We Refugees By definition a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. The refugee has a legitimate fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion. Their reality is that due to their situation, they can never return to their country of origin. For the year 1943, Hannah Arendt published in the newspaper “The Menorah Journal” an essay called “We Refugees”. In her essay “We Refugees”, Hannah Arendt wants to make clear her message and opinion about what a refugee lives, and how for her the refugee is one of the most vulnerable humans on earth.
She tells us how the Jews had escaped the cruelty of the Nazis and had begun to call themselves “refugees.” When they escaped to another country they were leaving behind their culture, their language, their family; and they needed to adapt as soon as possible to their new environment, in order to live a normal life.
For her, this transition would not be possible since the European states were going to try to resolve the situation of the refugees, concentrating them in designated areas. The refugee is vulnerable because he is alone in a strange country, as Arendt mentions in her essay We Lost Our Home, which means the familiarity of everyday life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in this world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of the reactions, the simplicity of the gestures, the unaffected expression of the feelings. We left our relatives in the Polish ghettos and our best friends were killed in concentration camps, and that means the breaking of our private lives. (Arendt, 1943) Arendt describes those Jewish refugees, without a home, without a family in a place unknown to them, trying to adapt as best as possible to their new environment; which we can compare them with our current situation of immigrants in the United States. As in the year 2017, our government ordered to separate families of immigrants and return them to their country of origin, as we saw the suffering of children who were separated from their parents. She lets see how the situation with the refugees was going to be a problem that could not be solved; and refugees would continue to be a problem without solution. She sees the situation of the refugees as a phenomenon of the masses and how these people are forced to leave their homes and reach a country trying to get a better future. Her vision of the problem dates back to 1943, and today we can see that her belief is true, we can see for example how in the United States today we have the problem of immigrants and how their situation in the country has not been resolved. She says that now more than ever, refugees should be optimists, and should follow the country’s advice where they are refugees in search of a better life. But it is not easy, because they should forget about their past, the families they left behind and adapt to the new country they should call their new home. She tells us how Hitler’s invasion afflicted them in such a way that even the Austrian Jews, a happy people, began to commit suicide as the invasion began. Tells how refugees have to undergo assimilation and become a citizen; and how refugee status is like a deficiency that they have to overcome. She mentions how they have been able to adapt to a new language, when he mentions that “the most optimistic are convinced that they speak English and their mother tongue, and after two years, they solemnly swear that they speak English better than any other language, their German is a language that they hardly remember. (Arendt, 1943) This says it in a sarcastic way. The refugees have made an attempt to survive within a country whose stories and calamities do not matter to them, where they cannot freely speak of their pain; as when she mentions “To forget us more efficiently, we prefer to avoid any allusion to the concentration camps or internment that we experience in almost all European countries: it could be interpreted as pessimism or lack of confidence in the new homeland that nobody likes to hear all that. (Arendt, 1943) It shows the refusal felt by refugees. The refugees feel the rejection of the nation that is now their home, when they mention “In the light of day, of course, we become unique” Technically “foreign enemies, all refugees know it.” (Arendt, 1943) So hard has his life been that when a loved one dies they rejoice, since they do not suffer anymore; “Instead of fighting, or thinking about how to defend themselves, refugees have become accustomed to wishing death to friends or family, if someone dies, we happily imagine all the problems he has saved.” (Arendt, 1943) They have suffered so much, that for them death is a kind of relief to their pain. The refugees would like their new friends to understand that once they were normal people, that they paid their rent, made a purchase, traveled in the subway and were loved by their families. They let us see how this situation of trying to adapt to their new environment has made them try to hide their past life and pass as normal citizens, Arendt mentions “In every moment of our daily life, we are so extremely careful to prevent someone from guessing who we are, what kind of passport we have, where our birth certificates were filled, and that Hitler did not like us.” (Arendt, 1943) It must be very difficult to pretend to be who you really are not. Arendt makes it clear how the refugees were taken from Germany because they were Jews, but in the country where they seek refuge they are forced to accept the classification of “boches” as evidence that they were against Hitler’s theories. They could never be them; they would always have to be someone else, someone different. To live as a refugee is to live without your own identity, you will never be the person you were at birth, you will be a version that expect from you accord to the country where you seek refuge. As Arendt ends by saying “Our identity changes so often that no one can discover who we really are.” (Arendt, 1943) I completely agree with Hannah Arendt’s feeling that a refugee is the most vulnerable being on earth. And despite the time we continue to see this vulnerability in our current world, we can see how our immigrants struggle every day to find a new life, and a place in the country they want to call home.