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Essay: Uncovering 8 Stages of Genocide to Prevent History from Repeating Itself

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Andre Mai

Mrs. Shackelford

CP Honors English 2

24 April 2018

Stop Before You Start

    High school emphasizes educating students about the holocaust is important, but how does it affect us today? The Holocaust is the greatest humanitarian crisis in human history, resulting in the death of 6 million Jews and hundreds of thousands of minorities. It occurred within the modern era which has elements that still exist today such as the quick spread of information and false propaganda. Because this atrocity occurred within the modern era, today’s world must acknowledge signs such as the 8 stages of genocide to prevent history from repeating itself. “The obligation to prevent genocide necessarily implies the need for effective early warning,” (Rosenberg 20).

. In the non-fiction novel Night by Elie Wiesel, Wiesel narrates how Germany slowly began to turn against the Jews, resulting in the Holocaust. Wiesel witnesses the 8 steps of genocide, and unknowingly gets stripped of his humanity.

    The signs of genocide begin as Hitler began to influence the non-Jews of Germany causing them to think of us vs. them. According to Hitler and his followers, Jews were considered undeserving of human rights. Elie stated “countless Jews had been passing as non-Jews,” meaning that Jews were treated as second-class citizens and they had to pretend to be non-Jew to get the same rights as everybody else (Wiesel 141). In today’s context, examples could be immigrants coming from South America and Mexico where they have to hide among the citizens to live a normal life in the United States. The next phase of genocide is similar to the last, symbolism is a visual sign of segregation, like having a sign above one’s head. Wiesel says that Germany “made a new decree: every Jew had to wear a yellow star,” to separate Jews from everybody else (Wiesel 11). This made it easier for the German public and soldiers to identify who has the right to do what and to make the capturing Jews easier in the future. A recent example in America was the civil rights movement with African Americans being denied rights and liberties based on the color of their skin.

The next stage of genocide is the dehumanization of whoever is being oppressed. Throughout the book, many examples are shown that explain how the SS Officers treated the Jews and other prisoners as less than human, or like animals. Elie recalls an officer yelling “ "If anyone goes missing, you'll all be shot, like dogs," (Wiesel 24). In recent years, genocides such as the one taken place in Rwanda also use animals or bugs to describe the Tutsis with words such as "cockroach." This shows that the majority sees themselves superior over the oppressed. Organization is a major element in the process of genocide because it makes the persecutors less empathetic, it makes them see the mass murdering as a step by step process for their job instead of an act against humanity. A result of the lack of humanity is the self-amusement at the risk of the oppressed. Wiesel said the officers could kill, rape, eat, steal and do whatever they wanted to, "…and had a glimpse of Idek and a young polish girl, half-naked on a straw mat,” (Wiesel 108). The SS officers became drunk with power as they had complete control over who lives and dies.

Another stage is polarization which the oppressors begin to physically separate the oppressed from the rest of society. They have rooted out all of the persecuted with their symbolism technique of identifying. The Germans sent Jews to Ghettos which were ridden with disease and had a lack of food. This is only a temporary placement that is mixed into the next stage which is preparation for the execution. The purpose of placing the Jews in ghettos was to isolate them and to slowly starve the people meaning to kill them. Wiesel remembers “the barbed wire that encircled [him],” during his stay at the ghetto (Wiesel 11).

The most tragic stages are at the end which is the extermination and the cover-up phase. The whole process of separating, organizing and relocating the Jews was so that they can end up dying. Hitler and his army set out to kill millions of Jews and eventually attempt to wipe out the entire race. Women and children were selected to go into gas chambers which they immediately suffocated and died. When it wasn’t quick enough, Wiesel witnessed “children being thrown into flames” (Wiesel 38). Towards the end of the war when Hitler realized that he wasn’t going to win the war, the Nazi’s killed most of the Jews as fast as they could and would “blow up the camp,” (114). This shows the denial of the Nazi’s because they are trying to cover up their traces. These acts bring up questions today whether they knew they were wrong or were they helping the world.

Although these atrocities happened 80 years ago, we can still learn from these phases that the Nazi’s forced onto the Jews and can identify them before it even begins.

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