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Ethics without Choice

Lessons Learned from Rescuers and Perpetrators
  • Darrell J. Fasching
Chapter

Abstract

In 1988, Peter Haas published his important book Morality After Auschwitz.3 This is not a book analysing abstract philosophical theories but a detailed analysis of how a society adopts a new ethic — one capable of redefining the moral life so that what had been identified as evil becomes good and vice versa. Using a sociology of knowledge approach, the book provides a detailed historical analysis of how the Nazi ethic became embodied in the institutions and practices of German society. Haas traces the Nazi ethic from its sectarian base in a small political party (the National Socialist Worker’s Party) to its growth into a transcultural ethic covering most of Europe under Nazi rule. He follows the development of this new ethic in the transformation of political, legal and technical bureaucracies. As a consequence, everything that was done by the Nazis was, within this new frame of reference, both legal and ethical. In the end, Haas argues, we must conclude that the Holocaust was ‘not the result of absolute evil but of an ethic that conceives good and evil in different terms … That is why the horrors of Auschwitz could be carried on by otherwise good, solid, caring human beings.’4

Keywords

Lesson Learn Ethical Reflection Moral Courage Emotional Empathy Ethical Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors, (New York: Basic Books, 1986), p.106.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Philip P. Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (New York: HarperCollins, 1979), pp.20–21.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Peter Haas, Morality After Auschwitz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Alasdair Maclntyre, After Virtue, 2nd edition (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1981, 1984).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Sauvage, Pierre Weapons of the Spirit [Film]. (Los Angeles: Pierre Sauvage Production and Friends of le Chambon Inc., 1988).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    My main focus is on Samuel P. and Pearl M. Oliners, The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe (New York: Macmillan, Free Press, 1988) [henceforth Oliners].Google Scholar
  7. See also such studies as: Philip P. Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (New York: HarperCollins, 1979);Google Scholar
  8. Nechama Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986);Google Scholar
  9. Eva Fogelman, Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust (New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1994);Google Scholar
  10. David P. Gushee, The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust: A Christian Interpretation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors, (New York: Basic Books, 1986).Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Samuel P. and Pearl M. Oliner, The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe (New York: Macmillan, Free Press, 1988) For a discussion of Gilligan’s dispute with Kohlberg see.Google Scholar
  13. Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Nechama Tec, When Light Pierced the Darkness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 164.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Geneology of Morals, tr. Francis Golffing, (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956).Google Scholar
  16. 25.
    Oliner and Oliner, p.155, quoting C. Glock and R. Stark, Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism (New York: Harper & Row, 1966).Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    Jacques Ellul, The New Demons, (New York: Seabury Press, 1973 & 1975), p.48.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    Greenberg, ‘Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire: Judaism, Christianity an Modernity after the Holocaust’, in Eva Fleischner (ed.), Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era? (New York: KTAV, 1977), p.47.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Darrell J. Fasching

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