THE SURVIVAL PAPER
“It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong conception of camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment and pity. Little does he know of the hard fight for existence which raged among the prisoners. This was an unrelenting struggle for daily bread and for life itself, for one’s own sake or for that of a good friend.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
(Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), 4.
As one of the seminal events of the twentieth century, the Holocaust has forced us to confront the limits of progress and reason, not to mention the moral bankruptcy of Western Civilization. During the six chaotic years of the Second World War, the Germans and their associates systematically murdered close to six million Jews, along with millions of Russians, Poles, Gypsies, political prisoners, criminals, “asocials,” homosexual males, and mentally and physically handicapped individuals. Many died, but some survived, and their stories provide insight into one of the most incomprehensible chapters of European history. In his powerful autobiographical work, Night, Elie Wiesel describes daily life in the Nazi death camps, in addition to offering his thoughts on the larger meaning of the Holocaust. In a well-crafted essay about Wiesel’s book, you must address the following questions:
1. What does survival mean in the context of Night?
2. According to Wiesel, what was daily life like in the Nazi death camps?
3. How did the prisoners cope with these conditions and circumstances? Did Wiesel try to make sense of it? If so, then how?
4. What does his experience tell us about modern Western Civilization and the limits of progress?
Your answer to the first question should appear at the end of the introductory paragraph, and should serve as a thesis for the rest of your paper. Your answer to the fourth question should serve as the conclusion for your paper. Your answers to the second and third questions will constitute the body of your paper, where you will provide examples from the book to substantiate your claims. I expect you to not only demonstrate your comprehension of the assigned reading, but also your ability to construct an argument built on evidence. The paper should not philosophize, moralize, or quote additional sources, nor should it simply summarize what happens. Instead, it should feature an analytical argument supported by specific examples from Wiesel’s account.
The paper must contain an introduction and a conclusion, and it should have logical transitions between the paragraphs. You will be graded on style as well as content, and you will lose points if you do not adhere to the following formatting guidelines (continue to next page):
- submit 4 full pages of text, plus a title page with paper’s title, your name, and date
- number each page
- use Times New Roman 12-point font
- double space, and use 1-inch margins
- use parenthetical citations, such as (Wiesel 86)
Papers must be submitted in hard copy on September 9. I will not accept papers via e-mail. Each day the paper is late after the due date will result in the loss of an entire letter grade.
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