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Morgan Link

Ms. Browne

Honors English 10A

Period: 7


How can a society allow the brutal murder of over eleven million

people to occur? From 1933 1945, the Nazi party of Germany, led by Adolf

Hitler, carried out a brutal genocide while the non-persecuted citizens

remained passive. Individual accounts of the Holocaust as expressed in

Night, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and A Secret Life, reveal that

people deal with injustice in different ways. In particular, the memoir,

Night, shows how when faced with injustice, a person in desperate

circumstances can survive by concentrating on the suffering of others rather

than oneself. On the other hand, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, shows

how when one perpetrates an injustice on another, one will suffer unplanned

harm. Finally, the article, A Secret Life, illustrates how society can accept

unjust acts if the perpetrator fears for his/her own safety. Each of these

accounts highlights how genocide can prosper when society fails to act.

The memoir Night by Elie Wiesel shows Elie putting his own needs

aside to safeguard his father. When Elies father was sick and defenseless,
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his neighbors stole his ration of bread and beat him. Elie confronted his

fathers neighbors writing, I began to insult his neighbors. They mocked me.

I promised them bread, soup. They laughed. (pg.109) Elie chose to not be

selfish and help his father survive. However, another inmate in the camp

disagrees with Elies selflessness. The inmate said, Dont forget that you are

in a concentration camp. In this place, it is every man for himself, and you

cannot think of others. Not even your father. (pg. 110) This inmate choses

to be indifferent for his own survival. According to this man, Elie must focus

on his own survival, at the expense of his fathers life. Elie rejects this

strategy for survival in favor of continuing to help his father. Sacrificing his

food for his father results in Elies own increased hunger but soothes his

conscience. While Elie paid the price of increased physical deprivation for

assisting his father, he did what he could to distinguish himself from his

oppressors. He actively did what was in his power to help someone else.

Night shows the reader that in even the most desperate of circumstances

that survival is not only about feeding the physical body but also satisfying

ones spirit.

The movie, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, illustrates that when one

sets out to destroy others that the destruction that results cannot always be

predicted. It does not matter if that destruction is done actively or passively.

This movie depicts the life of a naive eight year old boy, Bruno, and his

family whose patriarch is an SS-Obersturmbannfhrer. In the movie, Brunos

father, an S.S. officer, actively takes the lives of innocent people every day
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by ordering people to die in the gas chambers. To justify these actions,

Brunos father and other S.S. members treated their victims as something

less than human. For example, when Brunos mother returned to her home

after shopping one day and complained of a foul odor, her companion said,

They smell even worse when they burn. Although upset about the fact that

the Jews were being slaughtered in the camp, Brunos mother did not speak

out. Instead, she petitioned her husband to allow her and her children to

leave the camp. Before she could leave, her husbands orders to kill the Jews

resulted in the accidental gassing of their son. Bruno and his family become

the victims of both his fathers active involvement in the destruction of the

Jews and his mothers silence in the face of the oppression of the Jews.

Neither could have predicted that their actions would result in the death of

their own son. Both the active destruction perpetrated by the father and the

mothers failure to act in the face of evil being done to others result in evil

being visited upon their own family.

The article, A Secret Life, shows how people seek to justify the

commission of horrific acts and even deny that ever occurred. Brigitte Hoss is

the daughter of the former Kommandant of Auschwitz. In the article, she

struggles to justify her fathers role in the extermination of the Jewish people.

Brigitte rationalizes, He had to do it. His family was threatened. We were

threatened if he didnt. And he was one of many in the S.S. There were

others as well who would do it if he didnt. Although her father was

responsible for the deaths of millions of people, Brigitte excuses his role
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stating that he had to do it in order to protect his family. Brigitte also

explains how her father acted differently around his family than how he

allegedly acted at work. She explains, He was the nicest man in the world

He was very good to us. Brigitte does not comprehend how her father could

be an honorable man to her family, but a hated killer to the rest of the world.

In fact, she denies that he was a killer. When confronted with the fact that he

confessed to killing over a million people, Brigitte attributes his confession to

torture. After enjoying an idyllic life filled with luxury and servants on the

edge of the Auschwitz death camp, Birgitte spends the rest of her life hiding

her association with her war criminal father. She knows that society does not

accept her excuses for her fathers behavior that if he did not do it someone

else would. While Brigitte was only a child when her father organized the

killing of millions, she still remains indifferent to what happened even

denying that it even occurred. Her stance on the Holocaust is the most

dangerous of all because the denial of the deaths of millions leaves room for

another Holocaust to happen. It encourages more people to be silent and not

speak out about atrocities.

Although brutal acts can occur in society, society can overcome these

brutal acts when people begin to speak out. In Night, Elies acts of

selflessness to his father resulted in his individual survival. He refused to sit

by and watch his father die without doing anything. In an immoral situation,

he acted morally. When the son in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas died in

the gas chambers, the movie ended. However, viewers can infer that his
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father had to re-think his role in the extermination of the Jews and his mother

had to re-think her silence in the face of evil as it resulted in the

extermination their own son. Finally, the article, A Secret Life shows how

self-interest does not excuse immoral behavior. In the face evil, society must

confront it. Participating in the evil or standing by and letting injustice occur

results in eleven million people dead.

Works Cited

Night- Wiesel, Elie,Wiesel, Marion.Night. New York : Hill And Wang, 2006. Print.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas- Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. New York:

David Flicking Books. 2006.

A Secret Life- Harding, Thomas. "A Secret Life." The Washington Post. N.p., 7 Sept. 2013. Web.
19 Oct. 2014. <


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