Free Essay

Art and Empathy

In: Historical Events

Submitted By yankeesbx646
Words 1545
Pages 7
Kenny Smith
April 20th, 2003

The role of men in society has been a vital. Men were subjected to the same inhumane and horrifying events that happened during the Holocaust. When one thinks of a man, you think of father, solider and other manly things. A great deal of pride comes along with being and man. Along with pride, testosterone, intensity, and all sorts of other factors key into the characteristics of men. However, the Holocaust completely stripped men of most of these characteristics. The Holocaust did not allow men to be men. Holocaust art, the “Tale of the Sprinter” by Sudeep Pagedar, and Vladek Spiegelman in the memoirs Maus by Art Spiegelman are examples of how men suffered during the Holocaust and the amount of empathy produced from the suffering of these men.
Empathy is the ability to see something from somebody else's point of view and to walk a mile in their shoes if you will. Men are very prideful individuals who are very dominating members of society. The atrocity of the Holocaust has been displayed and expressed through various pieces of art and literature. Famous Holocaust painters like Felix Nussbaum have expressed this atrocity through art. Felix Nussbaum was a prisoner at Auschwitz who died there in 1944. The image to the right is one Nussbaum’s paintings that survived the Holocaust. Besides the man sitting on this wooden box, you see two other men in the rear who appear to be using the bathroom. The condition that these men were forced to live in horse stable like conditions. These men were treated like animals and the lowest level of the food chain. Maybe this was a photo he painted of himself. Felix Nussbaum wanted people to know the horrible atrocities they went through. He wanted to show how men were living. His painting produces a great deal of empathy because no one could imagine having to wipe his or her feces with straw. The men in the background could have been former bankers, jewelers, or a father. Now, he is just a number in society. There is a lot of empathy produced from this photo because no one could fathom having to wipe his or her waste up with grass or straw.
Athletes carry a great sense of pride with them. They are proud of what they do and how well they excel at their sport. The Holocaust was full of great athletes and former professional athletes. The “Tale of the Sprinter” allows a reader to get a feeling of how this terrible situation affected the runner in this poem. The poem introduces us to a runner who seems to be very prideful in himself and his talents. “Any race I participate in, I always come in first, for I tell myself, “I Have to win” (Pagedar l.6-8). The Holocaust was composed of men similar to the runner in this story. These were men taken from their families who had dreams similar to the runner in this poem. “I once thought, if I keep running this, I might be in the Olympics, some day…” (Pagedar l.17-19). Any Olympic athlete could tell you how great it feels to be in the Olympics and represent your country. This runner had that same dream. Quickly, the shifts to the present and we know the Holocaust has begun and his mood is different. The runner expresses his feelings about being in the Holocaust and having his dream just washed away. “Yes, it is true that I can run very fast: But it is also true that I am a Jew…” (Pagedar l.29-32). He says this with a very insecure tone as if he is ashamed of being a Jew. The Holocaust and the atrocity it produced is the reason for this. This evokes empathy because here is a man who was great at what he did, but his religion was the reason he could not live his ream. There is nothing worst for an athlete then him having to face the reality of his dreams being shattered for no reason. The emotions evoked by this set a tone for how this runner and men were stripped of their prideful things. Vladek Spiegelman from the memoir Maus is an example of how the atrocities of the Holocaust have affected him. The stories shared by Vladek display the horrifying atrocities that these people were going through. “And the fat from the burning bodies they scooped and poured again so everyone could burn better"(Spiegelman 62). This was one of the many nightmarish images of brutality in the book. The human body is stripped of everything that makes it recognizably human, reduced to bones and fat. Even dead, the captive Jews are not allowed the smallest dignity. In addition, Vladek shares stories about how they were treated like animals. “We lay on top of the other, like matches, like herrings. I pushed to a corner not to get crushed … High up I saw a few hooks to chain up maybe the animals"(Spiegelman 75). Considered racially inferior, the Jews were treated like animals. This is one of many scenes in the memoir where Jews are held in structures or cars that were initially built for animals. Vladek has a very complex personality because of his Holocaust experiences. Vladek Spiegelman is a disturbed, bitter old man who is unwilling to talk about the things that made him the way he is. Through Vladek Spiegelman, we are able to see how atrocity affected men during the Holocaust. Vladek’s character traits evoke empathy because he cannot be the man and father that he could have been because of this event. Art is a way to express emotions and feelings. Holocaust art and literature are products of atrocities. Men in literature and art are usually expressed as very bold figure. When you see a sculpture of a man, it is usually a masculine figure with bold features. The Holocaust stripped men of their masculinity and diluted them down to weak and inferior nothings. Atrocities are the cause of this. The rise to art from these atrocities depicts men as weak and miserable. The photo on the right is a piece of art that shows how men were stripped of their pride. This iconic photo shows men sleeping in the barracks and laying right on top of one another. As a man, this is no way to live. This photo gives rise to empathy because no man should live like this. These men in this photo had families, business, and lives going on. The atrocities that these men went through gave rise to this photo. This photo evokes empathy because as a man I could never imagine sleeping in conditions similar to theirs. Atrocities have and will continue to give rise to art, and through art people are able to establish emotional connection to the past. Understanding art and the magnitude of the events creates a feeling of empathy. We are able to realize what people went through and know how hard it would be to put ourselves and their shoes. Men in the Holocaust had to accept their inferior role in society. Men as we know are very prideful individuals. Men pride in their masculinity and fight to keep it. The Holocaust portrayed men as weak inferiors. The Holocaust defamed the image of the men who were victims. Fathers, business owners, former doctors, and athletes forced to give up their life-long dreams and prominent careers to suffer.
Through art, we are able to understand this misery. We are able to see photos like the ones by Felix Nussbaum and understand the horrible and inhumane things done to these people. Felix Nussbaum’s photo exhibits how miserable they were and the conditions. What man would want to live like that? What man would want to be treated like animals in a barn? These atrocities are understood through art. This art thus allows people to create feelings towards the Holocaust. These photos and pieces of literature capture how men were stripped of their pride. The “Tale of the Sprinter” is another piece of art that gives displays this. This poem shows how this man was stripped of his talents and pride. He had great goals and they were shattered in the blink of an eye for no reason. One can only imagine how painful that would be especially when there is nothing that can change the situation. Vladek Spiegelman’s character also shows how his suffering has given rise to art. Vladek has these horrifying memories and has problems with those close to him. His past in the Holocaust and the things he went through don’t allow him to be the husband, father, and man he could be.
The Holocaust tainted the lives of its victims. Art allows us to get a clearer image of that. Whether it’s a film, photo, or literature, art allows us to see atrocity. The photo of the men in the barracks evokes empathy for men around the world. No man would want to live life like this, for no reason. Consequently, atrocities and art have a direct correlation with empathy because of the connections we can make through atrocities and art within ourselves.

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