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Do you think luck was more important than faith in surviving the Holocaust? Do you...

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decar | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 1, 2010 at 2:17 AM via web

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Do you think luck was more important than faith in surviving the Holocaust?

Do you think luck was more important than faith in surviving the Holocaust?

Please explain why or why not

with examples. thanks!

7 Answers | Add Yours

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 8:39 AM (Answer #1)

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While there are many works in the philosophical and literary traditions that would address such a topic, I think that Elie Wiesel's "Night" probably does one of the best jobs of doing so.  The analysis of spiritual faith and identity as seen through Eliezer's eyes really brings to light the idea of whether or not luck was more important than religious faith in the survival of the Holocaust.  When Moshe the Beadle is met with scorn by the people of Sighet, it is a stunningly powerful symbol that religious faith might have featured limitations during the Holocaust.  This is confirmed through Eliezer's own renunciation of belief in God as a result of what was seen and endured in the different camps.  I am not going to offer some type of definitive opinion on the matter because I believe that there are individuals who survived such an ordeal precisely because of their religious faith and for me to say otherwise is not valid.  Rather, I would pose the question back to you, the reader, to analyze the narrative, such as Wiesel's, of those who faced down and endured through the Holocaust and assess whether these narratives suggested that faith or luck played a larger role in surviving the Holocaust.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 2:23 AM (Answer #2)

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I do not think that there is any question that luck had more to do with surviving the Holocaust than faith did.  If faith had been what determined who lived and who died, a lot more people would have survived.  Conversely, if loss of faith meant you died, then why did Elie Wiesel, who wrote in Night about his loss of faith, live?

It really did come down to luck most of the time.  It came down to whether a guard picked you to be sent straight to be killed or not.  It came down to whether you were randomly picked to be part of a medical experiment.  It came down to whether you were lucky enough to have friends who could hide you.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 3:06 AM (Answer #3)

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I believe that luck probably had more to do with surviving the Holocaust than faith. The majority of the Jews who were sent to the concentration camps were faithful to their religion, and many who were not probably renewed their faith under the trying circumstances. Being faithful did not assure their survival, however. Probably the most important issue of survival was personal stength and health. Surviving the camps was often a case of survival of the fittest; those who were healthy and immune to the many diseases that ran rampant through the camps had a better chance of living longer. Those with specialized skills--such as musicians and engineers--also had a better chance of receiving special treatment and/or avoiding the gas chambers. Of course, in many cases, it was pure luck as to who was gassed and who wasn't. 

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ako6777 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 7:00 AM (Answer #4)

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I agree to a certain extent with the previous writers that luck played a large part in surviving the holocaust.  I also feel that faith had a hand in people's survival as well. You would need some kind faith to live through what those people lived through.  Everyone strives for meaning in their lives and in events such as the Holocaust there had to be something worth living for. 

When I speak of faith it does not have to mean a belief in a higher being.  It could be a belief that there is good in the universe or that your child will survive to adulthood. Faith such as this had to be present in those concentration camps.  You hear stories of people surviving against horrible odds based on faith that they will see their children again or faith that God will save them.  I think faith played a huge role in the holocaust and may have outplayed luck.

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 2:01 PM (Answer #5)

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I do not believe in luck; rather, I believe in Divine Providence.  It was God who decided who should perish in the Holocaust and who should survive.

The only problem is that I have absolutely no idea how God decided who should perish and who should survive.  Among those who perished were people of great faith and admirable behavior; among those who survived were those whose faith and behavior left much to be desired.

I still believe that God will reward those who act correctly and that God will punish those who sin.  When, and where, and how?  I leave that to God.  My primary obligation is to be as good as I can.  I leave the consequences to the mysterious Being who created me. 

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hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 1, 2010 at 7:14 PM (Answer #6)

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I don't see how it is in any way possible to establish one or the other, or any parameters of the question. Faith in what?  If in "God" of any sort, there is no empirical way of proving or disproving that such a being exists; there is no possible experimental model.  If in human nature, well, you can have faith that human nature is complex, that some people are sometimes more "good" than "bad" and sometimes the opposite, but history bears out little else.  "Luck" is also a concept whose existence is impossible to establish in any way.

Any specific example given of a person or persons surviving or failing to survive would be subject to interpretation of faith, luck, or just coincidence or "that's the way it went."  Frankly, this is a question that has no real meaning.  The only impact of these concepts would be in the mind of an individual, one might believe oneself the recipient of faith or luck, but there could be no empirical proof of either one.

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q30r9m3 | Student, Grade 9 | Salutatorian

Posted May 17, 2010 at 8:41 AM (Answer #7)

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No, because you depended on faith to continue on living.

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