What happens when an entire group of human beings is excluded from
the definition of humanity? How is the power of language used to
distort reality? What happens when a comprehensive economic plan is
based on theft, brainwashing, slave labor, and murder? These and
other philosophical questions about the Holocaust are contemplated
in Contemporary Portraits of Auschwitz.
In 1988, a group of philosophers who had survived the Holocaust, or
had known people at the Auschwitz death camp, decided to found an
organization that would examine the philosophical implications of
Shoah: the Society for the Philosophic Study of Genocide and the
Holocaust (SPSGH). Noting that the history and the personal horror
stories had been told and retold, SPSGH's founders Sander Lee,
Berel Lang, and Alan Rosenberg argued that too little study had
been so far devoted to the philosophy of Hitler's final solution
and other genocides.
Auschwitz problematized the Enlightenment concept of humanity, and
other concepts. The perfection of state-sponsored and -administered
mass death issued in new forms of language, moral indifference, and
forgetting. Philosophy often even fails to mention the Holocaust in
discussions of National Socialism. And the disaster of Auschwitz
has been largely neutralized by the normalization of a "ruined"
This volume includes essays in several areas: Witnesses and
Testimonies; Morality and Ethics; Art and Poetry; History and
Memory; and The Crisis of Representation. Contributors are Karyn
Ball, Eve Bannet, Debra Bergoffen, James Bernauer, Klaus Dorner,
Jennifer N. Fink, Roger Fjellstrom, Ruth Liberman, Burkhard
Liebsch, Alan Milchman, Raj Sampath, Paul Sars, Hans Seigfried,
Thomas W. Simon, Dan Stone, Peter Strasser, Frans van
Peperstratten, Erik M. Vogt, Andrew Weinstein, and others.
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