In the novel, Night, Elie Wiesel describes his experience as a young Jewish boy during the holocaust. The Holocaust itself was an exercise in mass dehumanization and extermination of millions of people. From normal life in a small town to physical abuse in concentration camps, Night documents the journey of Wiesel’s teenage years. Neither Wiesel or any of the Jews in Sighet could have imagined the horrors that would befall them as their lived changed under the Nazi command. The captured Jews are enslaved in concentration camps, where they experience the absolute worst forms of torture, abuse, and inhumane treatment. Such torture has obvious physical effects, but it also induces psychological changes on those unfortunate enough to experience it.
One of the ways that the Nazis used to dehumanize the Jews was by stripping them from there identity. Several privileges that we take for granted, were taken away from them. Privileges such as being able to own gold or silver and being able to go to public places. “a Jew was henceforth forbidden to own gold, jewellery or any valuables. Everything had to be handed over to the authorities, under penalty of death.” (10) They couldn’t visit cafes or restaurants, travel by rail, attend place of worship or to be outside of their homes after a set time. “we no longer had the right to frequent restaurants or cafes, to travel by rail, to attend the synagogue, to be on the streets after six o’clock in the evening.” (11) This shows that the Nazis stripped the Jews from their most basic human rights.
The Jews were also forced to wear a yellow star, which separated them from the rest of the community, “…every Jew had to wear the yellow star.” (11) By forcing the Jews to wear the yellow star, the Nazis separated them from other groups. Upon their arrival to the camps, the Jews were assigned a Number that resembles their name. calling them by numbers instead of using their original names, is one of the strategies that the Nazis used to erase their identity. “…. I became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name.” (42) By Taking away their names, the Nazis took away a huge part of their identity, as our name represent who we are. By taking away simple privileges, forcing them to wear the yellow star and calling them by numbers, the Nazis dehumanized the Jews,
Throughout Night, Elie Wiesel describes multiple horrors that he went through in the concentration camps that dehumanized Wiesel. Upon their arrival to the Camps families were separated; women, girls and babies on one side and men and boys on the other. Women, babies and other Jews who were doomed as ‘not fit enough to work’ were all sent to the gas chambers. Some babies were even used as target practices as stated in Moishe the Beadle’s story, “infants were tossed into the air and use as targets for the machine guns”(6) As well, prisoners had to dig their own grave, “… They were forced to dig huge trenches… without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who are forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks… ”(6). Not only that, the Jewish prisoners were also forced to watch their children getting shot right in front of their eyes, “… the tailor who begged to die before his sons were killed” (7).
Moreover, the prisoners of these camps were starved and randomly beaten, “… in the hope of finding something, perhaps a piece of bread… Hunger was tormenting us… One day when Idek was venting his fury, I happened to cross his path. He threw himself on me like a wild beast, beating me in the chest…. Idek was on edge, he had trouble restraining himself. Suddenly, he exploded. The victim this time was my father”(53-114) by sending women and children to gas chambers, using babies as target practices, forcing prisoners to dig their own graves, forcing them to watch their children get shot in front of their eyes, randomly beating them and finally starving them, the Nazis dehumanized the Jews.
Lastly, the Nazis were so effective that they were able to change the feelings that the Jews had towards their family members and other people. The strong sons wanted to get rid of their fathers because they were a great burden on them, due to their weakness and sickness. The sons abandoned their fathers just to be able to survive, “his son had seen him losing ground, sliding back to the rear of the column… And he had continued to run in front, letting the distance between them become greater” (91). This shows how the son of Rabbi Elijah had abandoned him because he was sick and by staying with his father that would “diminish his own chance for survival” (91). Elie’s feelings towards his dad changed very much. This change is shown in the following quotes, “… if I felt anger at that moment, it was not directed at the Kapo but my father. Why couldn’t he have avoided Idek’s wrath? … I knew he was running out of strength, close to death, and yet I abandoned him… If only I didn’t find him! If only I was relieved of this responsibility, I could use all my strength to fight for my own survival, to take care only of myself… The officer wielded his club and dealt him a violent blow to the head…I was afraid, my body was afraid of another blow, this time to my head” (54-106)
Elie’s thoughts towards his dad changed. At the beginning of the book, Elie’s main goal was to stay with his dad, but as more days went by in the camps, his feelings towards his dad became very cold. In addition to that even after they were freed from the camps, none of the prisoners thought about their dead family members, “No thought of revenge, or of parents. Only of bread…And even when we were no longer hungry, not one of us thought of revenge… But still no trace of revenge”. Elie himself didn’t think of his dad after he died, “… I no longer thought of my father, or my mother… I would dream. But only about soup… ”. By changing the feelings of the Jews towards their family members and other people the Nazis dehumanized the Jews. The Nazis dehumanized the Jews through stripping them from their identity, exterminating them systematically and changing the feelings that they had towards their family members.
Though his book Night, Elie Wiesel shows how the Nazis dehumanized the camp prisoners, who were mostly Jews. The horrors of these concentration camps are something that we should never forget. Millions of people died in these camps, whether they were Jewish or not, they shall never be forgotten. In addition, these horrors should never be repeated again and we should all learn from them because, “Those who forget and don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.