Shortly after the Nazi government fell, a philosophy professor at Heidelberg University lectured on a subject that burned the consciousness and conscience of thinking Germans. Jaspers, a life-long liberal, attempted in this book to discuss rationally a problem that had thus far evoked only heat and fury. Neither an evasive apology nor a wholesome condemnation, his book distinguished between types of guilt and degrees of responsibility. Karl Jaspers — took his degree in medicine but soon became interested in psychiatry.
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Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Ashton Translator. Joseph W. Koterski Introduction. Shortly after the Nazi government fell, a philosophy professor at Heidelberg University lectured on a subject that burned the consciousness and conscience of thinking Germans.
Jaspers, a life-long liberal, attempted in this book to discuss rationally a problem that had thus far evoked only heat and fury. Neither an evasive apology nor a wholesome condemnation, his book distinguished between types of guilt and degrees of responsibility. He listed four categories of guilt: criminal guilt the commitment of overt acts , political guilt the degree of political acquiescence in the Nazi regime , moral guilt a matter of private judgment among one's friends , and metaphysical guilt a universally shared responsibility of those who chose to remain alive rather than die in protest against Nazi atrocities.
Karl Jaspers took his degree in medicine but soon became interested in psychiatry. He is the author of a standard work of psychopathology, as well as special studies on Strindberg, Van Gogh and Nietsche.
After World War I he became Professor of Philosophy at Heidelberg, where he achieved fame as a brilliant teacher and an early exponent of existentialism. He was among the first to acquaint German readers with the works of Kierkegaard. Jaspers had to resign from his post in From the total isolation into which the Hitler regime forced him, Jaspers returned in to a position of central intellectual leadership of the younger liberal elements of Germany.
In his first lecture in , he forcefully reminded his audience of the fate of the German Jews. Jaspers's unblemished record as an anti-Nazi, as well as his sentient mind, have made him a rallying point center for those of his compatriots who wish to reconstruct a free and democratic Germany. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published September 1st by Fordham University Press first published More Details Original Title.
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More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Question of German Guilt. Aug 21, Jon Nakapalau rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , nazi-germany , philosophy , favorites. Karl Jaspers examines the question of German guilt associated with the rise of Nazism. He distinguishes 4 types of 'guilt' - criminal, moral, metaphysical and political.
This is one of the most honest attempts I have ever read dealing with this important issue. View all 9 comments. View all 3 comments. Aug 01, Ryan rated it really liked it. In this book, a German professor speaks to German university students about guilt just after the Second World War had ended.
The book is condensed from his lectures. There is some mention of the Holocaust, but it is not as central as I would have expected. To some extent, the question of this book is more "how are we still doing this -- going to class, listening to professors, being a nation? May 14, David rated it really liked it Shelves: read I found this timely and moving, though it was written in Jaspers explores the various internal responses that Germans had available to them in the aftermath of WW2.
What's timely and valuable to read now, as an American, is to see how powerful it is to reflect upon the actions of your country. The USA has worked itself into a position where it is utterly incapable of learning from its past.
This is because the myth of American Exceptionalism must be preserved, and thus the US has never made I found this timely and moving, though it was written in This is because the myth of American Exceptionalism must be preserved, and thus the US has never made any mistakes A particularly chilling line in this book was when Jaspers, filled with gratitude that the world rose up to defeat Hitler and thus, along with everything else, free the anti-Hitler Germans still trapped in Germany , warned that if a similar despot ever took power in the US, that all would be lost.
I'm not saying we're on the brink of fascism just yet, but there remain disturbing signs, and I'd feel a lot better about the way forward if I saw any ability in our leaders AND OUR PEOPLE to admit that we've made horrible mistakes and, yes, done horrible things as a nation, and that we must choose to make the US better each day, every day.
It's absurd to think we're "destined for greatness"--we must work toward it. Jun 09, David Gross rated it really liked it Shelves: political-theory , ethics , non-fiction , philosophy. Jaspers tries to pin down what sorts of guilt can attach to people and peoples, and what the appropriate responses are — using the experience of the German people during the Nazi regime as his example.
I appreciate his attempt to separate categories of guilt, since no generic category seems capable of carrying all of the weight that the concept typically bears — this itself is enough to vault me to a new and more interesting level of confusion on the subject. And I especially like the way he links the inward work of taking responsibility and self-judging with the outward work of fighting for liberty in the political sphere.
View 1 comment. Feb 24, Sarah Scheuer rated it it was amazing. In the context of post-WWII denazification in Germany, and in light of the Nuremberg trials, Jaspers attempts to objectively understand an essential question - "Are the German people guilty? He does so through the creation of a four-part philosophical framework of guilt that explores what it means to be held In the context of post-WWII denazification in Germany, and in light of the Nuremberg trials, Jaspers attempts to objectively understand an essential question - "Are the German people guilty?
He does so through the creation of a four-part philosophical framework of guilt that explores what it means to be held accountable for both action and inaction. His analyses ring chillingly relevant in today's political landscape. But even more went right on with their activities, undisturbed in their social life and amusements, as if nothing had happened.
That is moral guilt. But the ones who in utter impotence, outraged and despairing, were unable to prevent the crimes took another step in their metamorphosis by a growing consciousness of metaphysical guilt. Dec 29, Gal gilboa rated it it was amazing. The question on the responsibility of the civilians for their government acts Whether the Government was elected in a democratic manner or not is still applies today. In an era where countries still deny their responsibilities for genocide such as Turkey.
In an era where Governments violently suppress their civilians such as Libya, Syria , the question of personal responsibility Remains relevant and exceed the Holocaust original context.
Jan 23, Nikolina Matijevic rated it it was amazing. Did you ever feel guilty because you belong to a group of people? Then this is a book for you Feb 14, Renxiang Liu rated it really liked it Shelves: primary-literature.
This small book is obviously an occasional work, prompted by the uneasy relationship between Germans and the rest of the world after the War.
Competing voices were present at that time: on the one hand, the pervasive charge on the Germans' being "guilty", as a people , for the war crimes and the holocaust by the Third Reich; on the other hand, the lamentation on the Germans' part about their sufferings after the war and the great burden on their lives.
Jaspers wanted to address both, but to avoid This small book is obviously an occasional work, prompted by the uneasy relationship between Germans and the rest of the world after the War. Jaspers wanted to address both, but to avoid their conflict by distinguishing among different level of consideration.
The emphasis was not so much on the assessment of past crimes, or about deciding the just retribution, than about transforming the unique situation as an opportunity of fundamental inner-renewal of the Germans. In other words, the book embodied a specific project of "healing", not by forgetting what had happened, but precisely by remembering them and genuinely appropriating their meaning - although some of Jasper's own convictions were smuggled into what eventually turns out to be that meaning.
Jaspers saw the war memory as traumatic: people at the time tended to flee from what had happened, either by retreating into silence, or by simply reversing values of the Reich. Very few would give serious and patient consideration to the moral situation after the war. Faced with this, Jaspers urges people to reach out and to talk with each other.
The idea behind is that discourse helps heal the trauma; it was precisely lack of communication that was the most enduring legacy of the war. In order to do justice to the victims on the one hand and to reserve the possibility of recovery for the German people on the other, Jaspers distinguishes among four levels of guilt: the criminal, the political, the moral, and the metaphysical.
The criminal guilt was derived directly from the trials after the war. Jaspers noted that criminal guilt applied only to the individual criminals, not to the German people as a whole.
The Question of German Guilt
More than half a century has gone by since the fall of the Nazi government, but neither the simple passage of time nor the crossing of a threshold as symbolic as the new millennium has yet extinguished the question of responsibility for the carnage of the Second World War. Certain Swiss banks are only now disclosing the records of looted gold, and we still hear of attempts to extradite and prosecute some war criminals. Among the many recent volumes that have been reconsidering the question, an especially interesting one is Moral Responsibility in the Holocaust: A Study in the Ethics of. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.
Karl Jaspers’s “The Question of German Guilt”
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