Psychology of Prejudice, Term Paper Example
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Is The Holocaust Really A Singular Event in History?
This paper examines personal prejudicial assessment, from the psychological perspective, against non-Jewish people living in America today.Since Jews and not the U.S. government are the primary focus of attack, it should not surprise us that Holocaust ‘exclusivism’ is presented as morally worse form of denial. Perhaps as many as one-third of all the Jews killed in the Holocaust was under Soviet rule as of 1940. According to estimates, necessarily based on incomplete information, about one and a half million Soviet Jewish citizens were murdered by the Nazis and two hundred thousands more died in combat. The Holocaust had, of course, created my sympathies for the Jewsmore thanthe non-Jewish people. From my narrow and prejudicial perspective, these matters of sympathy projected troubling character tendencies. And so it remained in a perpetual state of disorder. Surely, I mused, no good thing could emerge from such a personality chaos. I was certainly prejudiced to criticize people’s apathy towards Jewish people in the Holocaust.This Holocaust trauma was very real for me. As such, “wallowing” in the genocidewas promoted.
The following factors contributed towards my prejudicial assessment:I have had a deep interest in World War II and the Holocaust since my elementary school. I always found it interesting and compelling that personal narratives of the Holocaust are so stirring that you are forever realizing a new depth to the grief and pain that was caused. I chose to read the story of Eva Galler, who survived by jumping off a deportation train. She was an amazing example of the people who managed to endure the war within the occupied countries. That she was able to survive in Austria was a miracle. However, the wonderment of this instance of survival is both intensified and tempered in the face of the tragedy of the six million Jews that perished.
I could not imagine what the experiences must have done to the faith of the Jewish people who lived through that period of time. Even those that survived suffered extreme losses of their families, friends, and homes, all of which they had to witness as the rest of the world stood around them and watching, but doing nothing until the end. I was quite prejudiced to read theheart-touching statements of Eva, for example, “I don’t try to search any deeper because I think without religion it would be harder for me to live”. It is as if she is admitting that if she really thought about what happened to her people and the issue of why God has not saved them, that she would be unable to reconcile it in her mind, leading her to abandon her religion on the principle that if God existed, or cared for her people, such a thing would not have been allowed to happen.
I thought that for the Jewish people the Holocaust was as much a trial of faith, and in some minds probably a failure of faith, as much as the actual extermination of their people. I thought the historical presentation of the Holocaust can only do so much in the way of actually passing on an understanding of the biggest issue of the time, which was that, for the Jews, God did not come to save them. Throughout the Scriptures, whenever the Jews have faced great threats God has come to their aid. After all, “they are the chosen people of God”. However, in the instance of the Holocaust there was no great relief. And for all those praying without any sort of response, it must have been heart wrenching. In their greatest time of need, God was not there. Or, if He was, why did He let such a thing happen to His people? There are probably about 14 million Jews in the world today, so obviously many have been able to reconcile whatever personal, spiritual, or theological problems they had, but I do not know how your faith could ever be the same, when your hope died so completely. Judaism as a whole suffered not only physical losses, but a spiritual loss as well. I could imagine that many Jews abandoned their faith entirely after the Holocaust occurred because it caused them to lose their trust in God.
First hand accounts have a way of making things real for the people who did not experience it, have no experience with anything of the kind, and cannot come close to imagining what it must have been like. They make huge events that we have little personal attachment to real, because it is much easier to make ourselves that person while we are reading. I thought that the most important thing gained from personal accounts is the emotional trials that were gone through. Your comprehensive and analytical history book can probably give you a better idea of the big picture, the statistics, how everything affected everything else, and an idea of the atrocities committed, but it really takes that first hand account to make it real, to make it personal. Putting faces on people and adopting their stories adds an entirely different depth to an event that happened before or just within the lifetimes of most living people now. Unless we’re confronted with the emotional aspect of history, we arenot going to “get” the worst of what happened. And as time passes we are going to start forgetting things that should not be forgotten.
Pastor Martin Niemöller made a famous quote that I felt applied to the last issue we were to address: what lessons should non-Jews take from the Holocaust? He said, “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.” As if the horror of the genocide of the Jews wasnot enough, the world turned it into an even bigger tragedy by being passive and allowing Hitler to go unchallenged for so long. I thought what this says about the indefinable “human nature” was appalling. And it sets us up with a knowledge of just what we can expect should another crisis occur, because we see it on smaller levels all over the world even now. It essentially tells us that we canot rely on anyone to help anyone else unless it directly affects them. The United States was out of the war entirely until Pearl Harbor was attacked, because Hitler was viewed as Europe’s problem. Apathy is the human condition, apparently. While history is marked by outstanding individuals with a deep caring for humanity, it is equally, or perhaps even more-so marked by egocentric bodies, whether they be individuals, groups, or countries.
A prime example in my mind was the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Weapons of mass destruction aside, we were perfectly justified to go into Iraq on a humanitarian level because there’s no denying that Saddam Hussein was committing genocide, though that easily leads into larger debates that are beside the point. However, even knowing that such atrocities were being committed, and that their resolutions were being flagrantly broken, the United Nations did not make a stand of intervention to protect either the Iraqi people or their own authority as an international body. And so history repeats itself, if not on the same scale, at least with the same underlying problem: humanity lacking a humanitarian mindset. Everyone could take that knowledge away from the Holocaust: that people just do not care at all.
A feeling of normalcy began to come back in my life. I tried to put all of the “distractions”behind me and move forward. I met a Christian lady in my school. She was an older lady and called several times to encourage me. One afternoon I came home and there was a message on the telephone. She said, “Nan (Write down your name), this is Ms. Sarah. I just wanted to call you today to let you know I am praying for you and your family. I do not know what you’re going through, but be encouraged and know that God loves you and He’s only a prayer away”. I was moved to tears when I retrieved this message. In my mind, I wondered how she had time in her busy day to call me and to encourage me. At the end, I smiled and picked up the phone to call her to say, “Thanks for calling me today. I really needed that encouragement”. From that day I was of the belief that there are people who care.
In the same waymy thoughts and attitudes towards Holocaust trauma has beenchanged, and I ask everyone to be open to some other ideas. I always responded to people this way, “I’m not prejudiced. I just have a preference. I preferred sympathizing Jewish people, people whom all I cared much”. I am to believe that the Holocaust consciousness and sympathy I need to relate to original experiences is a cheat. It is a double standard, and the work of cynical deniers who are manipulating history. At first I am enjoined to sympathize with non-Jewish peoples living in America because I can relate to Jews. The focus then changes. I accept that I have been manipulated into feeling as bad as I have for victims of the Holocaust.Then I transfer this feeling of kinship with a victimized people from the Jews to the non-Jewish people. The people are put in an uncomfortable and compromising position.
Throughout human history, however, events of genocide are evident. Even early Biblical history is dominated by acts of genocide. The Israelites were persecuted, abused and killed by Egyptians. Haman, from biblical era, plotted genocide against the Jews in Persia. The Israelites committed genocide against the Canaanites, and later the Amalekites. The Roman Empire commuted genocide against the Helvetti, the Goths, and the Gauls by enslaving, raping, and murdering these unique tribes. Genghis Khan is estimated to have murdered hundreds of thousands in 13th Century Eurasia. In early French history, the Cather people were subjected to military persecution and religious inquisition. In early American history, European-Americans gave Native Americans blankets infected with small pox, herded them into camps and sometimes shot them, only because of the Native American religious beliefs and heritage (the Trail of Tears, for example).
In 20th Century history, the Armenian Genocide occurred between 1915 and 1918 by the Ottoman Empire. An estimated half million Armenians died by this time. After years of planning, Armenian civilians and community leaders were apprehended by the Turkish government, sent to prison in Anatolia, and then executed. Those not killed in prisons were often enslaved to work camps. These are not singular or unique events. Genocide occurs in current history in the Middle East and South Africa, although not on the same scale of imprisonment and death sentence, these are still military occupations that allow and often praise the murder of civilians based on their genetic history.
It would be argued that the Holocaust is a unique event because it was the very first time in modern history thatthe whole nation sought the purification of its race. Yet, from my assessment and prejudice, historical evidence shows that all genocides occur because of some reason, either to purify the race, gain the lands and holds, or just because one military power believes they are better than others are.
From a human history perspective, the act of the Holocaust is not unique, if viewed from a military action against a particular race or religion. However, it is the reaction of the Jewish and non-Jewish community that makes this event particularly unique. Traditionally dominated by historians and theologians, Holocaust and genocide studies have developed into an increasingly interdisciplinary enterprise, with significant contributions by social scientists. For example, no scholarly major called the “Armenian Genocide” exists, and yet the student can major in “Holocaust Studies.”
Another factor that makes the Holocaust unique is there are survivors who are given a voice in our modern world. In earlier human history, it can be assumed that the Canaanites and the Cather people had no voice; they were not able to influence communities across international borders. After the Holocaust, the survivors were able to communicate with others through verbal and written history. The influence of the international media and the ability of the survivors to describe the events, and raise the social consciousness of the event created a unique perspective that had not previously occurred in human history.
All of us find an easier human chemistry with some peoples than with others. There is an understandable but not necessarily healthy inclination for those holding roles to become collectors of sycophants and doppelgangers – peoples who are genial flatterers and who may look like us in appearance, history, and cultural heritage.
Modern controversy still surrounds the Holocaust, which again points to its uniqueness. Some argues that the Holocaust Memorial day should commemorate all genocide’s including the ones inflicted on the Muslims in Chechnya and Bosnia, not just the one perpetrated against the Jews. Certainly, all genocides should be memorialized, but the Jewish Holocaust is a unique crime against humanity and deserves to be remembered as such.
The crime itself is not unique; Hitler certainly broke no barriers by believing he was of a superior race. The biblical Israelites, Romans, and European-Americans herded entire cultures of people into prisons and executed them for their faiths and heritage. Genocide has occurred since recorded human history began. The Holocaust is unique because of the world reaction, and the survivors amazing ability to overcome the horrors placed upon them. The ability of the survivors to use the event to bring about a social consciousness, a paradigm of the behaviors that spawn persecution and influence international media is unique. Upon making these discoveries, all of my prejudicial assessments simply vanished.
 Read Jensen, Mette Bastholm, “The Problem of Genocide: Theoretical Accomplishments and Challenges Conference Papers – American Sociological Association”, Annual Meeting, San Francisco, 2004, p. 1
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