During World War II, Nazi Germany committed the most infamous genocide in history, the Holocaust. As a result, over 6 million Jews lost their lives in the horrific conditions inside concentration camps across Nazi occupied Europe. Fortunately, many of the prisoners of these concentration camps survived to share their stories. Among these is Elie Wiesel who, along with many others, survived thanks to social and physical resilience.
Social resilience was one of the reasons why Elie and many other Jews survived the Holocaust. According to Wiesel, when prisoners arrived at a new camp, they would seek information from other prisoners to know what they could do to survive. “We began to look for familiar faces, to seek information, to question the veteran prisoners about which labor unit was the best” (Wiesel, 31). Newly arrived prisoners would ask questions to the veteran prisoners in an effort to obtain information that might aid in their survival. Jews also relied on the moral support of other prisoners to survive. “Bite your lip, little brother... Don’t cry. Keep your anger and hatred for another day, for later on” (Wiesel, 35). Speaking with other people gives Elie and the other prisoners hope, it keeps them going. On a forced march, through the snow, to the Gleiwitz concentration camp, Elie encourages his friend to keep going and to not stop. “‘Wait a bit Zalman’…‘I can’t go on any longer’…‘Make an effort Zalman’…‘Try’…‘I can’t’… he groaned” (Wiesel, 57). A friend of Elie is ready to give up and either be shot or trampled to death on their forced march. Although Zalman ultimately dies, his death inspires Elie to keep striving for survival. Throughout the Holocaust, Elie and almost every other prisoner used social resilience in an effort to encourage each other to keep going, to survive.
From 1933 to 1945 Adolf Hitler instituted a discriminatory campaign which resulted in the forced deportation of millions of Jews and other so called ‘undesirables’ to horrific extermination camps across Nazi occupied Europe. To survive the appalling conditions they were subjected to, the prisoners had to use physical resilience. Before they were deported, Elie’s father, Chlomo Wiesel, buried the family savings in the hopes of coming back to Sighet to retrieve them after the war was over. According to the author, “A Jew no longer had the right to keep in his house gold, jewels, or any object of value… My father went down into the cellar and buried our savings” (Wiesel, 6). Elie’s father did this to have something valuable leftover, and the thought of having it kept Elie’s father pursuing their survival. The prisoners often search for scraps of food to survive. “We each in turn went for a walk through the warehouse, looking for a bit of bread some civilian might have left behind” (Wiesel, 37). To survive, Elie has to search for any scrap of food. After the death of Zalman, Elie is determined to not stop on the march to Gleiwitz. “I repeated to myself: ‘Don’t think. Don’t stop. Run’” (Wiesel, 57). Elie forces himself to focus on nothing but running since his life depends on it. By utilizing physical resilience, Elie and many of the other prisoners were able to survive the Holocaust.
Over the last couple of years, I have found that social resilience has helped me through my struggles. When I moved to Bakersfield in 2016, I became depressed since I had left so many friends back in Los Angeles. It wasn’t until I became friends with people in my new school that I started to get more accustomed to being away from the people I had known for years and had developed strong bonds with. Talking to my new friends helped me overcome my sense of being out-of-place in what I thought as an unwelcoming place. Venting my problems to my friends helped relieve stress, and their support has helped me overcome tough situations. I have also been there to support my friends in during their struggles, giving them advice and being a source of solace. Social resilience has helped me overcome what I thought to be an almost impossible challenge.
During the Holocaust millions of Jews died brutally in the death camps of Adolf Hitler. Although millions died, many managed to survive. Among these survivors is Elie Wiesel, who survived thanks to the use of social and physical resilience. His book serves as a testimony to the strength and determination that the Jews had in their worst moments. We as humans must band together to rid ourselves of the problems our planet faces and bring an everlasting peace to the world.
- Wiesel, Elie. Night. Glencoe-McGraw Hill: New York. 2000. Print.