Friday, January 20, 2012

Mindful of the Date

Seventy years ago today a small group of people meet for ninety minutes at a lovely villa in a Berlin suburb to articulate how they would systematically murder another "group" of people.

It's difficult at best not to come across as polemical when trying with great effort to think philosophically about that statement, those words. He doesn't contest that the "group" in question tended to have a common religious heritage, namely Judaism. The injustice was not (so much) that the victims were Jewish (or tended to have some affiliation, however slight, with Judaism) but that they were human beings. Individuals. With families and lives and cares and loves.

He doesn't want to romanticize the victims either: some of those murdered by the Nazi death machine lied, cheated, beat their children, stole. Some of the Nazis themselves, on the other hand, created great art, wrote engrossing fiction, unquestionably loved their partners, earnestly believed in the salvific blood of Jesus.

All this to say: all "interested" parties of this conference were human. And that is what barbarous history teaches. The humanity of this fateful anniversary teaches him to be, in Paul Celan's words, mindful of the date, mindful of language, mindful of one's own humanity held always in common and mostly in abeyance.

To be human is to be complicit with and guilty for both groups and to recognize the yawning gap between oneself and another. This is a humanity that won't easily or soon be surpassed.

1 comment:

  1. If I can say as much in the span of my entire dissertation, it will have been a tremendous success.
    "Ich bin du, wenn ich ich bin." -P.C.

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