Saturday, May 16, 2009


I believe it was Jean Amery who noted that the first to bow to the oppressor's system [in Auschwitz] and to adopt its doctrines and methods were the intellectuals. But not all of them, Not the rabbis and priests, who, after all, were intellectuals too. With a single exception, no rabbi agreed to become a kapo. All refused to barter their own survival by becoming tools of the hangman. All preferred to die rather than serve death. The lessons of the prophets and the sages became shields for them.
Elie Wiesel, Memoirs: All Rivers Run To The Sea


karrde said...

As an aside, there is a breed of intellectual who never seems to understand that the work of a minister/rabbi/priest is both intellectual and moral.

Perhaps because some intellectuals only rarely touch the moral part of their profession, they are so easily swept up into aiding and abetting--or even standing idly by--while such monstrous deeds are done.

Boethius said...

The intellectuals think survival means you are smart, i.e. survival of the fittest. They think they are smart and therefore will conform in any situation in order to survive. Truly smart people know "death is not the worst of evils." The rabbis and priests were truly smart.

Dubbahdee said...

I find this passage does not make me analyze the "intellectuals" so much as it makes me look inward. We make deals with the convenient and practical every day. I can only hope that I can be as clear about how and where to draw the line should I ever need to.
This passage demonstrate how the words and concepts of "being rational" and "to rationalize", although from the same root, can create very different results when implemented.