His father was killed in action in World War I in He suggests that while his personal identity, the identity of his own childhood past, is distinctly Christian, he feels himself nonetheless a Jew in another sense, the sense of a Jewishness "without God, without history, without messianic-national hope ". On my left forearm I bear the Auschwitz number; it reads more briefly than the Pentateuch or the Talmud and yet provides more thorough information. It is also more binding than basic formulas of Jewish existence. If to myself and the world, including the religious and nationally minded Jews, who do not regard me as one of their own, I say: I am a Jew, then I mean by that those realities and possibilities that are summed up in the Auschwitz number.
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Amery does not consider himself a religious Jew or one who follows any Jewish traditions. In fact, he did not know that Yiddish was a language until he was Amery claims that intellectual people are people who know poetry, art, philosophy, music, and literature; basically a man who emerged from the Renaissance with a sense of reason. While all of the non-intellectuals began trying to hold onto anything that still made sense God, possessions, family , the intellectual, plagued by reason, steps back from the event occurring and try to apply reason.
Through reason they could see that they were totally helpless. Being rounded up to be slaughtered with no help in sight. Also, because the world around the intellectual used to hold so much meaning and beauty that is expressed for example in poetry, the fact the world that he now finds himself in holds no hope or beauty but instead only confidence in death burns deeper into the intellectual rather than the non-intellectual.
The next section, entitled Torture, analyses the effects that torture had on the authors mind. While using minimal gruesome detail, Amery shows us a horrible picture in which the tortured experiences not only physical, but also mental and spiritual pains.
Amery claims that every person feels a certain sense of security in the world. They believe that if they are in trouble someone will help them, and even though they hear of horrible things happened in the world, they would never think that anything bad would happen to them. This ideal view on life was torn away from the Jews as if a large curtain were dropped to reveal how uncertain and terrifying life can be.
It is as is they are being told that Santa is not real, and the possibility for that magic and perhaps part of their imagination that is ingrained into their sense of self is destroyed. Amery defines the sense of Home as a sense of security in ones surroundings though linguistic assimilation and knowledge of the things around you. When the Jews left Germany through fear of persecution, they were stripped of the culture and community they thought they belonged to. It was challenging to try to find security in being a part of the Jewish community when there was not only the fear of persecution but also sometimes a lack of enthusiasm for other Jews to try and come together when they were faced with their own problems.
These people who were not only cast out of their homeland, but also had to hide their cultural background in order to survive, truly know what it means to be homeless.
They were not well received in the countries they immigrated to neither by native Jews nor non-Jews. They did not feel help from anyone in the world and therefore felt no sense of security. He goes on to claim that people need a sense of home, and that without a sense of home people age very poorly.
He says that young men are always seeing themselves as men of the future, while old men see themselves as what they were in the past. Amery makes many references to Nietzsche who defines resentment as a feeling that comes after the realization of helplessness toward the person rendering you helpless. Amery says he does not feel as ease traveling through the country that he had once called home.
His resentment had not been felt right after his survival or the Holocaust, but developed over years of introspection and personal thought. He felt as though this collective guilt led to the world forgiving the Germans too easily. It seems as though the Germans had all turned around and were accepted into the world without further repercussions other than trials of specific commanders in the Nazi party.
Amery is taken aback by how the Germans, a people who are so invested into their rich cultural past, could simply sweep this period of time under the rug and continue on as if nothing had happened. He does not necessarily believe that the Germans should be physically punished; instead he thinks the Germans need to accept this as part of their history and use it to move forward understanding its historical significance. That is why when asked the question how long the Jews will preach the horrors or the Holocaust, Amery claims it should be as long as the Germans boast or hold pride in any part of their historical past.
In the last section entitled On the Necessity and Impossibility of Being a Jew, Amery discusses his non-affiliation with Judaism through any cultural ties, while he was being shoved into the same category as them through social stereotypes and images.
Amery states that if being a Jew implies having cultural heritage or religious ties then he is certainly not a Jew and there was no way that he could ever be one.
He says he was so not interested in Judaism that he could not tell you which, if any, of his childhood friends were Jewish. However, he came to the realization that he was a Jew under the social spectrum after the Nuremberg Laws were passed in Beyond any religious or personal past, he was now officially labeled a Jew.
He is thus told he is a Jew by the public while seeing he is not a Jew by the ideology of the religion. As Amery read the Nuremberg Laws, he claims that the realization of what was to come dawned on him as if were a formal death sentence.
The Germans stereotyped the Jews as devilish and not worthy of love and compassion, and the world society accepted these labels and helped to degrade the Jews and strip away their sense of human dignity. After the war ended, as the world showed its unanimous contempt for the Nazis and sympathy for the Jews, Amery says he felt as if he had fully regained his dignity.
As fast as the dignity was regained, it was lost again as the hostility and selfishness with which the Jews returning to their homes were met with showed Amery that this event had no significant impact on humanity. He still fears for himself, he fears for society and humanity as a whole, but he considers himself a Jew through his experiences and sacrifices; and with his new, perhaps slightly pessimistic, view of society hopes to aid the world in moving beyond these tragedies, but never forgetting.
As an Actuarial Science major with a minor in Philosophy, I consider myself a person who looks at life with a certain analytical perspective driven by reason who also understands humanity and the way of the world. Furthermore, as Amery denies cultural or religious ties to Judaism, I feel as though I can connect more with Amery then with other Jewish authors writing about their own experiences. I think that Amery makes many very keen observations while making sure to claim that this is the world from his perspective and he does not wish to speak for anyone but himself let alone the Jewish population.
Amery seems like an extremely down to Earth individual who has reasonable examined and reexamined his emotions towards his past experiences and takes in account any and all objections and criticisms towards his ideas. I felt drawn into the book due to his honesty and found many more connections to other themes and authors in my other fields of study then I anticipated.
It was not as graphic and melancholic as most other Holocaust memoirs that I have read; instead it was a philosophical breath of fresh air retrospectively analyzing one mans experiences through living hell.
Again, I view this as more of a philosophical memoir and as such I felt it read like a philosophy book, meaning that there was many philosophical and historic references and a free flowing speech which sometimes made it hard to follow. With this in mind, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in personal reactions to the Holocaust especially if they are knowledgeable in philosophy, which drastically increases the enjoyment of the book.
There are few scenes of violence and more of a somber, intellectual approach to the issues brought into question with attempts to find reason beyond the intense emotional reactions the Jews faced. The author was witty and I found him enticingly enjoyable to read.
From this book, I feel as though I have gained deeper insight into the life of a Holocaust survivor. I have read of a man, not Jewish by his beliefs, but labeled a Jew because of who he was born into, who was persecuted and tortured beyond belief and instead of claiming his right to express whatever feelings he may have after these events, he dissects his own thoughts and emotions to try and find the reason beyond the initial emotional response.
The fact that the author made it through the Holocaust is a miracle in itself, but he does not want to spend the rest of his life searching for meaning in God or death, but instead can only take his memories of the past and attempt to help the world to evolve beyond these days of the past, while holding the lessons they learned from it close to their hearts.
Personally, I think as thought the book connected a lot with my life and other classes I am interested in. I definitely could feel the uncertainty in life the author experienced and could see myself in his shoes being taken away. The ideas the author tries to develop are similar to ideas and questions that have been brought up in other classes and still remain on my mind today.
I want to thank Jean Amery for sharing his memoirs and commend him on holding so much importance on reason and being able to try and unveil reason in such a time of chaos. If tales like this do not spur us toward a more humane and understanding society, then I have little hope for the future of our civilization. Related posts:.
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