No matter which camp a prisoner was sent to, he was sure to encounter brutal experiences and shameful indignities under the watchful eye of the Nazi’s and their appointed camp leaders. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary efines indignity: l. a. An act that offends against a person’s dignity or self-respect: Insult. Humiliating treatment. (Indignity, 2014). This definition doesn’t seem to do justice when examining the cruel treatment of those imprisoned at Hitler’s death camps. In Frankl’s book, he tells of many indignities that were stripped away from them.
He and his fellow prisoner lacked food, clothing, hygiene, and medical care. These indignities are cruel, but Frankl suggests that it was stripping of deeper indignities that could result in a man loss of will to survive. Prisoners were forced to: ive up their identities and become a number, give up on their goals and accept a lite of pain and suffering, and suffer mental agony at the insults bestowed upon them by leaders of the camp. Most importantly, prisoners were forced to Just give up hope.
A New Destiny Frankl describes arriving at his first camp, departing the train, and standing in a line before a Senior SS officer. He watched as the officer directed prisoners to either the left or right side of him, using his forefinger. He had no idea what this meant at the time, but later in the evening he learned that this was the process in which prisoners ere selected for work or for death. The men that were ushered to the right were the ones the SS officer deemed fit for work. Those that were sent to the left, were destined for the gas chamber, as they were seen as too old or sick for work.
Later on, the prisoners to the right were forced to fully undress and drop everything they owned to the floor. Their bodies were shaved completely and they were issued a number. This number voided out any past life they had. It simply wiped their past away and in its place was left a number. Another indignity that was bestowed upon he prisoners was being forced to give up their goals and face the terrifying thought that they no longer had anything to live for. Frankl writes, “Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. ” (pg. 5). Frankl suggests that once a man had lost all reason to live, he rarely survived much longer. Finally, an indignity described by Frankl as one of the worst things that he had to endure, was being forced to listen to insults towards him given by the camp leaders. He explains how painful it was to have to listen toa man Judge his life ven though he didn’t know anything about him. The prisoners were forced to work and be treated like animals, while also being insulted to their core. They had already lost their identities, goals, and now they were forced to lose their own self-worth.
According to Depree’s list As men entered Hitler’s death camps, they left behind their identities in exchange for a number. Life as they knew it would never be the same. According to Depree’s list of the eight essential rights for workers (pg. 36), these men were stripped of many of these rights, which in some cases, helped lead to their demise. By taking away the risoner’s identity, goals, and self-worth, they were left without any of the eight rights listed by Depree. Their right to be needed was disregarded since they no longer held a purpose towards a goal.
They, of course, had no right to be involved since their input could cause them death. Their right to affect their own destiny was overturned when they stepped off of the train and was forced to go to the left or right. It wasn’t up to them, at that very moment, whether they lived or died. They had no right to understand what was happening, since they were not considered a part of an organized workforce, but rather slaves. They had zero right to appeal and doing so would certainly bring about death.
My list of indignities imposed on the prisoners of the Holocaust correlates well with Depree’s list of rights for workers. While my list holds some of the basic indignities such as little food and water, forced labor, the inability to bathe or brush their teeth, it also holds some of the deeper indignities, in which Frankl describes as sometimes worse than the physical beatings that they endured Depree’s Assumptions In order for Depree to comprise his list of eight essential rights for workers, he had to hold some assumptions about our society.
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