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Dehumanization In Night Essay

2129 words - 9 pages

Many themes exist in Night, Elie Wiesel’s nightmarish story of his Holocaust experience. From normal life in a small town to physical abuse in concentration camps, Night chronicles the journey of Wiesel’s teenage years. Neither Wiesel nor any of the Jews in Sighet could have imagined the horrors that would befall them as their lived changed under the Nazi regime. The Jews all lived peaceful, civilized lives before German occupation. Eliezer Wiesel was concerned with mysticism and his father was “more involved with the welfare of others than with that of his own kin” (4). This would change in the coming weeks, as Jews are segregated, sent to camps, and both physically and emotionally abused. These changes and abuse would dehumanize men and cause them to revert to basic instincts. Wiesel and his peers devolve from civilized human beings to savage animals during the course of Night.
Segregation from the rest of society begins the dehumanization of Sighet Jews. The first measure taken by the Hungarian Police against Jews is to label them with yellow stars. Early in Night, while life is still normal despite German occupation of their town, Wiesel explains: “Three days later, a new decree: every Jew had to wear the yellow star” (11). This decree is demoralizing to Jews because it labels them and sets them apart from the rest of Sighet’s population. Like trees marked for logging or dogs marked with owner tags, many people in Sighet are marked with yellow stars, to reveal their Jewish faith. Avni describes Wiesel and the Jews as being “propelled out of himself, out of humanity, out of the world as he knew it” (Avni 140). The Jews are taken out of the normal lives they have led for years and are beginning to follow new rules set by the Germans. The fact that Jews must identify themselves in this way begins the dehumanization by lowering their self-esteem and pride.
After being identified by stars, Jews are physically separated and herded into two ghettos. Wiesel explains the new order shortly after the star decree is announced: “Two ghettos were created in Sighet. A large one in the center of town occupied four streets, and another smaller one extended over several alleyways on the outskirts of town” (11). Far beyond labeling them, this decree orders Jews to pack up and move. The Germans order them to corral in a certain part of town, much like a farmer might order his animals around, and the Germans treat the Jews as second-class citizens. The Jews are seen as inferior by Germans and are secluded into ghettos, which, by their definition, can be seen as small concentration camps, a precursor to the true concentration camps Jews will be sent to later.
After being moved within their town, relocation to another country is the final step taken in separating Jews from society. Wiesel’s father shares the news of relocation after a meeting with local leaders: “‘The news is terrible...Transports.’ The ghetto was to be liquidated entirely....

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