Under a Cruel Star
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Under a cruel star is a revealing book that gives an intimate view on how people feel and act under the cruelty of totalitarianism. Its author, Heda Kovaly ably explains how the human mind can manipulate itself to cope with the prevailing circumstances. The author passionately narrates the experiences that she and her family encountered after being forcibly ejected from their home in Prague and forced to live in Lodz ghetto. To add salt to the wound, the author’s family was further evacuated to Auschwitz concentration camp that was under the Nazi. The condition in the camp was horrible; it was a jackal between totalitarianism, fascism and communism. It was against this background that the author gives her personal accounts of details and effects that two of the twentieth century's most destructive totalitarian ideologies had on individual lives. This paper describes the means and efforts that people employed to cope with cruel regimes. The paper focuses on the reasons that made people support communism after suffering for many years under Nazism. Furthermore, the paper attempts to elucidate from the author’s point of view why the three forces, fascism, communism and totalitarianism, were powerful.
Head Kovaly describes the ingenious ways that people applied in an attempt to overcome the harsh condition imposed on them by cruel regimes. The author explains how she and her fellows, captives, struggled to endure powerful forces that brought them immense suffering. One thing that comes out openly is the peoples’ ability to focus their attention at the world’s beauty at the midst of overwhelming torture. According to the author, this was the only way one could forget his/her suffering. Imagining the conditions outside the camp gave them sigh of relieve that everybody kept on dreaming about. This is clearly demonstrated in an episode where Kovaly frantically yelled at her boss, the business woman who had paid for the Auschwitz services. Kovaly put it clear to her boss that they were not going to work under starvation conditions. Other girls tried to silence her because they were afraid that the author’s actions could spark an angry retaliation. To their utter disbelief, their manager pulls Kovaly aside and demands her to expound on her demands. To her surprise, Kovaly (1997) replies candidly by saying: “That man lived in Nazi Germany and had daily contact with a concentration camp and its inmates, yet he knew nothing. I am quite sure he did not. He had simply thought that we were convicts, sentenced by a regular court of law for proven crimes.” (Pg34). The author clearly demonstrates the sufferings that the captives were undergoing because of their insensitive regimes. The author further demonstrates the hope that the captives had, even though they were living in deplorable conditions. They knew that the time for change would come and the whole society would be free.
The book further explains how quickly the author and other captives were in order to cope with the harsh realities of totalitarianism while being in the hands of fascists. The author describes that the mentality of camp survivors was something that impressed her a lot. She could not imagine that after all those years of immense suffering and torture people could easily integrate into the normal life. Kovaly (1997) says that “It is hardly possible for people to live for so many years as slaves in everyday contact with fascists and fascism without becoming somewhat twisted,” (p. 87). According to the author, her conduct and mentality in the camp was quite strong, so she could not give up to live. Most people failed to adjust to normal life after having experienced many years of torture and inhuman treatment. Such people often become violent, and they compensate for their suffering by torturing other people or treating them unfairly.
The other factor that came out in the book is the captives’ ability to agitate for the better. The author has demonstrated clearly that constant agitations yield positive results. In her description, the author states that despite the fact that the war had beaten all the Slovakians, and despite their humiliation and the slavery status, they had the power to scramble to make things better from the first day. The author was mesmerized by the immense recovery ability that the people had. They could not succumb to many years of torture, slavery and humiliation imposed on them by powerful forces of autocratic regimes, fascism and communism. The Slovakians also had great interests in their country. Despite the harsh autocratic regime, the Slovakians often gathered in backyards to discuss what they thought was best for their country. Heda Kovaly depicts a scenario where she would gather together with her husband and other angry serious people for unceremonious gatherings to deliberate on which political system could serve best their country. Kovaly (1997) writes “ communist party writings and pamphlets offered such clear and simple answers to the most complicated questions that I kept feeling there had to be a mistake somewhere,” (p. 43) she continues to lament that misery, discrimination and injustice befell people simply because a few powerful people were holding the rest to ransom. However, she was quick to express optimism that one day the people would have the power to choose what they liked. She seemed to believe in the people`s power.
According to the people, communism was the best way out of the predicament. Communism might have emerged as the people’s favorite political system because people regarded it as the best system to ensure equality in the society. The author narrates how people emphasized on the need of a more just political system to replace the democratic system that threatened the social fabric of the Slovakians. According to the book, the Slovakians thought that the panacea to their political problem laid in communism. They believed that communism would deliver peace and equality that they had been demanding for years. The harsh realities of the Nazi regime and the predicament that befell many Slovakians during and after the First World War made most of them to believe that communism could unify the society. The author expressed her personal sentiments in which she openly defied the calls for communism. Kovaly (1997) writes “It seems beyond belief that in Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup in 1948, people were once again beaten and tortured by the police, that prison camps existed and we did not know, and that if anyone had told us the truth we would have refused to believe it.” (p. 93). After the years of continued torture and suffering, the author came to realize that most of their tribulations were caused by the lack of empowerment. People on the ground lacked the power to decide for themselves. This prompted those at the helm to accumulate power and enrich themselves at the expense of the population.
Kovaly was warning the proponents of communism about the dangers of the system. The author was fully aware of the ills that always accompanied communist regimes. Kovaly totally understood the challenge that laid in communism. She hated both sides and just supported the fight for freedom. Communism was considered as the freedom of having the right to do what one wanted to do. It showed that the government should be blamed for the loss of people. The most countries over the globe were communist. Many compared it with fascism of the Nazi government and campaigned for it. The fact that almost the whole community felt the rule of fascism caused a dramatic change. All valued communism and joined campaigns that involved the fight for freedom from the Nazi administrations.
Kovaly hated both sides as she had experienced both of them. She believed that fascism did not consider the rights of citizens. It used tortures and the lack of freedom to rule the country. Communism later proved to be unreliable as it could not do anything to help to stop the oppression of people in Czechoslovakia. Many Czech citizens tried to escape from the Nazi Germans, but they were caught in shoot-outs and lost their lives. After Kovaly and Rudolph had showed their support to communism, the latter was allegedly involved into a scandal. Rudolph was said to have admitted to committing some crimes and had to pay the price of being arrested. During her husband’s trial, many would ridicule and mock Heda. This made her feel left out with writing the book, while being all alone. Her husband’s crimes seemed to get the best of Kovaly; at first it devastated her and then the book showed her the continuation of the definition of freedom. Her main purpose was to understand the German government at that time and the concept of freedom.
Kovaly considered that the most powerful force was the Soviet army which ruled in the Eastern European countries. Being subjected to slavery and mistreatment by the authority was enough to make citizens give up their lives. This was the reason behind the deaths of many women in caring about the Jews during the Nazi government. They preferred to die than to live a cruel life, where they had no freedom. Communism also appeared to be based on the truth and concern about citizens, but people changed the meaning of it.
Kovaly considered communism to be more powerful than all other regimes. Many people, who had suffered from Nazism, later supported communism and campaigned for it. This sudden change of views can be said to be extraordinary. People did not understand why they changed from subjects of the Nazism regime to supporters of communism. They would feel unappreciated and would want the future without Nazism. They then fought for their rights and they believed that communism would help them. This can be said to be an outstanding reason for a sudden support of communism. It can be said that it was way of attacking the ruling government. They used communism as a shield for their attack on the government. That would have succeeded, if they had enough soldiers to overthrow the president. People feared to take any part in overthrowing the Soviet army from ruling. They preferred to watch as activists fought and campaigned for their rights as the citizens of that country. This was not fair to them, as it took time to grant them freedom.
Communism and Marxism included significant issues in the past concerning the humans` value. Marxism was largely based on the subsections that existed in the society according to the class that one belonged to at a particular time.
This later appeared to overcome Nazism as people started to believe in communism. Today, the laws that govern various countries are communist. According to the writer, communism appeared to be the best option, though it cost her husband’s life. This made her turn against beliefs of communism and try to fight for a new life elsewhere. She underwent through the tortures in concentration camps and then in Czechoslovakia. She narrated the story about the Soviet army ruling and its effects. Today, the rules that govern most countries can be said to be based on democracy. Here, citizens enjoy their rights to their full capacity. Strict actions can be used to discipline wrong-doers, but it happens in the extremely rare cases. The outcomes of the Soviet ruling are prejudice in political relations; the society even classifies people according to similar characteristics. This is not beneficial to any country, as it brings separation, leading to the wars within the country. Most American states have been still practicing communism, and there are debates among them concerning communism and Marxism (Kovaly, 1997). Kovaly analyzed the book as her autobiography that can be used to show doings of a legendary woman. She represented what she stood for through the literary work in her book. Her book is read and utilized all over the world to expose the Soviet army to the rest of the world.
The author wrote passionately about the experiences that she and others underwent in the hands of powerful forces of tyranny and fascism. The book represents her personal account of how tough the circumstances can become in the absence of reason. She offers excellent insights of how people can overcome totalitarian regimes. According to the book, people have the absolute power to decide for what they want. One only needs to have the power and the resilience to fight on.
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