Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said about the Holocaust: “The experience lies beyond our reach. Ask any survivor, he will tell you: he who has not lived the event will never know it. And he who went through it will not reveal it, not really, not entirely. Between his memory and its reflection there is a wall and it cannot be pierced.”1
How does the quote connect to your experience of studying this history so far? What things do you think are most important to share or to remember? What questions do you still have?
- What is the meaning of human dignity? How did the Nazis seek to deprive their victims of basic human dignity? What examples did you find in this chapter of people attempting to preserve or reclaim human dignity?
- In writing about the changes in Germany in the 1930s, historian Richard Evans points to the process of “rationalization and moral editing” that many Germans must have undertaken in order to justify the ways they participated in Nazi society (see reading, Can a National Socialist Have Jewish Friends? in Chapter 6). In this chapter, what examples did you find of individuals engaging in “rationalization and moral editing” to explain their actions during the Holocaust?
- What did it mean to resist the Nazis? What kinds of resistance were people (both Jews and non-Jews) able to carry out, according to the readings in this chapter? What made each form of resistance possible? How did the possibilities of resistance change as the war progressed?
- What circumstances and opportunities made acts of rescue possible? What did it take for individuals to be willing and ready to take advantage of those opportunities and circumstances?
- This chapter describes a range of choices that individuals made during the Holocaust. Were such choices available to all people who were part of this history? How does thinking about that range of choices give us insight into the particular history of the Holocaust? In what ways does thinking about the range of choices illuminate universal characteristics of human behavior?
- 1 : Elie Wiesel and Elliot Lefkovitz, Dimensions of the Holocaust: Lectures at Northwestern University, 2nd ed. (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1990), 7.