How did the Jewish people in the ghettos react to being surrounded with barbed wire?

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

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While Wiesel does not make direct mention of the establishment and effect of barbed wire, it can be presumed that barbed wire was used to enforce the boundaries of the ghetto in which Jewish people were confined to live. Measures such as forced relocation, barbed wire, and the wearing of the Yellow Star all were measures in which Nazi superiority were exercised on Jewish individuals in the ghetto.  Wiesel is able to illuminate how sadly myopic many in the community were while they lived amongst barbed wire in the ghetto:  "The Germans were already in our town, the Fascists were already in power, the verdict was already out and the Jews of Sighet were still smiling."  Wiesel's description of the Nazis is terrifyingly cold. Amidst the barbed wire, forced transports, and liquidations, they are shown to be "distant, but polite."  Terror and brutality are given a face that is beyond coldness and detachment.  The reaction of the Jewish people in Sighet to this is lacking urgency and almost rooted in a sense of denial: "A German officer lodged in the Kahns' house across the street from us. We were told he was a charming man, calm, likable, and polite. Three days after he moved in, he brought Mrs. Kahn a box of chocolates. The optimists were jubilant: "Well? What did we tell you? You wouldn't believe us. There they are, your Germans. What do you say now? Where is their famous cruelty?"  The Jewish people in the ghetto are not fully aware of what will happen and as a result, they are steeped in denial that their worst fears are not recognized.  This is what prevents them from embracing the full implications of a world in which barbed wire, symbolization, and a sense of being denied control are the transit points to the camps and extermination.

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