By:Lee A. Zito
Before I had taken Holocaust in World Literature, I felt I generally knew about the Holocaust. I knew all the basics, Nazis hated Jews, Jews were massacred, when and where it took place. I even knew a bit of the specifics from watching the History Channel. Before I had taken this class, I felt I knew how to deal with the feeling of sadness I had in regards to the Holocaust. But through the class I have gained a deeper understanding from reading and analyzing works about the Holocaust. I have learned that I really didn't fully understand the Holocaust and that there was more to the Holocaust than just sadness.
Some of the works are historical fiction, but the majority are true stories from Holocaust Survivors. These were stories we were assigned to read each week, answering questions about them in our journals. Feeling rather confident about how we interpreted the works, the class returned the following Wednesday to discuss our thoughts. This is where the realization of my ignorance began.
Comments from the class included emotions of feeling pity for victims, or sympathizing with the characters in the story. Our instructor seemed to be almost yelling at us for feeling this way. I was confused and had no idea how the instructor wanted us to feel or react. The story I had that week was Friedman's "We Were Jehovah's Witnesses". In my journal I wrote how the Nazi's tried to get the Jehovah's Witnesses to sign a paper denouncing their faith. If Jehovah's Witnesses failed to do so they would be thrown in jail.
Did I feel pity for the Jehovah's Witnesses? Yes, of course I did. Their faith was everything to them, they would die for their faith. Being a very religious person myself I related to the Jehovah's Witnesses love of their faith.
Which is quite ironic since before I read this story, I would participate in ridiculing Jehovah's Witnesses who marched door to door trying to bring in new followers. So now I related to them. I understood their dedication and love of God. It was this love that had them put in jail or sent to Nazi concentration camps. It was the same love of God that motivated them to march from door to door, and I had made fun of them for it.
I felt guilty. A new emotion toward the victims of the Holocaust. But I still felt that sorrow and pity, unable to understand why this was so wrong. Why did I have to be careful about how I felt about the victims? These victims, these were innocent men, women and children and I felt sorry for them, what was so wrong in that?. As I read more and more stories the answer to my question and confusion began to appear.
Levi's "August-November 1943" describes despair and how...