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Echoes From The Holocaust: Philosophical Reflections on a Dark Time

Gerald E Alan; Myers Rosenberg

Publication Year: 2009

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xv

The murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children during World War II was an act of such barbarity that it constitutes one of the central events of our time; yet a list of the major concerns of professional philosophers since 1945 would exclude the Holocaust. Compared to their output on the mind-body problem or on the merits of...

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pp. xvi

First and foremost, we are indebted to our colleagues in the Philosophy Department of Queens College for their enthusiasm for our project. Especially helpful were Professors Eugene Fontinell, Peter Manicas, R. W. Sleeper, and Edith Wyschogrod. And our appreciation to the secretarial staff, Joan Lesnoy, Gladys Passoa, and Barbara Pauker, and the staff of the...


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1. The Holocaust as History

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pp. 3-50

Before interpreting the Holocaust, what happened must be established. Such a task corresponds to the primary charge given by Leopold von Ranke, that the historian's purpose is the recreation of the past as it really happened. For Ranke this was essentially a simple matter: The professional historian would bring back the facts from...


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2. Holocaust: Moral Indifference as the Form of Modern Evil

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pp. 53-90

Two voices address us here. The first is that of social science, the second that of poetry. The former sounds assertive, the latter interrogative. The first contributes to explanation, the second to moral meaning. The former is a quotation from the definitive history of the Einsatzgruppen (mobile extermination squads), the latter one from the...

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3. What Philosophy Can and Cannot Say about Evil

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pp. 91-104

With few exceptions, academic philosophers have had little to say about the Holocaust. There was a time when I considered this outrageous. How could a discipline that examines human values and aspirations ignore one of the most significant, if not the most significant, events of the century? We are rightly disdainful of the scientists and...

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4. Liberalism and the Holocaust: An Essay on Trust and the Black-Jewish Relationship

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pp. 105-117

After one has managed, as best one can, to come to grips with the fact that the Holocaust occurred, the next most shocking matter that one has to confront is the fact that so many did so little to prevent the Jews from being taken to the furnaces, to prevent the genocide of a people-although much assistance could have been offered that would...

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5. The Dilemma of Choice in the Deathcamps

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pp. 118-127

Suppose Dante's pilgrim in the Divine Comedy had arrived at the exit from the Inferno to find the way barred by a barbed wire fence, posted with warnings reading "No trespassing. Violators will be annihilated." When the spiritual and psychological equivalents of Purgatory and Paradise are excluded from human possibility, to be replaced by...

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6. On the Idea of Moral Pathology

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pp. 128-148

In November 1942 Jan Karski, a member of the Polish underground and delegate of the Polish government, made his way from Warsaw to London. Although his main mission was to report on general conditions, he was able to provide extensive information on the situation of the Jews in Poland and about the Warsaw ghetto, which he had visited a number of times. Subsequent to his sessions in Britain, Karski...

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7. The Right Way to Act: Indicting the Victims

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pp. 149-162

It is clear that our moral and dramatic landscape, the narrative look of the twentieth century, would be far different if we could imaginatively erase the Nazi from that landscape. He occupies it with us. He is a kind of measuring rod of our relation to the category of evil. But the Nazi's outstandingness in that department has also been...

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8. On Losing Trust in the World

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pp. 163-180

Jean Amery, lone child of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, was born in Vienna on October 31, 1912. He fled Nazism by going to Belgium in 1938. There he later joined the Resistance. Captured by the Gestapo in 1943, he was sent to a series of concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Liberated from Bergen-Belsen in 1945, Amery went on to write a series of remarkable essays about his Holocaust...

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9. Ethics, Evil, and the Final Solution

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pp. 181-197

Germany's Endlosung der Judenfrage is a paradigm of what G.J. Warnock has called a "plain fact" of moral wrong. Philip Hallie, in his account of the French Huguenot village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), whose citizens shielded Jews during the German occupation, begins by citing Warnock:...


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10. The Holocaust as a Test of Philosophy

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pp. 201-222

Dewey was right. There are such issues that, ". . . in their production of good and evil ... are so central, so strategic in position, that their urgency deserves, with respect to practice, the names ultimate and comprehensive." There can be little doubt that the Holocaust is such an issue. But Dewey also states, almost casually, that it is "relatively unimportant whether this attention be called philosophy or...

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11. The Holocaust and Human Progress

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pp. 223-244

After Auschwitz is absorbed as fact, it must be contemplated as meaning. Philosophy, and other disciplines as well, must paint its gray in gray, setting it alongside what we already know and think about human beings, their actions, the life and world they have created. Language, for example, must be rethought in light of both the massive...

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12. The Holocaust: Moral Theory and Immoral Acts

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pp. 245-261

Susan Sontag writes that "one's first encounter with the photographic inventory of ultimate horror is a kind of revelation, the prototypically modern revelation: a negative epiphany. For me, it was photographs of Bergen-Belsen and Dachau.... Nothing I have seen ... ever cut me as sharply, deeply, instantaneously."1...

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13. Technology and Genocide: Technology as a "Form of Life"

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pp. 262-291

Technology is a determinative, metaphysical factor requuIng consideration in any analytic probe of the uniqueness of the Shoah. Though the technological element has been recognized as repercussive from the inception of the debate over Nazism, it is important for analytic purposes to give it heightened prominence as a "normative" category....

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14. The Concept of God after Auschwitz: A Jewish Voice

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pp. 292-305

After Auschwitz, that is to say, after the Holocaust for whose widely dispersed reality that single name serves as a blindingly concentrating lens, the Jew can no longer simply hold on to the time-honored theology of his faith that has been shattered by it. Nor, if he wills Judaism to continue, can he simply discard his theological heritage...

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15. The Psychology of Man after Auschwitz

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pp. 306-326

Auschwitz symbolizes, in the words of Sara Nomberg-Przytyk, the devastation "in the psyche of every human being," and it symbolizes, we may add, the devastation of traditional concepts of the human psyche. No Auschwitz was needed to confirm the grimmer verdicts of human nature passed down from Plato through Freud, yet so incredible...

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16. Concentration Camps and the End of the Life-World

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pp. 327-340

The fact that the life-world of the concentration camps is radically different from that of ordinary experience is incontestable.1 But how and in what sense are we to understand this difference? Are the structures of human existence changed merely in regard to this or that component of experience: work, sexuality, habitation, or, even more fundamentally,...

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17. Language and Genocide

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pp. 341-361

The explanation of a historical event inevitably bears the mark of artifice. If it did not omit or compress, it would be as extensive as the events it was intended to explain and would be no more coherent than they were individually. To be sure, it is not only because of the complexity of historical connections in general that even the most...


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18. Social Science Techniques and the Study of Concentration Camps

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pp. 365-378

Every science is necessarily based upon a few inarticulate, elementary, and axiomatic assumptions which are exposed and exploded only when confronted with altogether unexpected phenomena which can no longer be understood within the framework of its categories. The social sciences and the techniques they have developed...

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19. The Crisis in Knowing and Understanding the Holocaust

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pp. 379-395

The popular slogan "Never Again!" has captured the Jewish imagination. If we are to realize its intent, if we are to build a future in which another Holocaust will not happen, we shall have to generate understanding of what we know. We must pass beyond knowledge of the past as merely a matter of record to the point where the past...

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20. The Politics of Symbolic Evasion: Germany and the Aftermath of the Holocaust

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pp. 396-411

Was Hitler allowed to treat German Jews as prisoners of war and to intern them in camps? The prominent German historian Ernst Nolte thought so, and in the summer of 1986, his unusual thoughts provoked a public debate about the place and meaning of the Third Reich in the context of German history. Nolte's views were first published in a...

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21. The Abuse of Holocaust Studies: Mercy Killing and the Slippery Slope

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pp. 412-420

The magnitude of Holocaust literature (including films) in the last twenty-five years is difficult to grasp. Probably no other event in the history of humankind has been as intensively examined. Although every decent human being applauds the effort to record and understand the horrors of the Third Reich, this tidal wave of literature carries...

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22. The "Incomprehensibility" of the Holocaust: Tightening up Some Loose Usage

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pp. 421-431

As scholarship concerning the destruction of European Jewry accelerates, articulate survivors and some well-informed scholars remind the researchers that, as an event that demands serious investigation, the Holocaust may be, nonetheless, uniquely incomprehensible. Nora Levin writes: "The Holocaust refuses to go the way of most...

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23. Studying the Holocaust's Impact Today: Some Dilemmas of Language and Method

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pp. 432-442

While studying certain aspects of the aftermath of the Holocaust in Germany and other parts of Europe, as well as in Israel, during the latter half of the 1970s--especially that event's continuing interpretations and reputed lessons in our time--we became aware that some basic conceptual and procedural problems face all those engaged in such...

The Contributors

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pp. 443-446


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pp. 447-453

E-ISBN-13: 9781439901618

Publication Year: 2009