“A new survey by the Azrieli Foundation and Claims Conference finds, in April of 2018, an alarming 52% of millennials cannot name at least one concentration camp or ghetto, and nearly one quarter, or 22%, of millennials have not heard, or are not sure, if they have heard of the Holocaust” (Azrieli). The danger of a single story is the leading cause to genocide of a certain group. My purpose is to describe to the teachers in the RBHS English Department how Elie Wiesel, author of the novel ‘Night’, combats the danger of a single story, and how this story is beneficial to the learning process that stereotypes are not untrue, but incomplete. The novel ‘Night’, by Elie Wiesel, is an autobiography of his time spent as a Jewish boy in the well-known concentration camp Auschwitz. He gives us an insight on how Jews were treated as if their religion was an insult to humankind, and therefore, Germany and allies rejected them as humane and believed them as savages. Elie Wiesel uses his life story in the novel ‘Night’ to disprove the single story that the Holocaust only targeted Jews and the Jewish faith, showing students that other minorities were targeted for Germany’s needs as well.
Despite Jews and the Jewish faith being the primary target of the Holocaust, the German hierarchy used these prisoners as an advantage to satisfy their needs for experiments, and others like homosexuality. As Jews were the main target of the Holocaust, they were weak, ending in the death of millions of Jews that brought attention all over the world: “And now hundreds of cries rose at once. The death rattle of an entire convoy with the end approaching” (Wiesel, 103). The German citizens view the ill-fated Jews on the train as if they were corpses already left for dead, not important enough for their time and sympathy. Just like slavery and imperialism, the Germans chose to believe that the Jews are a separate race and culture that needs to learn the error of their ways and beliefs because they do not fit the right idealism of society. The German’s shared hatred and ignorance led to the death of millions of Jews gaining the attention of allied forces wanting to stop the Nazi rule. After their arrival at the concentration camps, and after the first selection, Elie realized how privileged the SS guards were treating the young male Jews: “Immediately after our arrival, he had bread brought for them, some soup and margarine. (In fact, this affection was not entirely altruistic; there existed here a veritable traffic of children among homosexuals)' (Wiesel, 48). The sympathy felt for the young male Jews was nothing but a pawn to trick the young Jews into trusting their German superiors. The SS guards wanted the boys to come willingly to satisfy their needs and share it among others. However, it wasn’t just young males that the guards were after, it was also every homosexual they had to take off the streets because they did not fit the German idealism of a perfect society with the promise of an escape from death and forced labor. In the concentration camps, the Nazi’s experimented on homosexuals, such as castration, to hopefully give themselves an idea as to how homosexuality exists in the German community. Eva Slonin talks about how she remembers getting injected with an unknown substance during her time at Auschwitz, and says, “‘Once I was taken away, that was him because I could look him in the face, I wasn’t on my stomach, and he gave me an injection on my vein, and after I got very bad stomach cramps’” (Slonin). These experiments, or mystery injections, were done on humans held against their own will, in a series of experiments. The type of experiments was brutal, diverse and only for the needs of the German race. In this case, Eva Slonin was talking about the notorious Dr. Mengele that tested on victims, like Eva Slonin, that were primarily Jews, but also consisted of homosexuals, gypsies or anyone considered inferior to the Nazi race.
Other groups targeted by the Holocaust, like Gypsies and Poles with their ethnicity, were chosen by qualities they couldn’t change. Gypsies were people of mental disabilities or of foreign ethnicity were not an exception to the horrors of the Holocaust: “We were herded into yet another barrack, inside the Gypsy camp” (Weisel, 37). Gypsies were given a separate camp away from the other victims of the Holocaust because Germany wanted to isolate, and hopefully exterminate Gypsies along with the Jews. “Building on long-held prejudices, the Nazi regime view Gypsies as racial inferiors believed as a threat to the purity and strength of what the Germans called the superior Aryan race”. Unlike Jews, however, this group of minorities is criticized on a trait they can’t change. In result, during this time, Gypsies were born to die because of a shared hatred for their deformity. But that did not stop the Germans from using this group for their own needs and pleasures. Like the Germans, the Frenchman and the Pole recognized that Elie’s father was weak and took advantage of him for extra rations, and Elie’s father says, “‘Him, the Frenchman… and the Pole… They beat me…’ One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live” (Wiesel, 109). Germany also used forced laborers from Europe, like Frenchmen that did not fit the Aryan stereotype, and Poles viewed as inferior, were subject to especially harsh discriminatory measures. Although this diverse group of prisoners is experiencing the same torture by the German government, they would turn on each other, hating each other to survive during this terror. Poles and the European laborers were given no choice to succumb to Nazi control and work for freedom like every other victim of the Holocaust. Israel Charny explains his theory that when the government feels threatened by minority groups or feels danger of minority groups rise to power, these are signs of genocide and massacres, and says, “There is always some kind of word for them in all the languages of the world, that they are not really people” (Charny). Israel Charny believes the main cause of genocide is the inability of developing real and mutual respect and caring as foundations for human behavior is in direct opposition to those that preach tolerance however don't apply it. The Holocaust was an overwhelming event and Israel Charny believes it's the distinctive components of the Holocaust that fashioned it into an archetypal event in human experience.
In conclusion, Elie Wiesel’s novel ‘Night’ disproves that the Holocaust only targeted the Jews by including other victims that had a role in his story, like gypsies, homosexuals, and people of different origins. Furthermore, the single story is one that criticizes all people. As a society, we must always prepare individuals to approach narratives critically, reevaluating views once necessary, and to counteract the limitations of those single stories. It is important that the students continue to remember and hopefully learn from our history, and by reading this novel, maybe it will spark interest to open their eyes to the danger of a single story.