The Question of German Guilt

The Question of German Guilt

The Question of German Guilt

The Question of German Guilt

Synopsis

Shortly after the Nazi government fell, a philosophy professor at Heidelberg University lectured on a subject that burned the consciousness and conscience of thinking Germans. "Are the German people guilty?" These lectures by Karl Jaspers, an outstanding European philosopher, attracted wideattention among German intellectuals and students; they seemed to offer a path to sanity and morality in a disordered world. Jaspers, a life-long liberal, attempted in this book to discuss rationally a problem that had thus far evoked only heat and fury. Neither an evasive apology nor a wholesome condemnation, his book distinguished between types of guilt and degrees of responsibility. He listed four categories of guilt:criminal guilt (the commitment of overt acts), political guilt (the degree of political acquiescence in the Nazi regime), moral guilt (a matter of private judgment among one's friends), and metaphysical guilt (a universally shared responsibility of those who chose to remain alive rather than die inprotest against Nazi atrocities).

Excerpt

More than half a century has gone by since the fall of the Nazi government, but neither the simple passage of time nor the crossing of a threshold as symbolic as the new millennium has yet extinguished the question of responsibility for the carnage of the Second World War. Certain Swiss banks are only now disclosing the records of looted gold, and we still hear of attempts to extradite and prosecute some war criminals. In all likelihood, even when the last of those then alive have passed away, the echoes of the tragedy will linger, in much the ="blckbrk">In 1945 the Nazi government had scarcely fallen when Karl Jaspers, a professor of philosophy at the University of Heidel-

Among the many recent volumes that have been reconsidering the question, an especially interesting one is Moral Responsibility in the Holocaust: A Study in the Ethics of

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