It has been said, to understand the present a person must know and understand the past. Focusing on that quote specifically to understanding the past is what The Diary of Anne Frank allows the reader to do. There are many different cultures around the world and many cultures within cultures. Looking specifically at Germany in the time period of the 1940’s, the reader can see that there in fact is a culture within in a culture. The great thing about this piece of literature is that it is the actual person in the culture writing what is going on during that time frame.
The Diary of Anne Frank lets the reader dive into a part of history that the culture was different from any other and experience what it was like to be a Jew in the 1940’s in Western Europe. It is sort of ironic how during that time period there were people living in peace and people living in turmoil. This diary only tells about her experience while she is hiding out, but it also gives reference to what is going on outside her family’s hide out. So from that point of view the reader can get the view of what the culture was like while Jewish people were hiding out and what is was like to be taken away and put in a concentration camp.
Living in peace may mean how the German people are living because they do not have to face persecution from the government or it could mean how the Jewish that are living in hideouts are at peace because they have not been sent to a concentration camp yet. On the other hand living in turmoil can mean that the Jewish people are living fear of being caught and taken to a concentration camp and that the people that are already in the camps are already in turmoil. When it is said that someone is living in fear means that they are fearful because something may happen to them.
In this case it is the fact that they could be taken away from their families if they are caught in hiding. In Anne Frank’s case, she is afraid because she wants to be an actress and those dreams may never come true. It is also the fear of not knowing. Being in suspense of not knowing what is going to happen is sometimes worse that what actually is going to happen. While Jewish people are living in hideouts there is no doubt they are living in fear. The reader can tell that in fact all of the residents with Anne Frank are living in fear because every time something happens they assume that it is the Green Police coming to get them.
Living in the concentration camps is living in hope. Not knowing what is going on outside the fence of the camp is left up to the imagination of the person looking out it. Sometimes the only way to move on in life, especially living in a concentration camp, is to hope for something better. Just like when it comes to religion, people believe that there is a higher power. It gives them hope to move on to the next day because if there was no higher power to believe in and give a cause for living then in fact what would be the reason to live.
The reader can see this evidence because the father of Anne Frank tells everyone that they do not have to live in fear anymore and they can live in hope that the war will end. It may be far fetched to say that freedom was still available to the Jewish people. But while hiding out there was still some freedom that they could enjoy. Meal time was something that everyone looked forward to during the day. Just being able to eat was such a moral booster. Even though it was just maybe a potato and bread, it still had an effect that gave them strength to move on to the next day.
Life in the German concentration camps was equally unbearable. After arriving, the Jews found the camps weren’t much better than the railway’s cattle cars. Row after row of barrack-style houses stood in the center of these camps. Inside each barrack there was little more than beds, three or four high with little space between them and hardly any room in which to move. There was little food and water there too. Thousands in the camps died from starvation, disease, and exposure to the elements. Others were shot at the whim of the Nazis guards. Those Jews that worked had their lives spared but were fed only enough to keep them alive.
No one knows for sure how many children were killed but it is estimated at between 1. 2 and 1. 5 million. The children that survived did so because they were hidden in homes, basements and convents or lived with Christian families who concealed their identities. By the end of the war six million Jews had been killed in one way or another inside and outside concentration camps across Europe. Never in human history had so many been killed because of who they were. Jews not immediately selected for extermination faced a living death in the concentration camp, which also included non-Jewish inmates, many of them opponents of the Nazi regime.
The SS, who ran the camps, took sadistic pleasure in humiliating and brutalizing their helpless Jewish victims. They get up at 3 am. They have to dress quickly, and make the bed so that it looks like a matchbox. For the slightest irregularity in bed-making the punishment was 25 lashes, after which it was impossible to lie or sit for a whole month. Everyone had to leave the barracks immediately. Outside it is still dark – or else the moon is shining. People are trembling because of lack of sleep and the cold. In order to warm up a bit, groups of ten to twenty people stand together, back to back so as to rub against each other.
There was what was called a wash-room, where everyone in the camp was supposed to wash. There were only a few faucets and there were 4,500 people in that section. Of course there was neither soap nor towel or even a hand-kerchief, so that washing was theoretical rather than practical. In one day, a person there came a lowly person indeed. They used to get half a liter of black, bitter coffee. That was all they got for what was called breakfast. At 6 a. m. a headcount and they all had to stand at attention, in fives, according to the barracks, of which there were 22 in each section.
They stood there until the SS men had satisfied their game-playing instincts by humorous orders to take off and put on caps. Then they received their report, and counted us. After the headcount work started. They went in groups some to build railway tracks or a road, some to the quarries to carry stones or coal, some to take out manure, or for potato-digging. latrine-cleaning, barracks or sewer repairs. All this took place inside the camp enclosure. During work the SS men beat up the prisoners mercilessly, inhumanly and for no reason.
They were like wild beasts and, having found their victim, ordered them to present their backside, and beat them with a stick or a whip, usually until the stick broke. The victims screamed only after the first blows, afterwards they fell unconscious and the SS men then kicked at the ribs, the face, at the most sensitive parts of a person’s body, and then, finally convinced that the victim was at the end of their strength, The SS would order another Jew to pour one pail of water after the other over the beaten person until they woke and got up. A favorite sport of the SS men was to make a boxing sack out of a Jew.
This was done in the following way: Two Jews were stood up, one being forced to hold the other by the collar, and an SS man trained giving him a knock-out. Of course, after the first blow, the poor victim was likely to fall, and this was prevented by the other Jew holding him up. After the fact, Hitlerite murderer had trained in this way for 15 minutes, and only after the poor victim was completely shattered, covered in blood, his teeth knocked out, his nose broken, his eyes hit, and they released him and ordered a doctor to treat his wounds. That was their way of taking care and being generous.
Another customary SS habit was to kick a Jew with a heavy boot. The Jew was forced to stand to attention, and all the while the SS man kicked him until he broke some bones. People who stood near enough to such a victim often heard the breaking of the bones. The pain was so terrible that people, having undergone that treatment, died in agony. Apart from the SS men there were other expert hangmen. These were the so-called Capos. The name was an abbreviation for barracks police. The Capos were German criminals who were also camp inmates. However, although they belonged to us, they were privileged.
They had a special, better barracks of their own; they had better food, better, almost normal clothes. They wore special red or green riding pants, high leather boots, and fulfilled the functions of camp guards. They were worse even than the SS men. In each section stood a gallows, for being late for the head count, or similar crimes, the camp elder hanged the offenders. Work was actually unproductive, and its purpose was exhaustion and torture. At twelve noon there was a break for a meal. Standing in line, we received half a liter of soup each. Usually it was cabbage soup, or some other watery liquid, with-out fats, tasteless.
That was lunch. It was eaten – in all weather – under the open sky, never in the barracks. No spoons were allowed, though wooden spoons lay on each bunk – probably for show, for Red Cross committees. One had to drink the soup out of the bowl and lick it like a dog. From 1 p. m. till 6 p. m. there was work again. I must emphasize that if we were lucky we got a 12 o’clock meal. There were days of punishment when lunch was given together with the evening meal, and it was cold and sour, so that our stomach was empty for a whole day. Afternoon work was the same: blows, and blows again. Until 6 p.m.
At six there was the evening headcount. Again we were forced to stand at attention. Counting, receiving the report. Usually we were left standing at attention for an hour or two, while some prisoners were called up for punishment parade-they were those who in the Germans eyes had transgressed in some way during the day, or had not been punctilious in their performance. They were stripped naked publicly, laid out on specially constructed benches, and whipped with twenty-five or fifty lashes. The brutal beating and the heart-rending cries all this the prisoners had to watch and hear.
In conclusion, the reader can see that life, even though hard, was easier in the hideouts than it was in the concentration camps. Even if everything was still the same except the physical abuse then life would still be easier in the concentration camp. The Diary of Anne Frank gives us great insight to life while hiding out. Unfortunately she was unable to give us an account for the camps because she eventually died before the camps were liberated. But the saying, to understand the present a person must know and understand the past, is really true in these events. Hopefully for some culture history will not repeat itself.
Courtney from Study Moose
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