Holocaust One of the Excerpts Term Paper

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¶ … Holocaust

One of the excerpts presented in the Holocaust: A Reader is what appears to be an excerpt from the diary of Emmanuel Ringelblum, a resident of the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland. While the year is not specified, Ringelblum references events in 1941 and in April 1942, which makes it clear that the May in question must be in 1942 or later. Furthermore, while Ringelblum references concentration camps, he does not refer to a large-scale incarceration of Jews in these concentration camps. This omission leads one to believe that the diary was written in the period between 1942 and 1944, because Hitler ramped up his anti-Semitic efforts considerably when it was clear that the war was coming to a close, which makes it somewhat unlikely that Ringelblum would have been in a ghetto rather than in a concentration camp by late 1944.

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The diary gives some interesting historical information about life inside the Jewish ghettos. For many people in the modern audience, the Nazi concentration camps are synonymous with Hitler's solution to "the Jewish problem." However, the information in Ringelblum's diary makes it clear that the horror began for most Jews long before they were ever shipped into a concentration camp. Ringelblum describes daily life in the ghetto. From his descriptions, the modern audience can learn important information about the conditions in the ghetto. This information includes information about ghetto inhabitants, daily conditions, the treatment of Jews by Polish police and German police, Jews who worked against the Nazis, Jews who worked for or with the Nazis, the mental state of Jews in the ghettos, and the differences between Polish and German Jews.

Term Paper on Holocaust One of the Excerpts Presented in Assignment

Because Ringelblum was writing a diary, his work gives a unique insight into daily life in the ghetto. For example, Ringelblum describes the extreme poverty that people dealt with in the ghettos. The first thing he makes clear is that the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto were extremely impoverished. Not only did the Jews lack the financial resources to purchase adequate food, but the Nazis also restricted their movements and prevented them from buying goods on the open market. As a result, Jews were forced to rely upon smugglers and the black market in order to procure food and other necessities. Even with smuggling, not every family could afford food. For example, Ringelblum states:

One can judge the depths of poverty in the Ghetto from the fact that there are houses where everything has been sold- even pillow cases and sheets, so that people are sleeping right on the feathers of their pillows and beds. You come across beggars who are covered all over with feathers. These have sunk below the threshold of hope. (Ringelblum, 321).

Ringelblum also makes it clear that ghetto Jews were aware of the rising anti-Semitism n Germany and Poland. For example, he cites several incidents of tremendous anti-Jewish violence and compares that violence to incidents in the ghetto. Furthermore, he describes several incidents of unprovoked Gestapo violence in the ghetto. "The Gestapo men in the Pawia Street prison have to have their daily victims." (Ringelblum, 323). He speaks about the Gestapo arresting children and sentencing them to death. He also describes, in detail, various forms of torture and violence. He talks about the lists of people slated for slaughter.

Furthermore, Ringelblum makes it clear that it was not only the Gestapo who participated in the oppression of Jews in the ghetto. For example, Ringelblum describes the activities of the Polish police in the ghetto. Rather than working to keep Jews safe or resolve disputes, the Polish police ended up being in charge of anti-smuggling operations. However, rather than actually discouraging smuggling, the Polish officers profited off of the misery of those in the ghetto, by requiring bribes from the smugglers. Even children were required to bribe police officers in order to obtain food and necessities.

However, Ringelblum also makes it clear that Jews were aware of the part that they played in the German war machine. Jews in the Warsaw ghetto were expected to contribute to the war effort by restoring or sewing uniforms for Nazi soldiers. Those who did not contribute in that manner were exterminated. Furthermore, Ringelblum observed Nazi propaganda. The Gestapo would stage incidents of violence by Jews or Poles against Jews, and have photos of the Gestapo stopping such violence.

One of the more illuminating facets of Ringelblum's account is its depiction of the various roles played by Jews in the ghetto. For example, Ringelblum describes the actions of two Aryan-looking Jewish girls who engaged in the smuggling of goods and information to assist their fellow Jews. However, he also describes a very disturbing element that he refers to as the Jewish agents of the Gestapo. (Ringelblum, 326). He describes Jews working in concert with the Gestapo, causing harm to the other Jews. Furthermore, he condemns this action as something that has plagued Jews throughout history. In addition, while informants and traitors may have been decisively handled with terrorism and threats from their fellow Jews in the past, Ringelblum makes it clear that the Jews feared the repercussions of dealing with World War II era traitors in the same manner. However, he does make it clear that these traitors were not ultimately rewarded. For example, he describes Judtowa, the former lover of a German officer. She used her position to curry favor among the Nazis, and then informed on her fellow Jews to those Nazis. However, eventually Judtowa offended the Nazis and was executed.

In addition, one thing that Ringelblum makes clear is that Jews were not passive victims. The Jews managed to stay aware of the Allied actions against the Axis powers. Furthermore, according to Ringelblum, "the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto aren't content merely to recite Psalms and leave the rest in God's hands; they labor day and night to lay their enemy low and bring an early peace." While he does not describe what the Jews were doing to defeat Hitler and the Nazis, this information does inspire one to investigate what type of things Jews were doing to fight the Nazis.

Finally, Ringelblum describes the differences between German and Polish Jews. For example, those Jews who were deported from Germany were kept segregated from Polish Jews. According to Ringelblum, German Jews received preferential treatment. The German Jews received greater food provisions. However, the German Jews were also required to wear a Jude emblem, even after be allowed to integrate into the ghetto. (Ringelblum, 331). Despite their treatment by the German government, Ringelblum describes the German Jews as patriots. They continued to speak about Hitler as their leader and German victory. (Ringelblum, 331).

Ringelblum's diary is extremely useful as a historical source. In fact, it is even more useful than primary sources from other wars. This is due to the fact that such a tremendous proportion of European Jews were killed during the Holocaust, which made it difficult to get an accurate view of survivor accounts of the atrocity of the war. In addition, the Nazis had a tremendous propaganda machine, which denied the horrors of the ghettos and the concentration camps. Therefore, written accounts of life in the ghettos from people living in those ghettos have become the best source for understanding the living conditions inside the ghettos.

Of course, Ringelblum's diary suffers from the same flaws as any other primary source. Ringelblum was not an objective observer, but instead a human being, segregated by race and confined to sub-human living conditions. Therefore, one might expect Ringelblum's accounts of Gestapo action against the Jews to be exaggerated. However, the fact that Ringelblum was writing in a diary, and probably never thought that his entries would be seen by the public, greatly lessens the chance of intentional distortions. Therefore, as long as one remains aware that Ringelblum was not an objective third-party, one can get an accurate view of life in the ghetto.

Of course, Ringelblum was also limited by his first-hand account. For example, he could only provide information about life in the ghetto, or about information that he received second-hand from smugglers or other informants. As a result, his outside information may have been very limited. The very thing that makes Ringelblum's account compelling is the same one that challenges its historical value; the fact that Ringelblum was confined to the ghetto. One does not know where Ringelblum received his information regarding massacres in other ghettos, what was occurring in the concentration camps, German public reaction to the mass graves of Jews, and similar items that he comments upon in his diary. However, this information does not have to be accurate in order to be historically important. For example, Ringelblum's commentary on Roosevelt's ultimatum to Germany reveals what Jews in the Warsaw ghetto believed was going on outside of the ghetto, even if it cannot be taken as the truth of what actions Roosevelt was actually taken against the Nazis. Furthermore, by comparing Ringelblum's knowledge with secondary sources regarding the events… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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