Horrors of the Holocaust Essay
Horrors of the Holocaust
Boris Slutsky wrote a poem titled, “How Did They Kill My Grandmother! ” The title itself is self-explanatory of the poems significance. There is no hidden symbolism or meaning. He is simply telling his readers how the Nazis cruelly killed his grandmother. During World War II, Nazis took over most Europe and the USSR, afflicting its people with unspeakable acts of cruelty and immorality. Hitler put a plan for extermination of ethnic impurity, known as the Final Solution, in place. The Nazi executed this through the encampment, abuse and slaughter of millions, with Jews, gypsies and other cultural minorities being targeted.
Of all the examples of injustice against humanity in history, the Holocaust is one of the most prominent. The Holocaust did not happen all at once. It started off with herding the minority races into the Ghettos. The ghettos were usually located inside cities, and acted as a prison to segregate the Jews from the rest of the public. This quote “A building where/ the hundred and fifty Jews of our town who,” lets the readers know that the setting of this poem was probably the ghetto (Sltusky 1065). Polina, Slutsky’s grandmother, probably led a very hard life there.
Conditions in the Ghettos included overcrowding, lack of food, lack of sanitation and brutality by the Nazi guards. While reading Slutsky poem one comes to the conclusion that his grandmother, Polina, was living in one of these ghettos in Russia. He described how the Jews were starved and had tin mugs. One of the most famous ghettos was Minsk. It was located in USSR. Jews from Slutsk, Dzerzhinsk, Cherven, Uzda and other nearby places were brought into Minsk. Ten thousand Jews were placed here, including women, men and children. This number halved in August 1941. The Nazis went into this ghetto and slaughtered the Jews.
Those who survived were forced to pay a ransom. After they paid they were allowed to live. Every Sunday they had to report to role call. Jews living here were required to wear a yellow badge marking them. They wore a white patch on their chest that had their house number on it. Day to day Jews had to live in fear of the Nazis. Never knowing when a killing spree will go on again. Nazis would randomly take Jews away to shoot them. Aktion was another thing feared by the Jews. The Nazis would bring in new Jews and residing Jews and kill them publicly or in secret. This not only includes adults but children as well.
(” Minsk”) As time went on more and more Jews were forced to live in Minsk, including those from Germany. Life there was almost unbearable and overcrowded. Yet the Jews who lived here tried to make life as normal as possible. They set up Jewish Council made up of seven departments. These departments were welfare, housing, supplies, health, workshops, labor, and registration. It was like having there own government system. The Nazis however did not like this. They wanted the Jews to live in terror. The Nazis killed Eliyahu Ilya Mushkin, the leader, because he was also head of the Underground.
The Underground was an organization to help Jews escape, much like the American Underground Railroad. Mushkin and other followers helped Jews escape and find safe places to high. When Mushkin was murdered Moshe Jaffe replaced him. He and the others continued to help Jews escape, mostly the children. Things got hard and the Nazis tortured them, yet the still went on. It was not until the Germans captured Jaffe not the Underground ended. They forced him to speak to the Jews to make them petrified. When Jaffe saw trucks pull up with gas engines on them he know what the Nazis were planning.
“Jews, the bloody murderers have deceived you–flee for your lives! ” Many people died that day, including Jaffe, the ghetto police and Jews. Throughout it all the Jews attempted to stand up from themselves. Countless lives were ended in Minsk but many heroes lived on in memories. The Jews found strength and hope through it all, just like Polina from the poem. She found her strength and retaliated against the Jews. Others began to cheer her on. Even though she died the civilians in that ghetto will remember her (“Minsk”). Jews and other minorities did not stay in the ghettos forever.
They were rounded up on trains and taken to concentration camps. The grandmother is about to be shipped to one of those concentration camps. One knows this because the “German polizei”, known as Nazis, were “herding the old people briskly;/ and their tin mugs clanked as/ the young man led them away” (Slutsky 1065). The train ride itself was horrid. A hundred to a hundred thirty Jews were crammed to one train car. They had no food, water or bathrooms for days or even weeks. Due to these conditions Jews died from dehydration and many illness due to feces.
The trains were so packed that those who died, died standing up because there was nowhere for them to fall. When the trains stopped at a concentration camp they were hurried off. All of there belongings were taken or left on the train. Clothing, jewelry, eyeglasses, shoes and even gold teeth were taken. Nazis had two separate lines, one for men and one for women. After these lines were formed they were forced to strip their clothes. After this the Germans separated the fit from the unfit. These people were usually women, children, and the elderly. The unfit Jews were told that they were going to be showered for hygiene purposes.
In reality they were sent to the gas chambers (“Belzec”). During this time a lady named Helena Jurczak lived near the Belzec camp. “The transport came one after another, the people got off the trains and went straight into the camps. An orchestra played waltzes all the time, but you could hear the screaming and the shouting,” she said. Helena also remembers the smell of burning flesh when she peered into the camp. (LeBor 2). The second group would be lead to the barracks or used for slave labor. Some of the most notorious of the death camps were located in Poland.
Some of these include Auschwitz and Belzec. Many Jews captured from Russia were kept there. Here life was horrific and everyday was a miracle to be alive. The prisoners were given little food and forced to live and sleep in filthy, overcrowded bunks where disease ran rampant. Thousands of prisoners in concentration camps died simply of exposure, starvation, or disease. They also died of experimentations. Many Jews and other minorities were experimented to on to find cures for diseases, to see if a certain operation would work or if it benefited the German Army in any way.
These experiments were some of the cruelest things done to the Jews by Nazis doctors (Moller-Hill). Polina also died by the hands of the Nazis. She was not experimented on but simply stood up for herself. She bravely cursed the Nazis and yelled at them, “… :My grandson/ is off at the front fighting! ” (Slutsky 1650). The Belzec camp was originally a labor camp. Jews that resided here were forced to work and do whatever the Nazis told them to. If the Jews could not work they were killed. Soon after the camp was build gas chambers were built. A two hundred fifty-horse power engine was put outside the gas chamber.
The Nazis needed its power to pump in carbon monoxide gas through the pipes. It was the gas the killed countless numbers of Jews (“Belzec”). SS official, Kurt Gerstein remembered the horrid events of the gas chamber. Due to what he saw he tried to tell the world about the Holocaust. He said, “They climbed a little wooden stairs and entered the death chambers, most of them silently, pushed by those behind them. A Jewess of about forty with eyes like fire, cursed the murderers; she disappeared into the gas chamber” (LeBor 1). This Jewess was like Polina. She was not going down without a fight.
Both of them cursed the Nazis and in the end died for it. Many Jews stood up for themselves and revolted. In Auschwitz many Jews resisted the Nazis. On October 23, 1943 a Jewish women was on her to the gas chambers. She took a pistol from the hand and an SS and shot him and two others. The other women with her resisted as well. Every single one of them were killed by SS reinforcement. Other instances like this happened all over Auschwitz Not all the Jews revolted in this way. Some simply ran away. The two most famous runaways are Alfred Wetzler and Walter Rosenberg. They ran away in April 7, 1944.
Both of them reached Bratislava and contacted the Jewish leaders that remained. These leaders wrote a thorough report about Auschwitz and sent it to the free world, which were America and other free countries. This report gained Auschwitz recognition and let people know what was really happening within the war. The leaders pleaded that Auschwitz be bombed and freed. The Allied forces had countless opportunities and still did not do it. The residents in the camp took things into there own hands. . On October 7, 1944 an uprising took place that destroyed on of the gas chambers.
The Nazis found out that two women smuggled in gunpowder for the revolt. These two women were executed, but it did not stop people from revolting (“Auschwitz”). Event Slutsky’s grandmother Polina revolted against the Nazi soldiers, “My seventy-year-old grandmother/ began to curse and/ scream at the Germans;” (Slutsky 1065). As she screamed at them others from the town began to notice and cheered her on. “From every window then/ Ivanovans and Andreyevans/ Sidorovnans and Petrovnas/ sobbed: You tell them, Polina” Due to this the Nazis shot her right there. They killed a woman who was defenseless.
This not only shows how the Nazis were cowards but also of how cruel they were. Even though the Nazis murdered Polina she made an impact on the other Jews lives. She showed them that they could stand up for themselves and have hope. The Jews were put through living hell during the Holocaust. They were forced to live in the ghettos where they were beaten, starved and killed. The ghettos were not as bad as the concentration camps however. Here they were not only starved and beaten, but forced to work. The living conditions here were also worse. They had to sleep in barracks with no room to move.
Many got sick due to the unsanitary conditions. If they were unable to work then they were killed. Jews were mostly killed in gas chambers, but were also killed by mass shootings. Yet no matter what happened the Jews fought for their freedom. They stood up for themselves, like Slutsky grandmother. As the Nazis became crueler and did more immoral things the Jews had hope. They were not going to stand idle and see their race disappear. These Jews were not going to die without a fight.
“Minsk. ” Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. 2 vols. Macmillan Reference USA, 1990. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/History/
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 July 2017