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At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities
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Jean Amery's At the Mind's Limit: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities must join the works of Wiesel and Levi as indispensable reading for anyone seeking to grasp the deepest range of emotions and implications the name Auschwitz should evoke. In this book Amery stresses the negative and shows on virtually every page how futile it would be to scrutinize the experience of a Holocaust survivor for anything even remotely redemptive. Auschwitz was destruction without deliverance, a place of inexplicable and implacable hostility against the very definition of humanity. As a consequence, a mind that searches Auschwitz, or any of the other camps, for reasonable and rational explanations will only be confronted with its own impotence. As Amery puts it, "In the camp the intellect in its totality declared itself to be incompetent...Beauty: that was an illusion. Knowledge: that turned out to be a game with ideas." The intellect, Amery tells us, was robbed of its transcendence, rendering the intellectual the most vulnerable of victims.Read more ›
I think of this work as a distinct and great existential accomplishment. It provokes the reader to empathize while simultaneously making him question or even feel guilty for such empathy. How can an intellect, in the modern west at least, empathize with one who has experienced dehumanization to such an unimaginable degree? The short answer is that to try to do so is impossible and even probably detestable, morally speaking.
But isn't the motivation of Amery's expression the prevention of such dehumanization in future? And isn't such prevention dependent on empathetic attempts at least (among other things)?
These are unanswerable contradictions for the reader. But the introspective applications make this a necessary book to read over and over again.
society. His text is a forceful plea for a total condemnation of all kinds of torture and its devastating effects.
Torture, human beings, the world
Faced with unlimited evil power in the hands of a torturer man becomes pure flesh. A tortured man broken by violence, who cannot expect any help and who has lost all rights of self-defense, is nothing more than a body.
From the first lash he receives, man is deprived of what is called his `confidence in the world'. This confidence constitutes the certainty that the other will spare him according to social contracts, that he will respect his physical existence. Torture as a physical rape becomes an act of existential annihilation, since there is no hope to be helped. A tortured person becomes a stranger in the world.
What overwhelmed Jean Améry really was the society of man. For him, it is the society of men and it alone which robbed him of his confidence in the world.
A specific society was the Third Reich: Germany killed Jews and political opponents, because it believed that this was the only way to realize itself. Torture was its essence. But, for Jean Améry, one should not forget that the Greek civilization was built on slavery and that an Athenian army butchered the population of the island of Melos as the SS did in Ukraine.
For Jean Améry, every society thinks only about its own safety and has nothing to do with damaged lives; it only looks forward and, in the best case, it tries to prevent that the same things will happen again.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good essays. Actually it is more of a short philosophy book by an Auschwitz survivor than a book about the Holocaust. Read morePublished 4 months ago by J. Rodeck
An incredible book on the concentration camp experience. As brilliant as it is, it does have
a fatalistic streak, which is anyhow bracing. Read more
I have received the package in well delivered condition. thank you very much.Published 11 months ago by Emily Bone
As a student of Israel's history and that of World Wars I & II, I found this less beneficial than most of the books I have read in the past year.Published on June 18, 2012 by Jim Rogers
The author of this book writes his experiences through the eyes of an intellectual. It is very philosophy orientated, but much of which is debatable. Read morePublished on December 7, 2008 by Matthew Siebert ~Author and Critic
Amery did not only pick up a new French-sounding name, but (although this book was originally written in German) apparently also the circumlocutionary style of the French. Read morePublished on October 18, 2006 by Vince Teipsum