World War II was the largest human tragedy known to mankind to date, with a death toll of at a minimum estimate of sixty million people within a six year period, according to Wikipedia.org. Of the approximate sixty million people that perished in World War II, six million of them were jews that fell victim to the holocaust, (a destruction or slaughter on a mass scale), a staggering ten percent of all casualties in World War II. Of the thousands of tragedies and horrific lack of humanity displayed during the holocaust, some stories rose from the debris and ashes and persevered through these tragedies.
These people are terrific displays and beams of light to this day to people all over the world as an example of just how strong humans are, even when staring directly into the cold eyes of death every days for months on end.
Of the six million jews that perished during the holocaust, one of the most influential and famous holocaust survivors is Elie Wiesel.
Elie Wiesel released a book fifteen years after the end of WWII detailing the tragedies he faced during the holocaust. The last time he saw his mother and younger sister was right after they had left their last jewish ghetto that they were stationed in, and they departed at the Auschwitz jewish concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. He and his father Shlomo Wiesel, went on to work in different labor camps and concentration camps for over nine months. Eventually they were moved to Buchenwald concentration camp in January 1945, where his father dies to sickness and being overall worked to near death.
Elie details his father’s death in his own novel, Night. “I woke up at dawn on January 29. On my father’s cot there lay another sick person. They must have taken him away before daybreak and taken him to the crematorium. Perhaps he was still breathing….” (Night, 112) Auschwitz was liberated 2 months later and Elie was freed at fifteen years old. He later reunited with his two older sisters, he lived a long life and died at eighty-eight years old on July 2nd, 2016 completely free, and in America.
Primo Levi was a brilliant Jewish chemist, writer, and survivor of the holocaust. Primo Levi’s story is a bit different due to the fact that he wasn’t initially held captive by German Nazi’s but instead the Facist Italian Militia. He was first held in a concentration camp for Italian Jews and Yugoslavian military trainees. Italian jews were constantly being captured at an alarming rate left and right, Primo talks about this in The Holocaust, he says “At the moment of my arrival, that is, at the end of January 1944, there were about one hundred and fifty Italian Jews in the camp, but within a few weeks their numbers rose to over six hundred.” (The Holocaust, 128) He was eventually transported on a train to Auschwitz, of the initial forty-five people in his train car, four survived. Primo also detailed the conditions of the train car “We suffered from thirst and cold; at every stop we clamoured for water, or even a handful of snow, but we were rarely heard; the soldiers of the escordt drove off anybody who tried to approach the convy.”
He was dropped off at Auschwitz and survived a year there, but haunted by the horrors of the holocaust and his experiences in Auschwitz, he eventually took his own life on April 11th, 1987 in Italy.