Nazi Deception and the Demoralization and Dehumanization of Eliezer and His Fellow Prisoners Essay
Night by Elie Wiesel is one of the most remarkable books of the twentieth century. The novel describes one of the most horrible periods in the history of humanity. Downing calls the novel “a story of shame” that “forces one to see oneself in a “fallen” state, the fall of humanity and all of civilization” (128).
Wiesel describes his ‘life’ in Auschwitz. This blunt description enables people to see the way Nazis confused, demoralized and killed innocent people. More so, the novel shows the way people were dehumanized.
Deception was one of the major tools used by Nazis to demoralize the prisoners. Thus, the very first words seen by the prisoners coming to Auschwitz (the inscription on the gates of the concentration camp) can be regarded as a kind of embodiment of Nazi’s strategies used to dehumanize the prisoners.
The prisoners of the Nazis little knew about their future and they were likely to deceive themselves. The prisoners never knew where they were taken or what was going to happen next.
However, it is important to note that Wiesel states that people tended to deceive themselves as when the first groups of Jews were taken away “it was rumoured that they were in Galicia, working, and even that they were content with their fate” (6).
Even when the teenager told the truth about the people who were taken away, no one believed him. Perhaps, it was easier to believe there was still hope.
Nazi also resorted to deceit which was, in fact, one of their most potent tools of demoralization and dehumanization.
Thus, the very first words the prisoners saw when they moved through the gates of Auschwitz could be regarded as the embodiment of Nazi’s strategy, i.e. deception. These words were: “Work makes you free” (Wiesel 40).
Therefore, the prisoners were given a hope that they were coming to a working camp. They still had slight hope that they could be free after they completed some amount of work.
Nazis claimed that there was a choice as they told the prisoners: “If you don’t [work] you will go straight to the chimney” (Wiesel 39). However, work had nothing to do with the prisoners who were doomed irrespective of their hard work.
Notably, the work itself was nothing more but a way of demoralization and dehumanization. The prisoners had to dig trenches or move heavy stones. This work was quite meaningless as the prisoners did not build anything.
The work at Nazi camps had another aim. The only meaning of the work fulfilled was to exhaust the prisoners, to destroy human beings and to create mere “famished stomachs” (Wiesel 52).
Of course, these creatures could not rise, they could not free themselves, they could not even escape. This was the major aim of Nazis. They wanted to control the crowd of semi-human beings.
On balance, it is possible to note that Nazis used deception to control prisoners who were doomed to die in concentration camps. The prisoners never knew what was to happen next.
They were given a false hope that work could make them free. In reality, this work turned them into wretched creatures who could only think of their basic needs without thinking of compassion or even family ties.
Wiesel describes this horrible deception which made him almost lose his faith in God and humanity.
Downing, Frederick L. Elie Wiesel: A Religious Biography. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008. Print.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.
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