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The Holocaust

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The Holocaust Experience

The world that people lived in during the Holocaust is described by the personal experiences of the oppressed throughout the story Jack and Rochelle, written by Jack and Rochelle Sutin, and the memoir by Alexander Donat titled The Holocaust Kingdom. The horrifying mindset of the oppressors, particularly the Nazi`s, is illustrated in both books. The vicious and relentless emotional, physical, and psychological abuse the Nazi`s targeted at their victims is depicted in detail. The unspeakable cruelty received by the Jews dramatically altered their state of mind and how they lived their lives. The emotions of despair, distress, depression, hopelessness, helplessness felt by the Jews eventually turn to hate, anger, hopefulness, faith, and ultimately revenge against all oppressors.

The Holocaust was a traumatic and tragic time in history to say the least. Those who were victims of the mistreatment were forced to respond. In Jack and Rochelle, both families were used to some form of oppression. Growing up in Poland, Rochelle and her family were used to feeling hated. Here is an example through dialogue of how some of the Poles felt about the Jews and the Germans:

"Just wait! Hitler is coming and he`ll off the heads of all you Jews." Rochelle: "What are you so happy about? The Germans might cut off my head, but your independence will be gone. Poland won`t be Poland anymore!" "They would tell me that it was worth losing their independence just to get rid of the Jews (page 8, Jack and Rochelle)."

Jack also experienced mistreatment even before the Germans came. In the town of Mir, he attended a grade school where he was singled out by the teachers:

"As for school work, if we failed to complete an assignment or to pass a test, we were singled out for special criticism, well beyond what a Polish student would receive. "What`s the matter Jew?" the teacher would ask us. "Can`t keep up? (page 14, Jack and Rochelle)."

They knew that they could not stay in Poland: "Ð'...there was no freedom, no future for us in Poland (page 16, Jack and Rochelle)." The Jews in Poland knew that they were not welcome. Here is an example of how Jack felt from early childhood growing up in Poland:

"Did I have a sense that Jews were hated in Poland? You didn`t need to have a sense of it. I knew it from the time I was two, three years old. By that age, you knew that you were not the same as all the other kids, that you were discriminated against in the subtlest ways, as well as in the most overt and painful ways (page 16, Jack and Rochelle)."

On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland. The Soviet troops arrived in Mir, where Jack`s parents lived, and took control a few days after the invasion. The troops seemed friendly. The Russians chose not to acknowledge the "Jewish problem." The Russian occupation was not too bad, especially when compared to the German occupation. In June 1941, Germany invaded the eastern part of Poland. They turned on their Russian allies who were caught by surprise by the Nazi Blitzkrieg and did not put up much of a fight. At the beginning of their occupation, the Nazi`s were secretive about their plans and actions. Then, "about two months after the initial occupation, the action against the Jews were intensified (page 40, Jack and Rochelle)." The Jews were instructed to give up all valuables and then pack. The Jews were headed for the ghetto, which "was located in the worst part of town (page 40, Jack and Rochelle)."

When Jack and the rest of the Jewish population living in the Mir Ghetto and the ghetto of Zamek realized that some way or another, their ultimate fate would more than likely be death, Jack decided he would not go down without a fight. He would not go down without avenging the wrongful deaths of Jews. He responded by escaping from the ghetto of Zamek with the help of a Jewish friend, posing as a German. This man was Oswald Rufeisen. "After the Germans invaded western Poland, Rufeisen fled east and ultimately wound up in the vicinity of Mir, where he posed as a citizen of dual Polish and German ancestry (page 52, Jack and Rochelle)." Rufeisen was asked to serve the Germans as a translator. Rufeisen helped smuggle in weapons to the Jews. Living in the presence of Nazi`s the Jews mindset was that there was "no way of avoiding the conclusion that they would die whether we ran or stayed (page 55, Jack and Rochelle)." "We recognized the hell we were living in Ð'- we could not but recognize it (page 55, Jack and Rochelle)." The Jews survived by changing their mindset. They were not going down without a fight. Here is an example of how Jack`s mindset changed him into a braver individual who would try his best to take some control of his life:

"We were doing our best to survive, even to resist, but no one in our group expected to come out alive from that hell. The main thing was not to be taken alive by the Germans, not to submit to their questions, their tortures, and a passive death at their hands. We were always armed and had an understanding that if we were ambushed, we would fight until we were killed. If need be, we would shoot one another rather than be captured. It was inevitable that we would die Ð'- but death would come on our terms (page 67, Jack and Rochelle)."

Once Jack came to this realization his personality changed. He started to take huge risks and

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