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Foundations For A Judgment Of The Holocaust: Etty Hillesum's Standard Of Humanity

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Chapter Summary

We are well aware of the relatively recent and somewhat inconclusive attempt at coming to terms with the National Socialist regime in Germany known as the Historikerstreit of the 1980s. To judge an action as objectively evil, we need a standard of goodness. This chapter suggests that Etty Hillesum had arrived at that standard, and tries to articulate it as unfolding in three dimensions: personal, social and historic. In the cumulative light of all three dimensions, it seems that an adequate judgment of the Holocaust is possible. Since Etty Hillesum's diaries and letters were never intended as systematic articulations of such a judgment, the author invites a few classic philosophers and some modern writers into conversation with her within an interpretative framework of those three dimensions. This conversation between Hillesum and these others is offered as a help towards understanding her judgment on the persecution of her people.

Keywords: Etty Hillesum; Holocaust; standard of goodness



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