Cogs in the Machine: Testimonies of Holocaust Perpetrators

  • Joanne Pettitt


In this chapter, the author examines testimonial accounts of Nazi perpetrators. Outlining the ethical claims made by the authors of these memoirs, Pettitt shows how these figures attempt to locate their own culpability within a wider schema of social and political events. Taking the testimony of Rudolf Höss as an exemplary account, the author uses the existential theories of Jean-Paul Sartre and Erving Goffman to articulate the ethical dilemmas that these perpetrators raise. In the end, the author shows that many such testimonies function by depicting a ‘cog-in-the-machine’ mentality; this allows for larger notions of self-sacrifice, determination and human responsibility to be explored.


Moral Agent Epistemic Position Moral Position Moral Luck External Motivation 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne Pettitt
    • 1
  1. 1.School of European Culture and LanguagesUniversity of KentKentUnited Kingdom

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