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Human Nature, Good Or Evil? - With A Free Essay Review
The Holocaust is a historical event during which Germany committed many horrific crimes against humanity. Many Holocaust survivors have vowed to never speak of this event, but Irene Gut Opdyke and Elie Wiesel have broken the silence and have written memoirs. These memoirs are about their journey through this terrible event, in order to convince people, especially the young that they have the power to fight against evil. Although it is the 21st century, events in the 20th century such as the Holocaust, still commonly come to mind as acts of evil. Evil still exists now and defining differences between good and evil should be based on people’s choices. The act of evil stems from being selfish and hurtful acts toward others that seek to oppress goodness. The opposite is doing acts of kindness, such as think of others and risking one’s own life to help others in need. Human nature tends to show the sides of evil in the face of oppression.
One proof that shows that human nature is evil when in the face of oppression is Document A. Irene goes with her friend Helen, and Helen’s mother to look for Helen’s husband, Henry. They hide in an abandoned house and watch the German officer clear the work camp. Irene and her friends watch in the window in “paralysis of horror”. Irene says, “We had witnessed a thing so terrible that it acquired a dreadful holiness. It was a miracle of evil. It was not possible to say with words what we had witnessed, and so we kept it safely guarded until the time when we could bring it out, and show it to others, and say , ‘Behold. This is the worst thing man can do’ ”(104-105). They see old rabbi carrying a Torah, who tries to help young women with a shrieking toddler, and all three of them are shot. Another atrocity they see is an officer flinging something similar to a fat bird and aims his pistol. He then shoots the screaming mother too. “But it was not a bird. It was not a bird. It was not a bird”(Document A). This is another crime that Irene and her friends see at the camp.
Another proof that human nature is evil when faced with oppression is in Document B. This document is excerpts from Night by Elie Wiesel. “God is testing us. He wants to see whether we are capable of overcoming our base instincts, of killing the Satan within ourselves. We have no right to despair. And if He punishes us mercilessly, it is a sign that He loves us that much more…” (45). This quote is saying humanity is nothing more than a test and if we can suppress all of our evil tendencies then we have passed. If we are not successful, it shows that we have failed and failing means that we have succumbed to evil. Succumbing to evil is being selfish and hurting others.
One might argue that Klaus-Gunter, from Document C: “Obeying Orders,” is a decent and hardworking guy, however, it neglects the fact that he indirectly sends millions to their death. He is an administrator who is just following others. Klaus-Gunter says, “The woman to whom this belonged was someone I got an exit visa for- it almost cost me my life. You see, we weren’t monsters.” He saves a woman’s life and “kept the case only to have a memento of his own decency” (Document C). Klaus-Gunter can “cold bloodedly murder tens of thousands from their desks,” but when a real living human being manages to see him, he helps. Doing one noble thing doesn’t eliminate all the other wicked things that he has done. Even though it is indirect, not face to face, he is still helping with cause of the death of millions in the Holocaust.
In Document D: “Links in a Chain,” Marion Pritchard, a graduate student in 1940 saw an event that changed her life. She saw that, “When they did not move fast enough the Nazis picked them up, by an arm, a leg, the hair, and threw them into the trucks. To watch grown men treat small children that way- I could not believe my eyes.” She decides that if it is possible, she would try to help. With this, came along many consequences. When she hid a man with three children in her home, beneath the floorboards, a Dutch police officer comes with four German officers to search but with no avail. After they leave, she let the children out and the Dutch policeman came back. “I had a small revolver that a friend had given me, but I have never planned to use it. I felt I had no choice except to kill him. I would do it again, under the same circumstance...” (Document D). She is saying that either he kills them or the women kills him and saves many lives. This shows that even though she might not be the evilest person, good people still commit evil crimes. Therefore evil still tends to be the underlying tendency for people.
I'm not sure that you have said what you intended to say in your thesis statement ("Human nature tends to show the sides of evil in the face of oppression") but that statement is not an accurate reflection of the evidence and claims presented in your essay. The statement means that people who are subject to oppression act in ways that are evil. Most of the examples in your essay are not examples of the oppressed acting in an evil manner; they are examples instead of the oppressors acting in an evil manner.
Your first body paragraph, for instance ("One proof that shows etc."), offers evidence in the form of an excerpt from Irene Opdyke's autobiography. You don't comment on the significance of this evidence at all. You don't explain, in other words, how it might relate to your thesis. Moreover, it is very difficult to see how it would relate. Opdyke refers to what might be called acts of evil or monstrous acts carried out by Nazi officers. Obviously, if you thought that all human beings were capable of doing what the Nazi officers did, then you might be able to answer the question, Is human nature evil? But otherwise I don't see what the evidence demonstrates beyond the fact that some people have done dreadful things. It's not clear at all what it has to do with the emergence of evil in the face of oppression, unless you want to argue that the baby that was thrown in the air to be shot by the Nazi officer had been oppressing that officer.
The second body paragraphs cites a statement by Wiesel that is taken out of context so it is impossible for the reader to appreciate what Wiesel might be talking about here, or why he would say something as apparently silly as "If He punishes us mercilessly, it is a sign that He loves us that much more ..." Your comments on the quotation's significance also don't explain why he would say something that silly, but at least in this case, unlike the previous paragraph, you do put a little effort into explaining the quotation. What you don't do is establish the validity of the first sentence of that paragraph ("Another proof that human nature is evil when faced with oppression is in Document B"). The part of the document that you cite doesn't say anything about whether human nature is evil when faced with oppression.
It is possible that your fourth body paragraph (about Marion Pritchard) could be taken to provide evidence in favor of your thesis, but only if you think, as you seem to do, that killing the policeman to save the children is an act of evil. I don't really understand why you think she has no moral justification for such an act.
Going back to your third body paragraph, about Klaus Gunter, it looks to belong to a completely different essay. There's no transition to the paragraph and there is no argumentative conclusion to the paragraph that might relate its content to the thesis statement. And of course that would be impossible, since it has nothing to do with being evil in the face of oppression. However, it represents an interesting case that might afford some insight into the nature of evil, at least in some circumstances. When doing evil is a matter of bureaucratic administration, or of following orders (if that is what you meant by "others"), it would seem to be easier to commit acts of evil. (If you are interested in this problem, you might be read Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.)
Ultimately, I think you need to scrap your thesis, because it doesn't really make sense in light of the actual evidence that you can offer here. If you are required by your assignment to refer to each of the four documents here, and each document offers different perspectives on evil, then perhaps you ought to just analyse different perspectives on evil (the officer who kills a baby versus the administrator who enables the death of millions versus the policeman hunting for hidden Jews).