It’s one thing to learn about the oppression of a people from thousands, or even hundreds, of years ago, but knowing that one of the most infamous acts of cruelty happened so recently in human history is very sobering. We often think of the Holocaust as one big event; however, reading this reminded me that it was series of events that finally led to concentration and extermination camps. The more I think about it, the more I believe that it was a deliberate, steady progress of dehumanizing the Jewish people. Think about it- if people were immediately shipped off to concentration camps, there would have been more of a public outcry, I think. But they basically focused their attention on already marginalized groups of people (in this case the Jewish), popularized racist theories that had already been around for several decades or more, encouraged social ostracization (re: the yellow star) and then moved on to physical isolation (ghettos). Of course, it’s much more complicated than “Hitler hated Jews” (though that was a factor I’m sure); people needed a scapegoat to place their frustrations on, and when there is an already ill-liked group of people at your disposal, chances are they are the ones who will receive most of the blame. But it’s terrifying, because this need to place the blame on someone evolved into something so horrifying as readily accepting the fact that a person is not only “lesser” but not even a person at all. That people in power can use social tactics in order to encourage this sort mentality in a population. A look into history shows us that this isn’t the first time that Jews have had been political and social scapegoats, but as it is the most infamous and recent, I think it provides us a clearer and grotesque picture in terms of the horrific extents of human cruelty and how it impacted Jewish identity than just reading about something that happened hundreds of years ago.
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