At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

Synopsis

At the Mind's Limits is the story of one man's struggle to understand the reality of horror. In five autobiographical essays, Jean Amery describes his survival -- mental, moral, and physical -- through the enormity of the Holocaust. Above all, this masterful record of introspection tells of a young Viennese intellectual's fervent vision of human nature and the betrayal of that vision. Amery depicts the futile attempts of the intellect to cope with the overwhelming realities of Auschwitz. His torture is perceived as a reduction of self to the purely physical, with an accompanying loss of faith in the world. He struggles to come to terms with exile from his homeland as well as his feelings upon returning to the country of his persecutors. Finally, Amery, once the totally peripheral Jew, explains how complete acceptance of his Jewish identity, as compelled by his experiences in Auschwitz, is the only way in which he can regain human dignity."

Excerpt

Between the time this book was written and today, more than thirteen years have passed. They were not good years. One need only follow the reports from Amnesty International to see that in horror this period matches the worst epochs of a history that is as real as it is inimical to reason. Sometimes it seems as though Hitler has gained a posthumous triumph. Invasions, aggressions, torture, destruction of man in his essence. A few indications will suffice: Czechoslovakia 1968, Chile, the forced evacuation of Pnom-Penh, the psychiatric wards of the USSR, the murder squads in Brazil and Argentina, the selfunmasking of the Third World states that call themselves “socialist,” Ethiopia, Uganda. Given this, what is the good of my attempt to reflect on the conditio inhumana of the victims of the Third Reich? Isn’t it all outdated? Or is not at least a revision of my text called for?

But when I read through what I wrote at that time, I discover that a revised edition would be nothing but a trick, a journalistic tribute to actuality, that I am unwilling to retract anything I have said here and have but little to add to it. No doubt: whatever abominations we may have experienced still do not offset the fact that between 1933 and 1945 those things of which I speak in my writings took place among the German people, a people of high intelligence, industrial capability, and unequaled cultural wealth—among the people of “Poets and Thinkers.” For me this is a fact that until this day remains unclarified and, despite all the diligent historical, psychological, sociological, and political studies that have appeared and will yet appear, at bottom probably cannot be clarified.

All the attempts at clarification, most of which stressed a single cause, failed ridiculously. It is sheer nonsense to speak of a “German national character” or to say that what is contained in the symbolic code words Auschwitz and Treblinka was already in the making in German intellectual history from Luther to Kleist to the “Conservative Revolution” and finally to Heidegger. If one wants to grasp the facts of the matter, it is even less permissible to speak of “Fascism” as the most excessive form of “Late Capitalism.” Versailles . . .

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