As Karl Jaspers weaves his way skillfully through the varieties of experiencing--and avoiding--Nazi-linked guilt, the parallels impress themselves still further, and more disquietingly, upon the American reader. Nor is it especially reassuring to recognize that we are dealing with common denominators of all large-scale atrocity.
Every German asks himself: how am I guilty?
The question of the guilt of the individual analyzing himself is what we call the moral one. Here we Germans are divided by the greatest differences.
While the decision in self-judgment is up to the individual alone, we are free to talk with one another, insofar as we are in communication, and morally to help each other achieve clarity. The moral sentence on the other is suspended, however--neither the criminal nor the political one.
The moral guilt exists for all those who give room to conscience and repentance. The morally guilty are those who are capable of penance, the ones who knew, or could know, and yet walked in ways which self-analysis reveals to them as culpable error--whether conveniently closing their eyes to events, or permitting themselves to be intoxicated.
Our duty to the fatherland goes far beneath blind obedience to its rulers of the day. The fatherland ceases to be a fatherland when its soul is destroyed. The power of the state is not an end in itself; rather, it is pernicious if this state destroys the German character. Therefore, duty to the fatherland did not by any means lead consistently to obedience to Hitler and to the assumption that even as a Hitler state Germany must, of course, win the war at all costs. Herein lies the false conscience. It is no simple guilt. It is at the same time a tragic confusion, notably of a large part of our unwitting youth. To do one's duty to the fatherland means to commit one's whole