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News Link • Philosophy of Liberty

"It Was As If an Abyss Had Opened"

• Bretigne.Typepad.Com

This is a fascinating interview with Hannah Arendt. So much of what she says here is very relevant for us today: From witnessing decent people going along with, or even actively supporting, an evil regime, to being attacked for the "tone" (rather than the content) of her book "Eichmann in Jerusalem." It is so refreshing to see someone who cares deeply both about humanity and about clear thinking.

A few highlights:

"The personal problem (associated with the Nazis' rise to power) did not lie in what our enemies did, but in what our friends did, in the wave of coordination, which was voluntary then, or at least not yet under the pressure of terror, it was as if a vacuum formed around one.

...among intellectuals coordination was the rule. Not among the others. I never forgot that."


"1933 was not the deciding day... for me... the deciding day was when we heard about Auschwitz... in 1943. At first we didn't believe it... because militarily it was unnecessary. My husband... said, don't be gullible, don't believe all that you hear. But six months later we did believe it. We had the proof... it was as if an abyss had opened."

Around 0:43:00, she talks about people she knew, friends, who had become Nazis, who went along with the regime. These people, she said "were not murderers... did not want what came later..." but had "fallen into their own trap."

Around 0:46:40, she talks about the controversy surrounding her book "Eichmann in Jerusalem", and a little later about group identification:

"I've never loved any people or collective group... I only love my friends. I'm incapable of any other kind of love."

She also talks a little about how she thinks the formation of the state of Israel altered Jewish culture and identity, and states her belief that the "venture into the public realm" is impossible without a trust in mankind.

The interview is just over an hour and well worth watching in its entirity.


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