Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Original "Banality of Evil"

You say that what the Nazis did cannot be comprehended as “crime” - I’m not altogether comfortable with your view, because a guilt that goes beyond all criminal guilt inevitably takes on a streak of “greatness” - of satanic greatness - which is, for me, as inappropriate for the Nazis as all the talk about the “demonic” element in Hitler and so forth.  It seems to me that we have to see these things in their total banality, in their prosaic triviality, because that’s what truly characterizes them.  Bacteria can cause epidemics that wipe out nations, but they remain merely bacteria.  I regard any hint of myth and legend with horror, and everything unspecific is just such a hint.
 - Karl Jaspers to Hannah Arendt, Correspondence, October 19, 1946

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