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January 30, 2009

When Tales are True: An Exploration of Sara Nomberg-Przytyk's _Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land_

Image Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/uncpress/pics/jackets/n/nomberg_auschwitz.jpg

Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara. Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land. Chapel Hill, NC: U of NC Press, 1986. ISBN: 0807841609 or 9780807841600. [Topic: Memory of Concentration Camps; Genre: Memoir]

ENG 340 Students:

Below you will find . . .

. . . some of the reading-check and discussion questions (designed by one of your fellow-students) used in our previous class meeting. Please enter both your response to the reading of this text AND (later) your own three feedback remarks to three of your fellow students' initial responses in the comment box below.

I have enjoyed your active participation in class thus far. Let's please keep this level of discussion going in our future meetings.

See you at our next meeting,

Dr. Hobbs

Reading-Check and Discussion Questions by Erin K.


1.     In the beginning of the book, what is the first thing Sara says that she misses?

2.     Where did new Jewish prisoners go when they went to Auschwitz ("on the block of the Jewish…")?

3.     Why doesn't Sara commit suicide in Auschwitz?

4.     What does blocksperre mean?

5.     When Sara has the encounter with the rats, what does one girl tell her?

6.     Why didn't Sara judge Orli?

7.     According to Orli, how do you "handle a matter…in Auschwitz…"?

8.     Why did Orli read a letter to the prisoners?

9.     How did Taube "[make] a criminal of [Cyla]"?

10.  Which family member did Cyla send to the gas chambers?

11.  What did the Germans do to the komando of the crematorium every few months?

12.  Where were Marie and Odette from?

13.  Why does Esther think Mengele will let her baby live?

14.  What three words does Sara mention in the beginning of the section "Old Words—New Meanings"?

15.  What political stance did Sara take?

16.  "The fight had not ended. A fight takes time” (161). What do you think those last two sentences of Sara's story mean?

17.  Why, in your opinion, does Esther insist on carrying the baby? Does she REALLY think it can be saved?

18.  Why did Mengele keep the Gypsy boy around? Why did he push him into the gas chambers? Did he ever really care for the Gypsy boy?

19.  Why did the Germans take interest in the midgets?

20.  Do you really believe Orli's way (of beating up fellow inmates) is the only way to survive in Auschwitz?




Addendum 6 February 2009

Your grades for "Formal, Analytical Reading Response AND Feedback Package #2 --Nomberg-Prztyk" (see Syllabus) will be posted AFTER your three fellow-student feedback remarks have been posted.


To see other English-Blog entries on the subject of Holocaust Studies, please click HERE

Posted by lhobbs at January 30, 2009 11:34 PM

Readers' Comments:

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
3 February 2009
Reaction: Nomberg-Przytyk
While reading this text I was unsure of how to approach my reaction paper. However, on page 13 in “New Arrivals” the idea jumped out of the page as if this is the question that the book attempts to answer: “Why are you hitting me? I am a human being” (Nomberg-Przytyk 13). This statement lead me to the question of: What does it mean to be a human being during the Holocaust? And what does humanity mean? To try and answer the question I paid attention to word choice, phrasing, imagery, and events.
In the section “New Arrivals” the author uses the word “human” multiple times, three to be exact. The word is used in different contexts such as humanity or human dignity but it is still mentioned which represents the importance of the word in relationship to the topic. Nomberg-Przytyk consciously uses the word to get readers thinking about the humanity of the prisoners. According to the SS the women are only “stinking, hungry, battered outcast” but that does not take away their humanity (13). On the following page the women in the camp are referred to as many things such as sheep, idiots, objects, numbers, and victims and they “ceased to exist as thinking feeling entities” (14). This is the goal of the SS to break down the prisoners until they are merely objects and their life does not matter.
However, as the text goes on the word choice begins to change. The word “women” is appearing more and more often where in the matter one paragraph the prisoners are referred to as women three times. The word “friends” also begins to appear. This signals a transition in the mindset of the women. Only they can decide how much humanity they posses, not the SS. Together they form bonds that help them through their hardships. This can be seen in the section “Esther’s First Born”. Esther believed in herself as a human being so greatly that she was proud to bear a son for her and her husband. The SS could not take that gift of life away from her.

Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara. Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land. Trans. Roslyn Hirsch.
Eds. Eli Pfefferkorn and David H. Hirsch. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1985.

Posted by: Sarah T. at February 2, 2009 08:00 PM

Jessica Pall
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 340

Reflections on Auschwitz

Often in stories, goodness is masked with a face of beauty. In contrast, evil is represented by the sinister, repulsive characters. This fairytale portrayal of good and evil is commonly acknowledged and hoped to be truth in reality. However, is this commonplace portrayal true in real life or is it reserved solely for fiction. In True Tales from a Grotesque Land, Auschwitz, Sara Nomberg retails the horrors she experienced at the concentration camp during WWII. From this book, readers find that in Auschwitz, beauty becomes a mask for evil. Is beauty then just a mask that covers up both evil and good?

On page 31 of Auschwitz, readers learn about the laufers. These were the courtiers of the camp who delivered all the reports and orders from the administrative office to the blocks. The Germans picked the young beautiful girls for these positions, dressing them in uniformed sports outfits with white collars that had the word “lauferka” monogrammed on their sleeves. It seems unethical to pick the young, beautiful, innocent girls to be a part of the atrocities that took place in the camp. How one action be singled out unethical when everything that went on in the camp was corrupt? Although readers understand that everything was absolutely horrible, their emotional appeal is more greatly affected when innocent youth are involved.

Another example of beauty masking evil in Auschwitz is on page 33. Here, Sara recounts the story of the beautiful Cyla, a girl of 18 who was the youngest of the Slovak Jews. Looking like an angel, Cyla came to Auschwitz as an ordinary, innocent girl. However, after becoming a Blokowa (block of death), she “has the heart of a criminal capable of committing murder” (33). When Sara saw her, she commented that Cyla “looked so elegant, so scrubbed, and smelled good” (33). However, every prisoner feared this young beautiful girl, who sat and condemned hundreds of people to death.

It was disturbing to understand that many of the atrocities committed at Auschwitz were carried out by the prisoners. The Germans handed off the dirty work to those who wanted to save their lives. What made it even more disturbing was the fact that they picked the young, beautiful girls to destroy the lives of thousands of people. After reading Auschwitz, readers are reminded that reality is not a fairytale, though people want to believe this is true.

Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara. True Tales from a Grotesque Land Auschwitz. Trans. Roslyn Hirsch. Ed. Eli Pfefferkorn and David H. Hirsch. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press. 1985.

Posted by: Jessica Pall at February 3, 2009 11:52 AM

Emily Belvo
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 340
February 3, 2009
Reviewing over Sara Nomberg-Przytyk’s “Auschwitz: True Tales from
a Grotesque Land”
It is typical for an audience reading a book about the Holocaust to feel emotions never once meet or understood. Most themes in which these particular narratives offer are isolation, animalistic natures to survive, and dehumanization of the people surrounded by and also felt by the narrator. However, although these themes are met in Sara Nomberg-Przytyk’s collection of stories in “Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land”, I believe she creates a different atmosphere for these themes. She overcomes most of these events, due to her lucky anti-fascism political regime before her time at Auschwitz. With many activists in this camp, she is able to stay away from being part of random selections. However, with her position at Auschwitz as a clerk in the infirmary, she is shown the very evils that were condemned on her own people in which she has escaped from.
Although not completely safe, but safer away from death than others, she has her own Hell to deal with due to her lucky nature for having grown friendly contacts and escaping her own death. It is interesting how in every chapter, she personalizes every character she met, giving them their chance to tell their tales of Auschwitz, as maybe they would not be alive long enough to tell the world themselves. Getting a different perspective from a Polish Jew, as Nomberg was, is interesting in itself as she was first the bottom of the ladder at Auschwitz, but later on in the tale, has a little more authority. Her tales of the evil Mengele and his disgusting approach to his “victims” was something that haunted me in this tale. Such irony. The man who was supposed to take care of the sick is the ringleader for his patients’ inevitable death. The different prospective that the women Nomberg worked with are interesting as well. Some are hard to define their personalities; others are much easier to write about.
I find it interesting that the whole time, although life was miserable, the fight for survival was important for everyone. I really enjoyed the chapter on how she described the different descriptions on how life was viewed at the camp. Nomberg was right in showing that with these different prospective it showed what type of personality this one character had. However, the sad ending to Nomberg’s tale got me the most. Now that she was free, she was not happy, but filled with sadness. She had no where to go and no one to meet. She was completely alone. She believed that her home country would give her happiness, but on the train back, things had changed there as well. More fighting was going on, more importantly, about the communists. Nomberg was a communist and with her home country fighting against what she believed in, what made her want to survive, made it seem like Nomberg had nothing to live for anymore. Nomberg’s stories where filled with a lot of emotion and heart. Her story is told and will be remembered, in my point of view, forever.

Posted by: Emily Belvo at February 3, 2009 01:08 PM

Erin Kollar


Holocaust Class

2 February 2009

Response to Auschwitz

I found Sara's story different from the first book. In the other book, the narrators had given up on themselves and humanity, but Sara still retained some dignity. Any inhumane acts were done by people she was describing. She had grown used to the camp by her being able to walk over a dead body without any problems. Sara is kind, but not naïve. Esther has a baby and people try to tell her not to have the baby, but she believes she'll be able to keep her baby. Sara knows how things work around camp and to not let yourself be fooled. One major time she was fooled was in the beginning of the book where she's being taken to Auschwitz.

People around her show kindness to her. Such as when she finds a friend and her friend helps her out (makes it so Sara doesn't get gassed). I liked how, in a few chapters, Sara goes over stories from different people about Orli. In some of the stories Orli was shown to be a monster and, in others, she was shown to be a decent person. Sara doesn't pass judgment on Orli and leaves it up to the reader to figure that problem out. On one hand I can see that Orli is being harsh because she has to be, but if she wasn't as harsh she might still be alive but not in any position of power. She ends up helping to kill people that believe in what she does.

Esther's case is a good one. While the want of having a baby can be strong, she is too blinded by what she wants to be to see what actually is occurring. It begs the question if many prisoners thought that they were exceptions to the rule. Esther's case for the baby is that it had a beautiful dad and therefore it would be beautiful. This is the sexy-son hypothesis. But why Mengele would care about that, as he isn't the father, shows Esther to be naïve.

Sara shows strength in surviving and is shown that she'll keep being strong even though she's been to Auschwitz.

Posted by: Erin Kollar at February 3, 2009 01:19 PM

Jamison Whitney
Dr. Burgsbee Hobbs
English 340
February 2, 2009
“Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land”

The novel Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land is a compilation of short scenes which document the experience of the Sara Nomberg-Przytyk as a Jew in Nazi captivity during the early 1940s. Nomberg begins the narrative with a chapter about the last camp she was held at before being transferred to Auschwitz. The first chapter, Alienation, enlightens the reader to the isolation of the Jewish prisoners in concentration camps from the other inmates. Following this short lead-in, Nomberg and the other Jewish inmates on her block are transferred to the infamous death camp via a deceptively comfortable train. Once at the camp, the women are subjected to the harsh and grotesque punishments and conditions for which Auschwitz is known.
As the story progresses Nomberg finds herself at the level of Zugang, the lowest rung of the inmate ladder. Zugang receive the most brutal treatment, including frequent beatings, and are most often selected for the gas chamber. Their overlords were mostly prisoners themselves, who inflict brutal suffering on the other prisoners to avoid the same fate. Nomberg describes these plights until around the time of the first selection when a friend named Sonia from her days in the anti-fascism movement in Bialystok. Nomberg’s fears of a death by gas, a fear which has lead to her preparing a rope for a suicide attempt, is assuaged by Sonia, who tells her that their movement has survived in Auschwitz. When the line of prisoners form Nomberg’s block are lined up to be viewed by Mengele a woman named Eva appears and leads her through the Kapo lines and to safety on the other side.
The novel continues telling the saga of Nomberg’s time in Auschwitz and in the Jewish infirmary through the trademark short chapters. Each chapter deals with one story, either relating one event or delves into one character; the short length emphasizes the event. The stories told by Nomberg are used to facilitate the reader’s understanding of her experience at Auschwitz. The stories reinforce Auschwitz’s reputation for brutal treatment and deranged experiments while also examining the psychological effects that the camp has on its inmates.
The thread of continuity is maintained by Nomberg’s narration. She is the observer of these atrocities. Over time her attitude toward the camp changes from horrified ignorance to disgusted fear. Through her reactions the reader is able to witness the camp as only the inmates could understand it. The camp, to them, was like walking on a tight rope. Constantly in fear for their lives they strived to keep themselves in the small area of function which will keep them alive.

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at February 3, 2009 01:28 PM

Joseph La Mendola
Dr. Hobbs
Response to Auschwitz
I dislike expressing the same opinion over a series of semi-related books; however, True Tales from a Grotesque Land arouses the same feelings as This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman. This book goes into greater detail on the experiments and procedures the “Doctors” used when treating the women or the unusual members of the camps. The story that stuck out most to me was The Extermination of the Midgets. This story shows the brutality of human kind just because someone is “Not made in ‘God’s image’” (89).
It is hard to say what Dr. Mengele’s motivation is other than what is said, that he loved to put people on display for their disabilities or deformities, just to humiliate them before he killed them. They, like the rest of the prisoners in the camps, were treated as though they were less than human.
My response to this book is that the majority of the story told is about the terror instilled in the prisoners by Mengele and his sadistic trials on human subjects. Then again, from reading the book it would be more torture than trials. I realize the minimalistic nature of this paper, however, after Borowski’s book this is along the same line as his, merely from a woman’s point of view with details on different aspects of life in the camps.

Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara. Auschwitz : True Tales from a Grotesque Land. Ed. Eli Pfefferkorn and David Hirsch. New York: University of North Carolina P, 1986.

Posted by: Joe at February 3, 2009 03:02 PM

Auschwitz is told from a woman’s perspective about being in a concentration camp. She talks about the camps, the hotels the women working and prostitutes. The author talks about how hard it was to be a woman and living in the camps, how they had to work and the separation between women, their children and families. The women had to work for the men in the camps, clean clothes and then were sent to death.
The author talks from first hand experiences as well as things that she saw happen to other women who were in the camps and how she was affected by them. By watching how they would teach and torture others is how she would learn what to do and what not do and how to properly act under their rule and order.

Posted by: Renee Forero at February 3, 2009 03:04 PM

Lori Perreault
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
04 February 2009
The Horror of Auschwitz
This book gave me nightmares. I cannot be anymore honest. I enjoyed the book, and it was well written, but the subject matter was gruesome at times. Maybe the thought of a doctor killing healthy newborns to, “save the mother” was a little too much for me. (69) Although not all sections of the book were equally disturbing, it still shook me to the core. The story “The extermination of Midgets” was equally disturbing. How they were taken in and protected just to be Dr. Mengele’s muse for a day or two. (91) The suffering of children was too much for me to bear, and furthermore that this is just one instance in time which children were “protected” yet died vile deaths is beyond my realm of understanding. It sickens me to think of someone mistreating an animal, let alone a human.
The question of whether Orli was a good person is not for anyone of us to decide. A persons’ worth or moral value cannot nor should not be judged by any one human. Even though Sara had seen her many times and been in many situations with her she could not even come to a true conclusion or her. (42) Even if she did, I do not think that it would be fair for any one of us to decide, because we were not there. It seems that Sara debates on moral situations a couple times, another situation was when Mrs. Helena her story about Dr. Mengele and how he killed one hundred and fifty-six women. After her story no one spoke when she asked for an opinion on if she should have told them what was going to happen or not. (113) Every one is different and has different capabilities and mentalities and I think that is the moral or this story.
The thing that I enjoyed most about Sara’s journey was the brief moments of providence which she encountered first on the walk out of Auschwitz, and then again when she was on the train. (129 and 133) These moments were beautiful and almost too perfect to be true. They show the true domesticated spirit of humans, not the animalistic side which had been nurtured in camp life.
This book at first made me uncomfortable, thinking about the children screaming “Mama” in the fire disturbed me in a way I cannot vocalize. (81) Whereas the providence of receiving the blanket from nothing touches me in the most beautiful way. These are two sides which seem to be prominent in her writing too.

Works Cited
Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara. Auschwitz : True Tales from a Grotesque Land. Ed. Eli Pfefferkorn and David Hirsch. New York: University of North Carolina P, 1986.

Posted by: Lori Perreault at February 3, 2009 03:06 PM

Monefa Furlongue
February 3, 2009
Professor Hobbs
Eng 340
The book Auschwitz by Sara Nomberg- Przytyk was an emotional book. The way she depicted her story was very vivid. I felt as if I was witnessing all that was going on with my own eyes. The way she describe the things that she saw and the way the other prisoners acted made me know that I would not have been able to survive something like that. She wrote of these horrible memories as if she were living through that tragic time period again.
While reading this book I thought of Borowski’s book because some of the details were the same, yet some were different. In a section in This Way for the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen the character in the book is writing about being at Auschwitz and he is basically saying how the people who were there had so much pride and did not seem to be bothered by the fact that they were there. And that they looked down upon him and the other men that were with him because their numbers were so high, and that they came from another camp which many considered to be horrible. Nomberg-Przytyk touches on this same topic. When she first arrives she mentions how some people took pride in being there. After she had been there for awhile she realized that the people were not happy or had to be there so to speak but happy and prideful because they were alive.
Many people compare what happened to the Jewish people in Europe to slavery and what happened to the Africans. Yes, the two were horrific, but what happened to the people in Europe was more devastating then what occurred in the states with the Africans. The people in the United States did not try to wipe out the African race. They just wanted to use them to do all of their work for them. And they did not have to do cruel things to survive. While the Jewish people were forced to assist with the massacre of so many of their people just to be able to stay alive a little while longer until the Germans found reason to kill them. While the two are similar their differences show that the Holocaust was more horrific then that of slavery.

Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara Auschwitz, Eli Pfefferkorn 1985, The University of North Carolina Press

Posted by: Monefa Furlongue at February 3, 2009 03:11 PM

From Dr. Hobbs:

Ok students, these look decent (all-in-all) but remember: HALF of the assignment package is your feedback remarks to three other student's reading-responses that you chose from the sign-up sheet in class. If you don't provide the feedback on the English-blog comment box, then you have skipped half of the assignment so you only receive half of the available points (maximum points: 100). See the syllabus if you don't understand. The feedback portion of the package should be the EASIEST part of the assignment.

Rule of thumb: Choose three different fellow-students to comment on than you did last time. In other words, don't remark/provide feedback on the same three students as you did for response before this one.

~Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at February 6, 2009 12:38 PM

Jennifer Merrigan
February 3, 2009
ENG 340

Reading Response

Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land is a collection of stories written by Sara Nomberg-Przytyk. These stories were claimed to have been written during the year she spent at the Auschwitz concentration camp between January 1944 and January 1945. The stories are recollections of the incredible brutality and callousness on the part of the Germans, the self-interest among the inmates, touching romances, incredible escapes, and mass exterminations. Some of the stories are told from the first person, while others are in the third person. I think that the most memorable story I read was the brutal experiments practiced by the doctor. To think that a man is capable of such grotesque acts to another human being is simply beyond words. I found this collection much more stimulating that This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman simply because I feel it portrayed the relationships, both bad and good, between the inmates and the Germans much more effectively than Borowski.
I was researching this book, however, and there seems to be a lot of controversy about whether all of these stories were “true tales.” Some of the stories seem so far fetched, and not to mention that nobody else has records of it, that some people think that Sara Nomber-Przytyk might have been stretching the truth in some of these tales. I didn’t see the need to research this further because it would make me lose my interest in the book, but I am definitely thinking about researching this information further in the future.

Posted by: J.Merrigan at February 6, 2009 03:40 PM

Jamison Whitney
Dr. Hobbs
English 340

Feedback for Joe La Mendola

It is true that Auschwitz shares many similarities with This Way to the Gas, in terms of subject, but the defining difference between the two works is the way in which they are written. Borowski wrote his stories in what seemed like a short story format while Nomberg present hers as journal entries. The result were two very different moods which had individual impacts on the reader. Nomberg's terse chapters gave the reader a small window into important aspects of the camp and important characters and events. The organization gives the reader the impression of listening to someone relating things as they happen. Borowski, conversely, tells full complete stories in which all the characters from one particular setting interact as they would in life. I think Borowski's approach paints a more vivid picture of life at the camps.

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at February 8, 2009 10:31 AM

Jamison Whitney
Dr. Hobbs
English 340

Feedback for Sarah Tatko

In Auschwitz, the SS demonstrate their knowledge of the power of words. When someone is constantly referred to as being less than human, no matter how strong their resolve, they will eventually succumb to that mode of thinking on some level. It seems that most of the subtle changes in the word choice and intended meanings Nomberg makes are a result of subconscious thinking. When she is taken from the Zugang block and brought to the infirmary, Nomberg's existence at the camp becomes a very different experience. This change in circumstances heralds a return to a better self image but also shift to a more critical view of the camp around her. When the constant threat of death is lessened Nomberg becomes a more philosophical writer compared to the factual, action driven first chapters (especially on the Zugang block). Having the opportunity to explore the reasons for what is happening leads her to apply new meaning and new words to her situation at Auschwitz.

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at February 8, 2009 12:46 PM

Jamison Whitney
Dr. Hobbs
English 340

Response to Lori Perreault

I agree with your opinion on the dichotomy between the suffering and the providential moments in the Auschwitz. An idea that occurred to me as I was reading your response was that Nomberg was discovering that in Auschwitz everything is black and white. In those scenes of terror and grotesqueness there are only two possible outcomes: life and death. It was this mentality which dehumanized the prisoners. Scenes like the one on the train show humanity as it is supposed to be, decent and caring. The inclusion of these passages helps to reinforce the feelings of disgust and horror as Nomberg is lives in the perverted and cruel society of Auschwitz.

Posted by: Jamison Whitney at February 8, 2009 12:48 PM

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
10 February 2009
Peer Review: Nomberg
A strong aspect of Jennifer’s response is her comparison to Borowski. She discusses qualities seen in both authors and how they help or hurt each of the works. Another good aspect is her details about why she prefers Nomberg over Borowski. One specifically mentioned that I liked was because she reveals good and bad things about living in Auschwitz. Jennifer’s interest in researching the validity of the stories is a good characteristic to have about the quality of literature that is produced about this topic.
Monefa took a very interesting approach to her response. The first thing that I thought was strong her focus on the details and descriptions provided by Nomberg. I liked how they made her feel and experience the book as she was reading. The second thing I liked was her comparison to slavery. This is something that I did not think about when learning about the Holocaust. The two experiences are very similar and she makes good points about how the Holocaust is more horrific but something I thought about was the duration of the two events. Slavery lasted longer than the Holocaust so how does that factor into the equation. This is an excellent topic to explore further.
Lorie does an excellent job of relaying her feelings about the book. It is interesting to hear how the book affected her so deeply. Was this the intention of Nomberg? We’ll never know for sure but it would be interesting to investigate. I also liked how Lori discusses the issue of morality especially since that relates to what I talked about in my reaction. I was exploring the issue of humanity the two certainly coincide with each other. Lori’s evaluation of Orli is good because she is right in saying that it is not up to us to decide whether or not Orli was moral; especially if Nomberg did not feel qualified to decide.

Posted by: Sarah T. at February 8, 2009 05:12 PM

In Response to Jesscia Pall:

I really liked the fact that you concentrated on the theme of beauty in this book. Reading through the book myself, i kept noticing how beauty was such an important role in these concentration camps for women. I think you put is best by stating that Auschwitz creates beauty as a mask for evil. Your example of the Laufers and of Cyla were spot on. It is interesting how Cyla plays this "angel of Death figure". It gives this different prospective that she is the light the attracts the moths (choosen people to die) to the flame. Cyla's character completely personifies the backwards look of beauty in these short stories. I also think it is astonishing how people in the camps had to do the dirty work for the Nazis. It is unbelievable and i can imagine a tough job for those that had to do it. However, there is a different prospective of how you view beauty as evil in this book as well. There is the example of the young woman who got picked for the death chamber when she was young and beautiful. She kept taking off her clothes, reporting to everyone of her beauty, and even Sara can not deny the fact of this woman being right. However, she is still taken to the gas. So, beauty is evil in another sense that it could take your life as well. Is there a clockwork orange to this ideal of beauty? can it only be purely evil? or is it only purely good? Jessica, your response was well written and hits key components of the theme of beauty in this journal.

Erin Kollar:

I believe you are right in saying that Sara definitely has a different prospective and out look from the last book we read. She certainly regains her dignity, she is not fooled by the camp, and is a nice woman, but is not naive. I believe that her experiences with the other camps she has been to may have helped her in some senses. You talk about the stories of Orli and how they constantly change. I liked how you said that Sara gives the audience the judgement of Orli. Why would she do this though? Is sara afraid to judge? does she even have the right to? does it even matter?

Renee Forero:

Although your response was brief and to the point, it illuminated a few key points. The devastation of Sara's life as a woman in these camps, the women around her and the view of Auschwitz were pretty much to the point. Maybe next time, be a little more indepth with your response and your opinion of the stories. All in all though, your response was good.

Posted by: Emily Belvo at February 9, 2009 03:35 PM

Jessica P.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340

Feedback on Auschwitz Reflections

Erin Collar
It was interesting to learn how Erin found Auschwitz particularly different than other Holocaust books our class has read. After reading Erin’s comments, I found myself agreeing with her. Erin focused her reflections on the narrator of the story, Sara. A good point was brought up—how Sara kept her dignity amongst the horrors of the camp in addition to learning not to be naïve. A good example concerning the contrast between Sara and Emily was given. Erin decided that both women were nice people who kept their dignity; however, Emily remained naïve, which ended up costing her and her baby’s life. It seems that different attributions were esteemed at the Auschwitz camp versus than in the outside world. For example, innocence is protected in the world; however, at the camp it was a sign of weakness that caused many people to die.

Joseph La Mendola
Joseph believed that Auschwitz was a similar story to the previous Holocaust book our class read, told though from a women’s perspective. His response was short because he didn’t want to repeat himself. However, although the stories may have been similar, there were still plenty of differences to comment on and more could have been written. However, Joseph gave a good example about his belief that Auschwitz had more detail about the experiments. Relaying the midget scene showed how Dr. Mengele loved to humiliate people. The motivation of Dr. Mengele was also an interesting topic to comment on. It makes one wonder the motivation of the Germans in general. How could the Germans exterminate so many thousands of people? It is a hard and difficult subject to discuss because one cannot really judge others despite their unjustifiable actions.

Lori Perreault
Lori was completely honest in her reflections. Specifically, she said that the book gave her nightmares. One shocking aspect of the book was that the children were not spared. Young children were being burned alive. It is horrible to think about death at all, let alone the innocent children who were tortured. Lori also brought up the question whether the character, Orli, was a good person. I thought she gave a good point saying that a person’s moral value cannot be judged by any one person. One part of the book that Lori enjoyed was the “brief moments of providence” where good was shown. It seemed to give her hope that humans are capable of showing civilized behavior and imparting noble character. Lori ended her reflection with how she thought the book touched her completely as she concluded that both bad and good were represented in the book.

Posted by: Jessica Pall at February 9, 2009 05:15 PM

Jennifer Merrigan
February 10, 2009
ENG 340
Feedback on Responses

Monefa Furlongue
I liked how you expressed the feeling of witnessing the accounts first hand while reading the book. Also I like how you compared the Holocaust to slavery in the United States. I never even thought of it that way but now that you made the link I can really see the similarities in the inhumane acts performed on both accounts. Good job making that connection!

Lori Perreault
I enjoyed how you really depicted your feelings into your response. It gives people even more understanding of how real this experience is just by seeing how the reading is affecting people. I also liked how you wrote about how Sara looks into the morality of certain situations. You never think a lot about exactly what’s going through the authors’ conscience at the time, only the fact that they had to witness these horrible events.

Joseph La Mendola
I liked how you tried to find some motivation from the doctor, to a point at least. I’m sure the first thing the reader thinks about in that part of the book is simply how gruesome this doctor is in experimenting on children and people with disabilities. I could only think wonder why somebody could do such a thing? But to really think about the doctors’ real motivation into torturing people in the name of “science” is really horrible for me to even try and think about.

Posted by: J. Merrigan at February 10, 2009 11:30 AM

Response to Sarah:

I like how she questions the humanity of the stories, because the way that the people were treated like animals and not like the human beings that they are. Then talks about how the SS attempts to break down the minds of the prisoners.

I like how she brought ethics and how unethical it was the way that the jewish women were treated. How they feared the young child and how everything was pretty much being done by the prisoners because of what they are being told to do.

I agree with Emily about how the fight to stay alive and to survive this event was such a big deal and they all stuck together for it. This story talks about how hard times were but what mattered is that those who survived stuck together and got through this horrible time.

Posted by: Renee Forero at February 10, 2009 12:52 PM

Response to Erin Kollar
I feel that the points raised by Erin are fairly accurate. Sara does maintain some level of dignity throughout the story, something that seems to be lost in the first story by Borowski. I do not agree on Sara’s passing of judgment of Orli. As much as she does leave it up to the reader I believe it is because Sara herself cannot, or does not want, to pass judgment either way. As far as Esther is concerned, many people probably did not realize what was going on until it was far too late for anything to be done about it. So in the sense of the “exception to the rule” mentality, it is unclear whether or not the rules were ever really expressed.

Response to Sarah Tatko
I like the way this response is thought out and followed through. It seems to be a great question that perhaps in of itself could be the overall thesis to a research paper, using many of the books from this class as a source for answers. This is, of course, assuming that such a question can be answered. I feel that considering the use of only one book the question is raised and supported rather well, however with more sources and more research I think this would make for an amazing paper.

Response to Monefa Furlongue
This is probably one of the most unique takes on the book I’ve seen yet. While I cannot say I agree with the perspective, I must admit I cannot completely disagree with it either. I am not sure that comparing the Holocaust to slaver in the United States is the best way of going about it. I would tend to side more on comparing the Holocaust to the Irish Potato Famine, brought about by the English. I just realized that my response is turning into a finger pointing session, so I’ll cut it short on that note.

Posted by: Joe La Mendola at February 10, 2009 03:16 PM

Monefa Furlongue
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 340

I like the way that she approached her paper. Most people would not pose a question and look at the book through the lens of that question, and dissect the book to find the answer to what they are looking for. The question that Sara used is a good one because many people who were not a part of the holocaust considered themselves to be human beings but they did not have that right taken away from them so they do not know how it feels to not be considered as such. I think by her asking this question it made her think about what it would be like to live through that and have her right taking away from her. I think this a good topic that can be developed into a wonderful discussion.
This was a good topic. I like how Jessica gave specific examples of how beauty masked the evil things that were happening in the camps. And the Germans would make it seem as though all the camps were work camps to the public. She also brings up a good point when she points out that most of the horrendous acts that were committed were done by other prisoners. This is also a good point because many people do not know that.
Erin chose of looking at the story was different. She focused on how some people still had faith and a good spirit. I like this approach because it shows that even though people go through hell and high water the good always come out in the end, just as it did for the survivors of the holocaust. Her topic can be further discussed and can be used a question to hear people’s reaction to the people who were optimistic.

Posted by: Monefa Furlongue at February 10, 2009 03:27 PM

Response to Sarah Tatko:

I like how you bring up the mention of how words are used. It is a detail I didn't notice, but it does express the mentality of both the SS and regular prisoners. Humanity, what makes one human, would be a very important thing during the Holocaust. The fact that Sara went into such lengths (I don't think her word choices were random) to show this fact shows it also affected her very deeply. And the example of Esther believing herself "so greatly" shows a problem with optimism in the camps.

Response to Emily Belvo:

The point you make about it being hard to imagine why survival was so important in the concentration camps was illogical in my point of view. Humans, any living creature, wants to survive. There are exceptions to this, which is when the strength to live is depleted (which varies person to person). It may be illogical, but it is only human nature.

Response to Lori Perreault:

I didn't have nightmares over this, but your reaction does seem to be a normal one to have. Probably the same that Sara had while experiencing it. This was probably the point of putting in the details so she could show her pain to others. Yes, killing people in such a way is inhumane but it's complicated by the feelings of the people that kill others. When the doctor killed the child in order to save the mother seems like something that had to be done for survival. It's either one or both. The doctor would be caring about the woman who the doctor would know better and, therefore, would want to protect more.

Posted by: Erin Kollar at February 17, 2009 01:21 PM

Lori Perreault

I really enjoyed how you took the first section sentence by sentence drawing out the words that have so much meaning for us, yet the meaning was distorted by the SS, the Capo, and eventually brought back to the true meaning by the inmates. It is true; no one can decide what your life is worth but you.

It was interesting to read your point of view. It is true that Nomberg-Przytyk was not naïve, and that the kindness that was shown to her saved her life, but more so the help and kindness she showed also saved.

Posted by: Lori Perreault at February 18, 2009 01:16 PM


*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment.

~ Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at April 5, 2009 09:31 PM

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