ClaudiaKoonzNaziConscience

ClaudiaKoonzNaziConscience - Glaudia Koonz il.tF".mff;l^.r3...

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Glaudia Koonz il.tF".mff;l^.r3 :¡.,1F*1::Yr {î\5x The Belknap Press of Haruard UnivercityPress Cambridge, Massachusetts London,England 2003
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For lan Prologue "The Nazi conscience" is not an oxymoron. Atthough it may be repug- nant to conceive of mass murderers acting in accordance with an ethos that they believed vindicated their crimes, the historical record of the Third Reich suggests that indeed this was often the case. The popurarizers of antisemitism and the planners of genocide foilowed a coherenr set of severe ethical maxims derived from broad philosophicar concepts. As modem securarists, they denied the existence of either a divinery inspired moral raw or an innate ethicar imperative. Because they believed that concepts of virtue and vice had evolved according to the needs of particu_ lar ethnic communities, they denied the existence of universal moral val_ ues and instead promoted moral maxims they saw as appropriate to their fuyan community. unrike the earþ twentieth-century moral philoso- phers who saw cultural relativism as an argument for tolerance, Nazi theo_ rists drew the opposite conclusion. Assuming that cultural diversity breeds antagonism, they asserted the superiority of their own communi- tarian values above all others. conscience, as we usually think of i! is an inner voice that admonishes "Thou shalt" and "Thou shart not." Across cultures, an ethic of reciprocity commands that we treat others as we wish to be treated. Besides instruct_ ing us in virtue, the conscience futûlls a second, and often overlooked, function. It tels us to whom we shau and sha[ not do what. It strucrures our identity by separating those who deserve our concem from alien "others" beyond the pale of our community. our moral identity prompts us to asþ "Am I the kind of person who would do that to this per- son?"l The texts of western moral philosophy and theology are ritte¡ed with less-than-fuly-human "others." In the Hebrew Bible, outsiders are treated harshly. with barery a thought, classicar Greek philosophy ex- cludes barbarians, slaves, and women from fully human status. ch¡stian charity extends primarily to christians. Many of the maior treatises of the European Enlightenment treat Africans, American Indians, and women as creatures without reason, bereft of fuuy human status. In 1g33 carr Schmitt, a distinguished politicar theorist and avid Hitler supporter, para- phrased a slogan used often in Nazi circles when he denounced the idea of
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universal human rights, saying: Not every being with a human face is human.z This belief expressed the bedrock of Nazi morarity. Although ft might seem that a human catastrophe on the scare of the Holocaust was caused by an evil that defres our understanding, what is frightening about the racist public culture within which the Final Solution was conceived is not its extremism but its ordinariness-not its savage hatreds but its rofty ide_ als. The men, and a few women, who popul anzed,Nazi racism expounded
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This note was uploaded on 07/15/2009 for the course CULT-ANTH 94 taught by Professor Starn during the Spring '09 term at Duke.

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ClaudiaKoonzNaziConscience - Glaudia Koonz il.tF".mff;l^.r3...

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