Friday, June 27, 2014

The Difficulty of Life Without Guaranteed Rights

Even though I watched Europa Europa with prior knowledge of Hitler’s dehumanization of the Jews during the Holocaust, this film further opened my eyes to its cruelty. I enjoyed this film because not only was it well-crafted to capture all the students’ interest but also informative, exposing the unbearable lives of the Jews during the time period.

The film portrays Nazi’s countless violations of human rights during the Holocaust-era which made survival so difficult for the Jews. It starts with a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, which is exemplified by the repeated scenes of hanging and torturing of the Jews. Nazis continue to take away Jew’s rights such as “the right to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Solly is a great example of a Jew who had completely lost this right—he couldn’t even get close to proudly manifesting his religion; he had to hide his true identity and pledge himself as Hitler’s soldier in order to survive. I don’t see this as Solly’s fault in any way because anyone would have done the same if he/she was placed in Solly’s situation. It is clear that Solly hadn’t lied of his identity in a sense of betrayal. We can see this when he is forced to stab a doll with the Star of David on it during his time in the Hitler youth academy. While all the other boys confidently stabbed the doll with the hatred towards Jews that the adults had taught them, Solly couldn’t help but to hesitate. Although all of Solly wanted to live as a Jew, the Germans’ unreasonable hatred towards the Jews led him to hide his identity, which makes it clear that the Jews were out of possession of their human rights.

Although I can’t dare to compare my story to Solly’s, I can in a sense understand the confusion of identity Solly encounters for survival. Solly’s sole purpose was to stay alive, which led him to helplessly alternate between a Russian, German, and a Jew throughout the movie. I can relate to Solly as I live a two-sided life of a Korean American. As the first generation, I encounter many situations where I would have to choose one identity over another. There are advantages and disadvantages of both sides, therefore making me unsure of which I wish to identify myself as. However, no matter how many times I think about my identity, I always end up becoming proud of my nationality as a South Korean. I believe that Solly feels the same, as he frees his tears when he meets his brother and accepts himself as a Jew—the tears he held back as a German and a Russian. Although Solly did end up protecting his identity despite the difficulty to do so without his rights, I believe that these human rights that we take for granted should be enforced in a more active manner.

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