Murders inflicted upon the Jewish population during the Holocaust are often considered the largest mass murders of innocent people, that some have yet to accept as true. The mentality of the Jewish prisoners as well as the officers during the early 1940’s transformed from an ordinary way of thinking to an abnormal twisted headache. In the books Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi and Ordinary men by Christopher R. Browning we will examine the alterations that the Jewish prisoners as well as the police officers behaviors and qualities changed.
Primo Levi recollects his intense experiences after being sent to a German death camp (Auschwitz) in his book Survival in Auschwitz. The Nazis had been collecting Jews and others to lock inside concentration camps; there the Nazis used extreme tactics in keeping the prisoners under control in an inhuman state. For example, the prisoners would dig holes at random times during the day then have to fill them up later, they were stripped from there names and given a six-digit number for which they were referred to, and they were fed just enough to work, but not enough to resist the guards. Levi and many others were able to, in some degree; hold on to there humanity during this outrageous time.
A prisoner in Auschwitz and a friend to Levi, Steinlauf, was a 40-year-old ex-Sargent of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Nonetheless he also was dealing with hunger, exhaustion, polluted water shortages, and trying to keep his humanity intact. He greets Levi in the washroom and notices that Levi explains he had began to see washing as a waste of energy and warmth because, “after half an hour with the coal sacks every difference between him and me will have disappeared.”(Levi, 40) Instead of washing he decides “to let myself live, to indulge myself in the luxury of an idle moment.”(Levi, 40) Steinlauf stops Levi explaining to him how important it is to keep doing the civilized things like washing and polishing there shoes because “the lager was a great machine to reduce us to beasts, we must not become beasts; that even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness.”(Levi, 41) Even though Steinlauf was degraded day after day to some degree he was still a man.
If and when a bunkmate would become ill they were transferred to Ka Be, there hospital if you could call it that, and the person would be replaced. In Levi’s case he was put with a large red haired man, Resnyk, apart from his large stature and unwillingness to share he “was not a bad companion,” (Levi, 65) He in a sense struggled to keep from being dehumanized with equivalent circumstances. Although his story is not one of great length, Resnyk is in a sense on his own path; he doesn’t let the work or pain bother him.
Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men is a record of the activities of Reserve Battalion 101. Reserve Battalion 101 was comprised of about 500 men from Hamburg, Germany. These recruits were sent to...