councils called Judenraete who were appointed by the Nazis. Said rules and restrictions
had served to take away the privileges Jews were pointed out by being forced to wear
badges or armbands, just as they were regularly forced to wear the Star of David prior to
ghettoization. Many of the ghettos inhabitants were forced into hard labor for the
Germans, as they would in the concentration camps as an alternative to swift execution.
Jewish police forces were created to enforce justice as well as handle transport to the
concentration camps, and members of the force were non-hesitantly killed if they failed

to do what they had been told. (Ghettos) In spite of everything, though, life had went on;
at least it had tried to. People still carried on with their routines, making the best of the
appalling conditions they were faced with. Although they were outlawed in several cases,
religious services still took place. The most major change in Jewish life, though, was the
fact that they were all living in the shadow of ultimate fear. (Jewish Virtual Library)
Quite understandably, many could not bear the burden in their hands, so a variety
of resistance efforts occurred. As mentioned earlier, smuggling of valuable goods such as
food and medicine as well as religious services took place without consent of the Jewish
councils. Smuggling of this sort was often tolerated by the councils, though. (Ghettos)
The dehumanizing efforts of the Nazi party were rebelled against as children were
educated at home despite it being considered illegal. (Florida Center for Instructional
Technology) In fact, the police forces were ordered to imprison and kill those who had
practiced religion and home education, as it was said to be a threat to security.
Resistance did not always consist of spitefulness and defiance, however. A number of
armed rebellions had taken place, most notoriously in Polands Warsaw ghetto. During
this uprising, 23-yearl old Mordecai Anielewicz organized the Z.O.B. (short for the
Polish translation of Jewish Fighting Organization) and ordered them to resist deportation
to the Treblinka camp, an effort which inevitably failed. (Jewish Virtual Library). Similar
revolts occurred in Vilna, Bialystok, Czestochowa, and a multitude of smaller ghettos.
The events of the aforementioned book Night started off in Eliezers home
country of Hungary, specifically in the city of Sighet. Eliezer himself points out many of
the things previously mentioned about the ghettos:
Little by little life returned to normal. The barbed wire that encircled us like a
wall did not fill us with real fear. In fact, we felt this was not a bad thing; we were
entirely among ourselves. A small Jewish republic A Jewish Council was appointed, as
well as a Jewish police force, a welfare agencya whole government apparatus.

People thought this was a good thing. We would no longer have to look at all
those hostile faces, endure those hate-filled stares. No more fear. No more anguish. We
would live among Jews, among brothers
Of course, there still were unpleasant moments. Every day, the Germans came
looking for men to load coal into the military trains. Volunteers for this kind of work were
few. But apart from that, the atmosphere was oddly peaceful and reassuring. (Wiesel
What made the Hungarian ghettos historically special, though? To start off, it was one of
the major European countries conquered by Nazi Germany (other than Poland). Shortly
after Hungary was occupied, nearly 440,000 Jews were arranged into a number of
destruction ghettos. A majority of these Jews were eventually slaughtered at the
Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center (Eliezer and his father were actually sent to both
Auschwitz and Birkenau in Night). A ghetto was not set up in Budapest until an
organization known as the Arrow Cross set one up after a coup detat of the Hungarian
government in 1944. In 1945, though, all Jews in the nation were sent to one ghetto,
which was eventually liberated by the Soviets. (Ghettos)
During the climax of Nazi control, all of the ghettos were eventually liquidated
and destroyed, thus leaving all their former inhabitants to die in death camps as part of
the Final Solution. While they were first established around 1940, destruction of ghettos
had begun in 1942, before the Nazis reached Hungary. During the clearing of a ghetto,
residents were concentrated into designated points of the ghetto (a theater or train station,
for instance) and ship them off to their destinations. (Jewish Virtual Library) Beforehand,
some would volunteer to be sent to labor camps. Eliezer discusses this in Night:
The news is terrible, he said at last. And then one word: Transports.
The ghetto was to be liquidated entirely. Departures were to take place street by
street, starting the next day.
We wanted to know everything, every detail. We were stunned, yet we wanted to
fully absorb the bitter news.

In a few cases, ghetto leaders were able to keep a few inhabitants for a certain time, in
exchange for a few others to be deported instead. This would simply delay the inevitable,
though. Many of the ghettos former residents were killed off almost immediately upon
arrival to their camps. This was accomplished by escorting them to pits of fire and
crematoriums, as was the case for a few unnamed individuals in Night. The last major
ghetto, Lodz, was destroyed by the Nazis in 1944, and the Final Solution raged on.
(Jewish Virtual Library)
With these ghettos, the victims of the Holocaust were isolated from society, both
physically, socially, and psychologically. Before being sent to their deaths, these were the
hellholes they spent their lives in. Discrimination, revolting conditions, cautious
resistance, and the looming shadow of death were the major characteristics of these
ghettos. Any survivor will tell you that, but no one other than them will ever truly
understand the horror of the Holocaust.