Hate Exposed in Babi Yar

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Hate Exposed in Babi Yar

Babi Yar, a poem written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, tells the story of the Nazi invasion into a small part of Russia, in which, throughout the duration of World War II, over one-hundred thousand Jews, Gypsies and Russian POW's were brutally murdered. However, what is unique about this particular perspective is that the narrator is not a Jew, but a mere observer who is aghast at the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust. It is through allusions, as well as other literary devices, that Yevtushenko elucidates caustically the absurdities of the hatred that caused the Holocaust, in addition to the narrator's identification with the Jews and their history of oppression.

Perhaps, the most effective literary device used in "Babi Yar" is the allusion. The first clear allusion seen in the poem is the one concerning Egypt(line 6). This reference harks back to the Jews' enslavement in Egypt before they become a nation. In line 7, the narrator makes reference to how so many Jews perished on the cross. The reason for these initial allusions in the first section is clear. Yevtushenko is establishing the history of the Jewish people, being one of oppression, prejudice, and innocent victims. The next illusion in the poem is a reference to the Dreyfus Affair, a more modern display of irrational and avid anti-Semitism. It is in the Dreyfus affair that an innocent man is accused of espionage and is sent to jail for more than ten years, notwithstanding an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to his innocence, simply because he is a Jew.

Yevtushenko uses these allusions to lead up to his referral to a boy in Bielostok who is murdered by the Russian common-f...

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...ranscend race, religion, color, and sex, and involves the whole of the human race. Yevtushenko depicts powerfully the tragedy of the absurdity of the long based ill-founded hatred that many people feel towards the Jewish people as a whole. In addition, the narrator speaks to each reader as if he is a Jew, not in the sense of having gone through the experience, but rather in the sense of being a part of the remembering process, part of the humane society which feels a moral obligation to recognize what took place and to learn from that experience, lest humanity be condemned to repeat the unthinkable. Perhaps, it is most appropriate that Yevtushenko concludes the poem with the ironic charge of saying that only when all of the anti-Semitic and hate based people are hated and "spit on", can the narrator truly be a "Russian", the standard for true humanity.
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