Theaters of Justice: Judging, Staging, and Working through in Arendt, Brecht, and Delbo

By Yasco Horsman | Go to book overview

3
A Cry for Justice
CHARLOTTE DELBO’s AUSCHWITZ AND AFTER
AND DAYS AND MEMORY

Lamentations… are what we owe the dead ones precisely because we go on
living.
—Hannah Arendt

Is it not derisory, naive and downright childish to come before the dead and
to ask for their forgiveness? Is there any meaning in this? Unless it is origin of
meaning itself? An origin in the scene you would make in front of others who
observe you and who also play off the dead?
—Jacques Derrida

In Chapter 2, we saw how Arendt’s report on the Eichmann case emphasized that the two indictments for which Eichmann stood trial in Jerusalem—that is, of having committed crimes against the Jewish people and of having committed crimes against humanity—should not be understood as possessing simply a difference in magnitude but rather as expressing the distinction between a crime in the proper legal sense of the term, as a breaking of the laws of a juridico-political community and something that exceeds the legal definition of a trial, a wounding of an altogether different, perhaps more primordial community, namely humanity itself. The question of the relation between these two indictments is raised in the book’s postscript but is also, I suggested, more poignantly invoked in its final paragraph, in which Arendt delivers her own verdict of Eichmann, pronounced, as she puts it, in the name of “the inhabitants of the Earth.” These words constitute a shift in discursive mode that transforms Arendt’s book from a constative act of reportage about a trial into a performative

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