Injustice armed : Rudolf Hoess, totalitarian man and the ideological deformation of political consciousness / by Mark S. Clinton
Includes bibliographical references (p. 263-272)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
Rudolf Hoess, whose autobiography made his name virtually synonomous with Auschwitz, has been interpreted in such a way as to prefigure Arendt's well-known interpretation of Eichamnn. The major problem seen to lie in the character of either man is the incongruity between the ordinariness of the doer and the massive evil of his deeds. The conventional interpretation itself is rendered problematic by its insufficiently critical character insofar as the congruity between the doer and deed, at least in the case of Hoess, is a claim put forward in his own self-interpretation. This study is motivated by the conviction that a critical analysis of Hoess's self-interpretation can hardly be characterized by an uncritical acceptance that view and accordingly proceeds in reverse fashion from the conventional interpretation informed by the principle of Aristotle's ethnics that the character of a deed reveals that of its doer. After an introductory statement of the problematic nature of Hoess's character, the study critically reviews the conventional interpretation. The guiding principle behind that review is the search for contradictions between the interpretation itself and the evidence from which it is ostensibly derived. This principle, in turn, becomes the guiding principle of the hermeneutic of Hoess's autobiography in Chapters II and III. The first chapter of that hermeneutic seeks to develop an interpretation of Hoess's character at Auschwitz on the basis of the contradictory self-images he presents in his autobiography. The resulting interpretation is of a man whose truly nihilistic deeds were motivated by a mystical adherence to organized evil-doing. Underlying that adherence, was a hatred of Being that sought its apotheosis in the total destruction of beings. The second chapter of the hermeneutic seeks to apply this interpretation of Hoess's character to the questions: Why did Hoess write an autobiography at all? What was his intention of doing so? In developing these questions, the principle of contradiction underlying the hermeneutic is extended so as to view his autobiography in the light of the remainder of his documentary record. The resulting interpretation of Hoess's intention may be formulated as the claim that "world Jewry" manipulated the Nazis into their genocidal policies in order to discredit anti-Semitism and gain world domination. The true intention of Hoess's autobiography is revealed as the attempt to provide an anti-Semitic basis for truly international totalitarianism of the future. The movement of the study is one from particular to universal. At each stage, the cognitive value of the results is tested by placing them in larger theoretical contexts. This method is essentially Aristotelian and is retained in the final two chapters. In the first of these, some of the issues raised by Hoess's trial in Warsaw are explored. These issues center on the context of Hoess's responsibility for Auschwitz, and the resultant impossibility of fully rendering justice to him since his deeds were implicitly intended to be extended to humanity as a whole, while justice, as traditionally understood, requires the rendering to each of his due for his particular deeds. The concluding chapter interprets totalitarianism in the light of Hoess, a totally conscious totalitarian man. He is "ordinary" or "normal" only insofar as he is the norm of the only human type totalitarianism aims to produce. Thus, we can consider him ordinary only to the extent we are willing to abandon the principles of civic and individual responsibility upon which a body politic is founded. Thus, "the ideological deformation of political consciousness" refers, in the first instance, to Hoess's surrender of self and responsibility to the mysticism of evil-doing and, in the second, to the consequences of our own failure to understand the character of the men who murdered the Jews of Europe.
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