The Hangman Poem Analysis

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Individuals make choices every day that affect history. During the Holocaust, the mass murder of Jews during Hitler’s reign, ordinary European citizens shaped history by allowing Jews to die. Their decisions were greatly influenced by their understanding of the universe of obligation, which sociologist Helen Fein defines as “The circle of individuals and groups ‘toward whom obligations are owed, to whom rules apply, and whose injuries call for [amends]’ (“We and They” 56). The majority of ordinary citizens chose to neglect Jews in order to protect themselves or their families. However, some brave individuals called upstanders chose to stand up to the Nazi regime by rescuing Jews and other victims of persecution. Numerous bystanders claimed to have no other options when faced with a moral dilemma, and in doing so, they gave the perpetrators permission to hurt others. Bystanders enable perpetrators to commit atrocities; therefore, they are just as guilty of the crimes that the Nazis committed during the Holocaust. Bystanders do not know how to stop following the perpetrators’…show more content…
In the poem, “The Hangman,” after the hangman executes everyone except the speaker, the hangman says, “The scaffold was raised for none but you. For who has served me more faithfully than you with your coward’s hope?” (Ogden 24-26). The speaker watches all the townspeople die, including his friends, without saying a word. He does not kill anyone, but he is the most faithful follower and does not stop others’ deaths. He could have rallied groups and tried to stop the hangman from killing since the hangman is one man and they are a group. If bystanders became upstanders during Hitler’s reign, Hitler would have never had control of the territory and would have fallen as fast as he came to power. Bystanders care more about their well-being than the well being of others. Risking your life is worth it for the lives of many
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