03 Feb 2010

Sample Essay: The Holocaust: The Voices Of The Silent

The Holocaust is the worst genocide in the history of mankind. The term drives its name from the Greek holokaustos. Its two Greek words explain its meaning: holos, meaning “whole,” and caustos, which means “burned.” Literally, holokaustos or holocaust means something which is entirely consumed by fire (Heitmeyer and Hagan 139). It was an era of terror and evil for the Jews in Europe as they faced an organized society aimed at eliminating their race from the earth. This paper will look into this historical event and see its effect to the  world of the 20th century.

A Way of Life

Europe before the Nazis was already saturated with discrimination against the Jewish people. Because of their strange ways practiced within their communities, Europeans found them unlikeable. But the Jews, prior to the rise of Nazism, were very influential people. It is frequently alleged that the Jews predominate in certain trades and professions, dominate central politics, the press and finance (Pulzer 3). At the turn of the 19th century, anti-Semitism increased among the communities where the Jews resided. For one reason or another, it seemed unacceptable for certain European groups that the Jews, being foreigners in the land, would dominate the economic and political scene. For most historians, anti-Semitism began among strong Catholic and Protestant communities in Europe. Since the sermons and writings of the early church fathers, the Jews were portrayed as destroyers of Christianity. In France, anti-Semite groups saw Jewish influence behind the dismantling of Christian social and family values during the Third Republic. In 1884, for instance, Alfred Naquer, a Jew, proposed a law governing divorce. This gave rise to more anti-Jewish sentiments. In 1907, the future Prime Minister Léon Blum, a Jew himself, published a book entitled Du Mariage wherein he seemingly espoused premarital sex. Commenting on Blum, rabid anti-Semite Louis Massoutié claimed that the book advocated that younger females should seek older and experienced male lovers for premarital sexual exposure to ensure a better marriage (qtd. in Brustein 61). Moreover, the French Catholic Church declined in its influence over educational matters in the country during the second half of the 19th century. With the introduction of the Ferry Laws, the legislation strove to remove church control over public education. In the eyes of the French Roman Catholics, the Jewish Paul Grunebaum-Ballin, member of the French council and spokesperson for the church-state separation law, was most influential in the process (Brustein). In Germany, the Christian community was not immune from the anti-Semitic ideology. Brustein wrote that there were popular imageries of Jews as “deniers of Christ, pariahs and a demonic people, perpetrators of ritual murder, and agents of the Anti-Christ.” The Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, turned against the Jews by preaching that in thei opposition to the gospel they accumulated an irredeemable corruption (63). The German Catholic Church was an additional source of anti-Semitic uprising. Four ministers sat in the German legislative assembly as anti-Semites: Burckhardt, Iskraut, Mumm, and Krösell. Another, Schall, was a member of the Prussian Diet. Their influence created anti-Semitism in German politics (Pulzer 220). Hence, by the time the Nazis took power in 1929, the stage was set for the worst form of racial discrimination in history to unfold.  Most believed that the German Jews were the cause for the German defeat in World War 1. During the post-war events, Jews radicals were highly visible in revolutions in Bolshevik Russia, Budapest, Munich and Berlin. Anti-Semites quickly stressed to the German public that Jews were Bolsheviks and anti-nationalists, whose influence would lead to the destruction of Germany’s superiority in Europe (Mosse 68). When the Nazi Party came to power, Hitler promised to finally resolve this “Jewish problem.” Hitler was critical of the earlier Anti-Semitic ideals in Europe, especially the Christian Social movement, for not properly understanding the “Jewish danger” as racial rather than religious. This, for Hitler, was a “sham” because it provided the Jews an escape. So in his Mein Kampf, he explained that race is the most important principle in human life. He argued that from the beginning, history was a story of conflict between the Aryans and the Jews. Since civilizations rise and fall depending on how they preserve their dominant race, Hitler’s “resurrected” Germany depends on the clearest knowledge of their racial problem and, of course, the Jewish problem. Hitler argued that the “Aryan” race, were by nature “chosen to rule the world.” The Germans, as well as the Austrians, were part of this pure race which needs to be safeguarded for the sake of human civilization as a whole. Hence, they have “the task, not only of assembling and preserving the most valuable stock s of basic racial elements, but slowly and surely raising them to a dominant position” (qtd. in Altshuler and Dawidowicz 16). The only hindrance to his plan was the Jew. Hitler regarded them as the exact opposite of the Aryan race. If the Aryans were pure, the Jews were evil. He espoused that the Jews were contaminating the Aryan race and destroying Germany’s economic life. Hitler saw himself as the Messiah who would save all people from the Jews and the Devil. Hence, with his supremacist racial ideology, Hitler has one final solution to Germany’s problems: eliminate the Jews.

When he finally came to power, with the unanimous support of anti-Semitic groups, Hitler began his plans against the Jewish race. Following Hitler’s lead, top Nazi officials like Himmler and Heydrich, publicly declared the Jews as “enemies of the state.” On January 20, 1942, high-ranking Nazi officials met in the Wannsee Conference and laid down the plan to achieve the “final solution” against the Jews. This culminated in the formation of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing units whose assignment is to kill all Jews residing in territories that have just been conquered. And the genocide began. Millions of innocent Jews, men, women and children, were forced to concentration camps where they were treated in unimaginable tortures. The first in line were the 3 million Polish Jews. Code named “Operation Reinhard” the gassing of Jews was conducted at three camps from March through July 1942: 750,000 to 950, 000 at Treblinka, 500,000 to 600,000 at Belzec, and about 200,000 at Sobibor (Totten et al 321). The term “genocide” fitted this event. The German Nazis systematically murdered innocent Jews in the effort to eradicate the Jewish race from the face of the earth.

When the Whole Town Cried

Following the order of Heydich to eliminate the Jews in Europe, Nazi-appointed council of elders were made responsible for forcing their people into the ghettos. Although Nazi propaganda attempted to portray to the outside world that the imposed ghettos and Jewish councils were a return to the former Jewish autonomy during the Middle Ages, the Nazi ghettos had a different agenda. From small towns and villages, Jews were sent by train into designated areas. The Jews were separated from the non-Jewish population first by barbed wire and walls impregnated with shards of glass. Families in ghettos were packed in small living rooms. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced to live in an area of few blocks. They were basically cut off from all sources of livelihood; their food depended on food rations given by the Germans (Trunk et al 9-10). The Jewish Ghettos were a dangerous place to live. During the first years, the most prevalent threat to life was starvation. One report quoted:

Men fought over raw potatoes, and mothers traded away all their possessions in vain attempts to feed their children. Nazi allowances left each man, woman, and child with a monthly diet of 2 pounds of bread, 9 ounces of sugar, 3.5 ounces of jam, and 1.75 ounces of fat. Meat and cheese were extremely rare, and extremely valuable. (Jewish Ghettos)

Inside these ghettos the Jews were treated as a lesser human species. It was so degrading for their community. Survivors of the Holocaust would not even dare to talk of their experiences. Professor Ludwik Hirszfeld, a former ghetto prisoner recalled:

The streets are so over-populated, it is difficult to push one’s way through…There          are always countless children inside the ghetto… Not all the German guards are         murderers and executioners, but unfortunately, many of them do not hesitate to take up their guns and fire at the children. Every day-it is almost unbelievable-children are taken to hospital with gunshot wounds. (Jewish Ghettos)

Polish historian, Emanuel Ringelblum, kept a diary of his observations in a Warsaw ghetto. On February 28, 1941, he wrote:

Almost daily people are falling dead or unconscious in the middle of the street. It no longer makes so direct an impression. [The streets] are forever full of newly arrived refugees. [There was a] terrible case of a three-year-old refugee child. [On their way to Warsaw] the guard threw the child into the snow. Its mother jumped off the wagon and tried to save the child. The guard threatened her with a revolver. The mother insisted that life was worthless for her without her child. Then the guard threatened to shoot all the Jews in the wagon. The mother arrived in Warsaw, and here went out of her mind. (Jewish Ghettos)

Countless other stories of survival were documented and published by Jewish survivors. All had one similarity: ghettos were hell on earth.

Living a Life of Fear

The Jews lived through the whole world war in a state of fear. Those who were not sent to the ghettos spent most of their time hiding. Because of anti-Semitic sentiments prevailing in Europe, it was difficult to trust anyone; for fear that their hiding place would be reported to the authorities. During the Holocaust, Jewish parents would send their children into other countries or into hiding hoping that they would have a chance at life. Those who were not able to leave the country were disguised as non-Jews. Esther Kustanowitz wrote that blue-eyed children were able to “pass” as Aryans. Those disguised as Catholic orphans were routinely quizzed by their rescuers on Christian observance and prayers. Somehow, it was hard difficult for Jewish boys to conceal their identity since, unlike non-Jewish males, they were circumcised. Often, people who hid them were too frightened even to provide them food, because if they we found out they too would go to the ghettos. While the Polish Jews were being put to death in concentration camps, the Nazi program of deporting Jews from other parts of Europe was put in motion. Roundups were conducted and millions of the remaining Jews in ghettos around Europe were sent by train to the killing centers in Poland. Under the leadership of Adolf Eichmann, this was the ultimate step in completing the “final solution” to the Jewish problem. Hitler authorized doctors to participate in murdering their incurable patients. The operation, called T-4 program, Nazis gassed its victims with different gases in rooms camouflaged as shower chambers (Fischel 50-68). Other forms of torture were utilized against the Jews. Despite protest from other European countries, the Nazi genocide almost eliminated the Jewish race from Europe.

Liberation

When the Axis powers were steadily defeated by the Allies, free countries in Europe conducted rescue operations to evacuate the Jews from concentration camps. Under British, French and American leadership, approximately 250,000 Jewish survivors made their way to evacuation camps operated by the Allies in Germany, Austria, and Italy. By 1945, German soldiers were outnumbered. Early that year, the devastated German military ended up recruiting 15 year school boys and old men to fight in the war against the Allies. On April 30 the Russians occupied Berlin; Adolf Hitler committed suicide in an underground bunker in the city. On May 7, the Germans surrendered to the Allied forces. The following day, millions of people in Allied countries celebrated the Victory in Europe Day (Schomp 63). While the victory in Europe was only half of the war, for the Jews it was a liberating moment. At last, the organized society programmed to eliminate them was destroyed.

Aftermath

After the war, where to locate the surviving Jews was an international concern. With their European communities destroyed, they ended up without property and country. So under pressure from Jewish refugees and public opinion, the United Nations underwent meetings to resolve the Jewish-Arab conflicts in Palestine. And in May 1948, the Jewish State was established. Other Jews who decided to stay in Europe or in the United States strove to rebuild their broken lives; survivors married one another, and new Jewish families spawned across the world. The urge to live was strongly asserted among the young population; new marriages were reported to be held every day. Slowly, the Holocaust years were left behind and survivors moved forward again with fervor (Hass 119-120). The Holocaust event contributed to the force of anti-racism around the world. Solomos and Back wrote:

…the experience of Nazism and the holocaust provided an important point of reference for the articulation of anti-racist perspectives in the period after the Second World War… in the context of Germany… the renewed activities of extreme nationalist and racist movements have given rise to an ongoing debate about the dangers of a resurgence of racism and fascism in German society. (Solomos and Back 105)

After the war, properties seized by the Germans were returned to the surviving Jews or to their heirs. The funds were able to help the Jews back on their feet, although it was not sufficient to repay to evils done by the Nazis to the Jewish race.

From the Holocaust, human society learned how a simple ideology of racial supremacy can lead to the worst evils possible. While human society should move forward, we should not forget the Holocaust nor alter its records. It should serve as a constant reminder that racial discrimination should have no place in society. It is an eternal reminder that we human beings are all equal sharers of life on earth.

Works Cited

Altshuler, David A. and Lucy S. Dawidowicz. Hitler’s war against the Jews. NJ: Behrman         House Publishers,1978

Brustein, William I. Roots of Hate: Anti-Semitism in Europe Before the Holocaust. NY:            Cambridge University Press, 2003

Fischel, Jack. The Holocaust. CA: Greenwood Press, 1998

Hass, Aaron. The Aftermath: Living with the Holocaust. UK: Cambridge University Press,        1996

Heitmeyer, Wilhelm and John Hagan. International handbook of violence research. USA:          Springer, 2003

“Jewish Ghettos.” N.d. April 29. 2009 <http://library.thinkquest.org/12307/ghettos.html>

Kustanowitz, Esther. The Hidden Children of the Holocaust: Teens Who Hid from the Nazis.   NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 1999

Mosse, George L. German Jews Beyond Judaism. OH: Hebrew Union College Press, 1997

Pulzer, Peter G.J. The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, Revised Edition. MA: Harvard University Press, 1988

Rossel, Seymour and David A. Altshuler. The Holocaust: The World and the Jews, 1933- 1945. NJ: Behrman House Publishers, 1992

Schomp, Virginia. World War 2. NY: Benchmark Books, 2003

Solomos,John and Les Back. Racism and Society. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996

Totten, Samuel, Paul Robert Bartrop, and Steven L. Jacobs. Dictionary of Genocide. CA:          Greenwood Press, 2008

Trunk, Isaiah, Robert Moses Shapiro, and Israel Gutman. Lodz Ghetto: A History. IN:   Indiana University Press, 2006

14 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: Problem Of Contemporary Social Order In Kenya

Sociological theories are complex theoretical settings that sociologists use to explain and analyze how various social structures in a given society or setting work. Sociological theories are based on certain basic core assumptions, or basic Metaphysical, epistemological and moral premises, about the nature of the social world. Basic assumptions include positivism and antipositivism, materialism and idealism and freewill and individualism.

A  development and the current state of development of a given society. Distinctions used about contemporary societies in sociological theory in most developing countries include broad historical trends such as industrialization, urbanization, underdevelopment and the network society.

Social orders are relatively stable systems of institutions, patterns of interactions and customs, capable of continually reproducing at least those conditions essential for its own existence. The concept refers to all those facts of society which remain relatively constant over time. These conditions could include property, exchange and power relations, and also cultural forms, communication relations and ideological systems of values.

According to the United Nations Kenya falls under the list of developing countries, with a GDP of US$43.9 and a population growth rate of 2.6 (Courtesy of the kenyaGazzette). Due to the disparity existing between the population growth and increase in GDP, 75% of Kenya’s population live below the poverty line where social amenities like good housing, water and electricity which are supposed to be basic needs are not easily accessible to everyone.

The land issue

Land is increasingly becoming a source of conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa, where land access had traditionally been characterized as relatively egalitarian.The land issue in Kenya has become an important factor in the structuring of social orders in Kenya. Some underlying factors, such as population pressure agricultural commercialization, and urbanization, have contributed to the increasing number of land conflicts, and the current land tenure systems in Kenya inherited from the British colonialists may not be well-equipped to resolve such conflicts . In many African Countries, formal institutions for land administration were often simply superimposed on traditional structures without a clear delineation of responsibilities and Competencies, implying that they lack both outreach and social legitimacy (Deininger, 2003)

In Kenya sampled households are worried about future land conflicts on 9.3 percent of all parcels and have pending conflicts on 4.3 percent of their parcels. They have resolved conflicts on 8.1 percent of the parcels in the past. There are some differences in land conflicts across provinces. In Nyanza, land conflicts do not appear to be a prevailing problem, while in a nearby province, Western Province, households have more pending conflicts than in any other provinces. This difference seems to be driven partly by the small land size, which is just 1.1 hectare per household, in Western province.

Unlike Western Province, the average land size in Rift Valley Province is large at 2.6 hectare per household, the largest across the provinces. Yet, households are still worried about future conflicts and have pending conflicts. This could be partly due to the high land productivity and partly to the mix of ethnic groups in Rift Valley Province. In Rift Valley Province, people from different ethnic groups have purchased land from white farmers since independence.

Rise of vigilante groups

These land conflicts have led to the rise of Militia groups based on ethnic origin like the Sabaot Land Defense Force in the Mount Elgon region that was formed with the assumption of ensuring that all the land owners from other communities should return back the land they own in that area. This social order of the Militia arose as a result of conflict between the rich land owners from other communities and the poor locals who felt short change. This cases of militias being formed presumably because of land issues are duplicated in other regions of Kenya like the Kuria region in Nyanza province where there is a militia group called the “SunguSungu”

The proportion conflicts are very high at 8.7 percent if the land titles belong to the deceased husbands. This suggests that widows are experiencing pending conflicts with the deceased husbands’ relatives. The prevailing practice after the death of a husband in Kenya is for the wife of the deceased husband to hold land in trust for her male children because customary laws rarely allow widows to legally inherit land . In some cases, widows are often threatened to leave their land, which belongs to their husbands’ ancestral land, especially when they have no children or refuse to marry one of their husbands’ brothers . This shows how issues of land conflicts can lead to feminism where the widow is not allowed to inherit the land of her deceased husband.

Order does not necessarily need to be controlled by government as Individuals pursuing self-interest can make  systems which are predictable .These systems, being planned by more than one person, may actually be preferable to those planned by a single person. This means that predictability may be easily to achieved without central government’s control. These  expectations do not necessarily lead to individuals behaving in ways that are considered beneficial to group welfare. When all individuals pursue their own preferences, the outcome is segregation rather than integration,” as stated in “Theories of Social Order,” edited by Michael Hechter and Christine Horne. The unregulated interaction of rational selfishness leads to  unwanted outcome. Developing out of indigenous organization like and Saboat Land Defense Force and “sungusungu” Kenya arose initially to provide a means of controlling theft, particularly cattle raiding. Operating with the sanction of the district administration, local norms of crime, trial and punishment were developed, distinct from those embodied in the national penal code. Guarding their independence, groups have kept their distance from the police and judiciary to avoid the systemic corruption of those institutions. In distancing themselves from the more corrupt aspects of the state, and acting against it within their areas of operation, these groups have had far-reaching effects on local security, to the extent that their success holds out possibilities for them to extend their activities into other spheres like tax collections to pay for the security services they offer and severe punishment for those who refuse to pay. This groups command a lot of power and respect and having no set up regulatory body to control their actions they have been recently linked with human abuses such as rape and use of excessive and force and even sometimes illegal executions. Recently the Kenyan government outlawed this groups a step that has not gone well with the groups who have heightened their activities and made them even more secretive.

A total collapse in the Kenyan social order was witnessed after the disputed 2007 general election where the  police were forced to seal Nairobi and break up protests with water cannons and baton charges barring supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga from holding a planned rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. Odinga made his own accusations of “genocide” against supporters of President Mwai Kibaki. The Kenya Attorney General Amos Wako called for an independent investigation into the contested vote. (Metro Nairobi Jan. 3) Three people were reported dead, a church and two petrol stations set ablaze, and five cars torched. (Metro Nairobi, Jan. 3) Reuters reports from the metropolitan, impoverished Nairobi district of Mathare which residents have renamed “Kosovo”-violently contested by Kikuyu gangs such as the Mungiki and a Luo militia calling itself the “Taliban.”

Police also violently dispersed a planned protest in Kisumu, hurling tear gas and firing shots in the air. Among those arrested were two MPs-elect.  In an editorial entitled “Save Our Beloved Country,” Nairobi’s The Standard which is a local newspaper issued a call for immediate unconditional talks between Odinga and Kibaki.

The principle of dependence which has an important role on social order as a whole. States that the more dependent a person is on a group, the more likely they are to conform to group. This means that if a group means a lot to a person, they will be more likely to do what it is that the group wants them to.

This was clearly evident when supporters of both Raila and Kibaki went on rampage in support of their political party. These political parties were very important to their supporters, and they were likely to conform to the group’s norms, such as looting, confronting the police and committing crime as a way of airing out their grievances in order to gain the groups trust and respect. In this case, the status that the group gives a person is more important.

Conclusion

There are currently two different theories that explain and attempt to account for social order. The first theory is “order results from a large number of independent decisions to transfer individual rights and liberties to a coercive state in return for its guarantee of security for persons and their property, as well as its establishment of mechanisms to resolve disputes.” as stated in Theories of Social Order by Hechter and Horne. The next theory is that “the ultimate source of social order as residing not in external controls but in a concordance of specific values and norms that individuals somehow have managed to internalize.” also stated in Theories of Social Order by Hechter and Horne. Both the arguments for how social order is attained are very different. One argues that it is achieved through outside influence and control and the other argues that it can only be attained when the individual willingly follows norms and values that they have grown accustomed to and internalized.

References

Cotula, Toulmin, and Hesse, 2004 Land conflicts in Kenya. Boston:Mcgraw publishers.

Hechter, M. and Horne, C. 2003. Theories of Social Order.Newyork:Routlege.

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