Chapter

Facing the Holocaust

Phillip Cole

in The Myth of Evil

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780748622009
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671908 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748622009.003.0008
Facing the Holocaust

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The Holocaust presents the greatest challenge to the thesis of this book, that the discourse of evil must be resisted if we are to reach a true understanding of human events. Was not the Holocaust perpetrated by people who can only be understood as monstrously evil? It begins by examining Primo Levi's writings, and his description of the “Grey Zone', where judgment is complex and difficult. He describes the camp guards as 'average human beings,…averagely wicked.” The chapters continues with an examination of the Browning/Goldhagen debate, around the this idea of ‘ordinary people’ and their capacity to perform dreadful acts. It concludes with an exploration of Hannah Arendt's idea of ‘banal’ evil and its opposite, ‘radical’ evil. What makes evil radical, is the reduction of human beings to superfluous objects.

Keywords: The Holocaust; Hannah Arendt; Primo Levi; Anti-semitism

Chapter.  15307 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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