Final Assessment Essay

1595 words - 7 pages

Bystanders made the most important choices during the Holocaust: whether or not to stand up for the Jewish people and whether or not to sign the oath of fidelity. However, many people faced difficulty making these impactful decisions. Often times, humans notice a problem, contemplate performing a positive action, and respond by doing absolutely nothing at all. Why is it that we remain bystanders? We know what the right thing to do is, but we fail to carry it out. This is a fact that haunts many of those who experienced the Holocaust first hand. At the time, they did not realize the impact they could have had on history simply by choosing not to sign an oath. But now, they realize that they should have spoken out against Nazi ideals and aid the Jews.
The bystanders played a big role in the Holocaust because they determined whether or not the Nazi Regime would continue. One article concludes that “’they can define the meaning of events and move others toward empathy or indifference. They can promote values and norms of caring, or by their passivity of participation in the system, they can affirm the perpetrators.’” (Daring Danes: Upstanders, Bystanders, and the Courage to Care). From this, it can be understood that there is a very fine line between being a bystander or a perpetrator. In most cases, doing nothing is what the perpetrators want you to do, so in some respects, you become a perpetrator because you are following their orders. Bystanders had the choice to stand up, but didn’t take it and chose to remain silent, conforming to what the Nazis wanted them to do. Even though most people recognized that what the Nazis were doing was wrong, they did what the Nazis wanted anyway. If they had stood up, millions of people wouldn’t have been tortured to death in gas chambers.
As Elie Wiesel reflected upon his experience, he stated that “what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander” (The Courage to Care). Even though this statement is true, many people had difficulty standing up for the Jews for a multitude of reasons. For example, Nazi ideals were so deep rooted in some that their universes of obligation no longer included Jewish people. Also, some claimed to have a lack of understanding of what was happening to the Jews at that time. However, many people did know about the horrendous acts against the Jewish people and decided not to help them because they figured that someone else would. The mere presence of others causes people to feel as if they are no longer responsible and that someone else will take action. Some felt very alone in their thoughts due to the isolation from others. Some said they were just following orders. There is a human need to conform, and these “people conformed, knowing this would keep them out of danger” (The Bystanders). In times of great stress, even the best people become more animalistic and concerned only with their self-preservation. Humans are naturally...

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