War and Human Nature

Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving” (goodreads.com). Anne was a young Jewish girl living in Holland during WWII, and spent more than two years of her short life hiding in an annex from the Nazis. Throughout her time in hiding, she kept a diary and wrote about her daily life in the annex and her opinions on certain topics. She believed that more fortunate people should help those in need and that people were good at heart. Many recollections from WWII depict people in a caring and giving light. The actions of the figures in The Diary of Anne Frank, “A Tragedy Revealed,” and “Passage to Freedom: A Sugihara Story,” lead the reader to believe that the first instinct of human beings is to assist others.

The first course of action people will take is usually to help. Kraler and Miep Gies are friends of the Franks, and want to assist them in hiding from the Nazis. They are among many who are “helping all of the hundreds and hundreds who are hiding our in Amsterdam,” (Goodrich and Hackett 515). When their friends were in danger, Miep and Kraler immediately reached out to offer them a place to stay and food to eat, while also risking their lives. In “Passage to Freedom: a Sugihara Story,” the Sugihara family was forced to make a decision about whether to help hundreds of Jewish refugees escaping from the Nazis. In order to save them, the family would have to provide them visas, even though instructed against doing so by the Japanese government. “Every day, from early in the morning till late at night, my father tried to write three hundred visas,” recounts Hiroki Sugihara, son of Chiune (Mochizuki 3). Sugihara worked through the night to provide visas for the refugees, although the Japanese government advised him better of it. Against his better judgement, and even though he could lose his job, Sugihara opted to help the refugees survive, another example of the willingness of humans to put themselves in harm’s way in order to save others from an otherwise inevitable demise.

Even suffering people still are generous and open their hearts to others, knowing it may affect them negatively. Otto Frank very graciously allows Dussel to move in, even though there is a food shortage in the annex already. When asked if he’d take in Dussel, Mr. Frank replies “Of course we will,” and even breaks out the cognac to celebrate, saying he “couldn’t find a better time to use it” (Goodrich and Hackett 528 and 529). Mr. Frank gives Mr. Dussel a roof over his head and provides him sustenance, even while struggling to provide for himself and his own family. In “A Tragedy Revealed,” Anne’s friend in Bergen-Belsen, Lies, attempts to give Anne food, as Anne had none and Lies still had some. Lies recalls, “I had packed up a jacket and sugar and a tin of sardines for her. I called out, ‘Anne, watch now!’ Then I threw the bundle across the barbed wire,” (Schnabel 266). Even though Lies was experiencing food shortage herself, she found it in her heart to give some of her food to Anne, effectively helping Anne survive, if only for a short time longer. These examples show the impulse of humans to put the needs of others above their own.

However, others may disagree with this viewpoint. Some may argue that the Holocaust itself disproves that humans will reach out and help others. More than 15 million German citizens were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis (Paulsson). However, the Nazis thought what they were doing was right, even though it would be considered wrong by today’s standards. Hitler introduced himself as an avid patriot, striving to restore Germany to its former glory by bringing back the Aryan race. He disguised these sentiments under vague statements, saying “We have to protect ourselves from the enemies that live in our midst,” and “insist that only members of our nation can be citizens” (Hitler). People in Germany took to his ideals, and decided to collaborate to bring his vision about, so in a way, they believed they were helping each other. The Nazis believed that finding a so-called pure race was right, and were willing to work together, assisting each other in the cause for a greater Germany.

As shown by the choices of the characters in many WWII stories, it is arguable that people will volunteer to help others. In “Passage to Freedom: A Sugihara Story,” Sugihara writes visas for hundred of refugees, effectively allowing them to escape certain death at the hands of the Nazis. In The Diary of Anne Frank, there are many people who give Jews refuge from the Nazis. In the concentration camps, inmates are still generous and benevolent to each other, even as they progress further and further towards their deaths. Through these stories, it is shown that there are people willing to do what they believe is right, at great personal risk and against the actions of the masses. Even though not everyone can saves lives every day, each person can try to help others through small actions of generosity and kindness.

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