Unspeakable Events In The Holocaust in The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

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During the time period of the Holocaust, there was a large group in Germany called the Nazis who were led by a dictator, Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler gained the majority of the Nazi’s respect and trust, not through violence, but words. Adolf Hitler convinced the Nazis to not only kill but torture the Jews. Over six million Jews were killed throughout the time of the Holocaust which is approximately twelve years. Holocaust writers struggle to put the events that happened into words, so they use literary devices to help portray the unspeakable. Writers such as Markus Zusak who wrote The Book Thief, Elie Wiesel who wrote Night, Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS, Primo Levi who wrote Need of a New Word, and Phil Chernofsky who wrote And Every Single One was Someone, use repetition, symbolism, and imagery to portray the unspeakable.

One of the devices used to portray the unspeakable is repetition. Repetition is used by Markus Zusak who wrote The Book Thief, Elie Wiesel who wrote Night, and Phil Chernofsky who wrote, And Every Single One was Someone. Repetition is used in The Book Thief on countless occasions. The Book Thief is a story narrated by Death who tells us about Liesel, a girl growing up in Germany during World War II. She steals books, learns to read, and finds comfort in words. She and Max, the Jew her family protects, are the only main characters that survive the war as Liesel has to watch all of her close friends and family die. In the very beginning of the book thief Liesel, Liesel’s mom, and Liesel’s brother are all on a train. Liesel’s brother began coughing really hard and eventually died. Liesel is in shock and can’t believe what happened. Leisel then says, “He couldn’t be dead. He couldn’t be dead. He couldn’t-”(Zusak 23). Zusak used repetition to show how hurt, and how much in denial Liesel was in. The repetition was “He couldn’t be dead”. The repetition of these words gives insight into how much pain Leisel was in of her brother dying. No child should be under such brutal conditions, leading to death. Zusak used repetition to portray the unspeakable in The Book Thief. Another author that used repetition to portray the unspeakable is Elie Wiesel who wrote the novel Night. The night is about a teenager named Eliezer who goes through many challenges being Jewish and growing up in concentration camps in Germany. In Night after Eliezer and his father realize they have survived the first selection at Birkenau, Eliezer begins to lose his faith in God and reflects himself, “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky… Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust”(Weisel). Repetition is shown when the words “Never shall I forget” are repeated. Weisel used repetition to portray the unspeakable in this excerpt from Night because the words “Never shall I forget” show how damaged and hurt Eliezer is that he is never going to forget what happened to him. The repetition of these words, emphasizes how unspeakable the holocaust is and how he will never forget it. Phil Chernofsky who wrote And Every Single One was Someone also used repetition to portray the unspeakable. Phil Chernofsky believed that most people were oblivious to what happened in the Holocaust and not aware of how much six million people are because that’s how many people died in the Holocaust. The book And Every Single One was Someone repeats the same word, “Jew,” six million times throughout the book. This shows repetition and portrays the unspeakable because it is very sad how each one of the words that say “Jew,” was a living and breathing person with a family. The repetition of the word “Jew,” stresses to the reader how many Jews died in the holocaust which is hard to take in because the number of the words, “Jews,” in the text is crucifying. Repetition is used by Markus Zusak who wrote The Book Thief, Elie Wiesel who wrote Night, and Phil Chernofsky who wrote Someone.

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Another device used to portray the unspeakable events that happened in the holocaust is symbolism. Symbolism is used by Zusak who wrote The Book Thief, Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS, Primo Levi who wrote Need of a New Word, and Phil Chernofsky who wrote And Every Single One was Someone. In The Book, Thief symbolism is used by Zusak to portray the unspeakable. In The Book Thief, the main protagonist Liesel has a friend named Rudy. Rudy has a crush on Liesel and is always wanting a kiss, but Liesel does not feel the same way about Rudy. Rudy’s parents are “Alex and Barbara Steiner”(Zusak 410). Rudy overhears his parents talking and they say that “Dominoes were falling like dead bodies”(Zusak 410). Dominoes fall at a fast, consistent rate. They are comparing dead bodies to dominoes, meaning that the people who are killing the Jews believe that Jews’ lives are worthless and their deaths are not important. The symbolism in The Book Thief helps portray the unspeakable events that go on in The Book Thief. Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS also uses symbolism to portray the unspeakable events that happened in the Holocaust. In the graphic novel, the Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats. This is the symbolism of how cats are Nazis, and Jews are mice because cats kill mice with no hesitation, just for the act of killing them. Similar to Nazis and Jews during the Holocaust. Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS uses symbolism to portray the unspeakable. Primo Levi, who wrote Need of a New Word, also uses symbolism to portray the unspeakable. In the document Need of a New Word, the words used by a free man are compared to the words used by a Jewish man during the Holocaust. One of the words compared between a Jewish man and a free man is the word “winter”. Levi explains how “winter” for a Jewish man and “winter” for “free men” are “different things”. Levi then explains how “winter” for a “free men” is described as living “in comfort…in their homes” but for a Jewish man “winter” is “a whole day in the wind, with temperature below freezing, wearing only a shirt, underpants, cloth jacket, and trousers, and in one’s body nothing but weakness, hunger and the knowledge of the end drawing nearer”. Levi uses the word “winter” as symbolism to describe the difference between the lives of Jewish men and free men during the Holocaust. Primo Levi who wrote Need of a New Word uses symbolism to portray the unspeakable. Phil Chernofsky, who wrote And Every Single One was Someone, uses symbolism to portray the unspeakable. The word “Jew,” is repeated six million times in the text And Every Single One was Someone. The word Jew is repeated six million times to show how many people died in the Holocaust. The word “Jew” is symbolic in the text because there are so many words that say “Jew,” that it makes the reader emotional. After all, each “Jew” in the text was a living breathing person that died. Symbolism is used by Zusak who wrote The Book Thief, Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS, Primo Levi who wrote Need of a New Word, and Phil Chernofsky who wrote And Every Single One was Someone. In The Book, Thief symbolism is used by Zusak to portray the unspeakable.

Imagery is another device used to portray the unspeakable events that happened in the Holocaust. Writers such as Markus Zusak who wrote The Book Thief, Elie Wiesel who wrote Night, Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS, and Primo Levi who wrote Need of a New Word, all use the imagery to portray the unspeakable events that happened in the Holocaust. Markus Zusak who wrote The Book Thief uses imagery to portray the unspeakable. In The Book, Thief Liesel and her family and friends live in Himmel Street. Sometimes on Himmel street, there is bombing from the Nazis. Since Liesel and the rest of Himmel Street are Germans, they get warnings when the bombs are going to go off. However, sometimes the Germans forget a warning, or not everybody is ready for the bombs, and citizens of Germany die. This happened once and Liesel explains what she sees. Liesel was on “Munich street,” and she saw “a boy and a girl entwined”. She said that they were “twisted and comfortless on the road” and “Together they watched humans disappear”(Zusak 515). This imagery portrays the unspeakable because when humans think of bodies they think of somebody’s, living human body who once had a life. When something is entwined it is twisted together and when we think of human beings being entwined it is heartbreaking because humans don’t deserve to ever be entwined, even if it is a dead body. The human body’s being entwined is unspeakable and that’s what happened in the Holocaust. Markus Zusak who wrote The Book Thief uses imagery to portray the unspeakable. Elie Wiesel who wrote Night also uses imagery to portray the unspeakable. In Night, Eliezer went on many different trips to different concentration camps and saw some terrible things, but what he saw at this place was beyond terrible. Eliezer said he saw “huge flames” that “were rising from a ditch”. Then a “truck drew close,” and “unloaded its hold: small children” including “babies”. What Eliezer saw was “children thrown into the flames”(Weisel). This imagery is very strong because it is hard to imagine babies being thrown into a fire. Babies being thrown into the fire is unspeakable, but the imagery helps to portray it. Elie Wiesel who wrote Night uses imagery to portray the unspeakable. Another author that uses imagery to portray the unspeakable is Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS. In the graphic novel MAUS, the Nazis are represented by cats and the Jews are represented by mice. The main protagonist is a mouse, and he is walking with a bunch of other mice led by a cat. He then thinks to himself, “All night I heard shooting, he who got tired, who can’t walk so fast, they shot”. Then he says “The more we walked the more I heard shooting”(Levi). This imagery is super strong and it portrays the unspeakable because it shows how if someone was weak they would not stop to help them instead, they would just kill them. Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS uses imagery to portray the unspeakable. Primo Levi who wrote Need of a New Word also uses imagery to portray the unspeakable. The document Need of a New Word the difference in words that “free men”(Levi) use and Jewish men use. The document states that a Jewish man had to go through “a whole day in the wind, with temperature below freezing, wearing only a shirt, underpants, cloth jacket, and trousers, and in one’s body nothing but weakness, hunger and the knowledge of the end drawing nearer”(Levi). The imagery in this text helps portray the unspeakable because the imagery in this makes the reader imagine what it would be like to be a Jew in the winter and the living conditions for Jews in the winter is unspeakable.

Once again, Portraying the unspeakable is a difficult task to do, but the authors Markus Zusak who wrote The Book Thief, Elie Wiesel who wrote Night, Art Spiegelman who wrote MAUS, Primo Levi who wrote Need of a New Word, and Phil Chernofsky who wrote Someone used repetition, symbolism, and imagery to portray the unspeakable. Over six million Jews died over the span of only twelve years. That is about five hundred thousand Jews that are killed a year. It is important that writers keep writing about the unspeakable events in the Holocaust, so people are aware of the unspeakable things that happened, and so history does not end up being repeated.

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