Should We Pardon Them?

Author(s): Vladimir Jankélévitch and Ann Hobart Reviewed work(s): Source: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Spring, 1996), pp. 552-572 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/01/2012 22:03
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Critical Inquiry.

Should We PardonThem?

Vl?zdimir Jankelevitch

Translated by Ann Hobart

It is sometimes thatthedeportees, Jews,and themembers theResistance said the of begin tiretheir to contemporaries often bytoo invokingAuschwitz Oradour. and Our contemporaries, it seems, havehad enoughof it. Theywouldlikeus to speakof something Thesurvivors themassacre of another else. of are opinion thispoint. on ThusI permit myself thisessayto contribute theweariness thosewhoare in to of bothered suchhorrible by memories. friend HenryBulawko, My president the of Amicale Anciens des De'porte's deFrance, notdeem pagesanachronisJuifs did these tic, however belated maybe.I am unableto express thattheirappearance they all owesto him.Mayhefind heretheexpression my of fraternal gratitude. warm My thanks go outtoRoger also Maria,without whom Pardonner? would have forever remained unpublished. Thisessay develops themes I defended 1965 duringthedebates the that in regarding statutory limitations Naziwarcrimes. February for In 1965, under title the "LCImprescriptible, against pardon La Revue administrative, and "I pleaded a in I now thankthe editorof thisjournal,Robert Catherine, whose friendship thus allows voiceto beheard. my Thisarticle itselfhaditsoriginin a letter published in the"Libres opinions"section Le Monde on3 January1965. Sinceall opinions of are 'free," mine,thankGod,is as well.I am lucky. Onemusttakea sidein this matter. insurmountable The horror everynormal that person feels whenthinking about death the camps, horror a 'free" this is opinion. Could bethatsomeone it could profess opposite the opinion Toapplaud ovensof thecrematoria, thatby ? the could
CriticalInzuir7 22 (Spring 1996) First published as Pardonner?in Vladimir Jankelevitch, lSImprescriptible. Permission to publish courtesy of Editions du Seuil. English translation (D 1996 by The University of Chicago. 0093-1896/96/2203-0006$01.00. All rights reserved.


Le Jankelevitch.1971).2 ShouldWePardonThem? yearsare enough.Returned already rifyingshores.but fromthe beginning the twenty-first as and in becomesubject theirturnto debarment are classified forgiven that years: is the timelimit.are in factlike all veryimportant mostgrandiose do theirlastingconsequences not appearat firstbut developover time massaof And anddo not stopgrowing. and wordsof Malraux. the of nality evilwith omnipotence Forg7veness strong evil. This foreword is of course the same as the one that appeared in Jankelevitch. purely here.of. (Paris. factories extermination especially things: amongthem. not fully. ozun of by opinion. develop justify here. published zvork I have that philosophical a In Le Pardon. moreover. they rub their eyes in amazement. on a flurryof wavingflagson the steps of the gloriousPantheon. learneveryday whatthey and fromthosedistant terbut knew knew. Pardon 1.theylookat one anotherin silence. as for the survivors the immense they cre. Yes.1967).or at leastto forget? pardonable: to it wouldseem. ceases until crimethathadbeen unpardonable May1965thussuddenly or to be so in June as if by magic. of of the one handthe heroism themaquis andthe triumphs FreeFrance. wepardon answer the the there liberty zsa of and of the Between absolute thelawof love theabsolute vicious the to not I have attemptedreconcile irratiosundered. thzs French vote unanimous ofthe it and I will morality. Pardonner? . among does Since opinion notruncontrary parliament. toconventional elsewhere. isjustifiable pursuea criminal twenty thosewhohavenot yet of years.Andthusthe official legalforgetting for to It beginstonightat midnight.fortheunpardonable becomemiraculously A is by rightand fromone day to the next the unforgettable forgotten.ficial others. See Vladimir 2. be that tear cannot entirely evil as isas oflove.but as isasstrong forgiveness. the one handJean Moulin. the (Paris. virtue a an now And from onit is. Twenty Is it timeto pardon.CriticalInquiry Spring1996 553 an zs my opinion atminimum opinion ? be anychance anopinionInanyevent. thatthe mostindifferent as dimensions. on the otherthe death by magnified the stirring in honoredby a crowdof patriots on has takenthemtwentyyearsto realizeits gigantic or wrongdoing aftera to aftera crimeout of all proportion everyday the verygreattragedy effectsand extentof whichcanonlybe measured the Auschwitz.Andyet nowis the firsttime Twenty spiteful. and of The gradually. the g7ven to ?seerns contraidictone Must to question. triggered catastrophe nowof the worldwide conscious In becoming on two by Hitler'sGermany. the haverealized fullhorrorof the catastrophe. facescan be discerned: the one hand the on and epic of the Resistance on the other the tragedyof deportation.

it is an international crime. on the other an unnameable. And if the Jews were themselvesNazis?That wouldbe marvelous. on unmentionable.Women's wasstockpiled. TheImprescr7ptible O thickblacksmokeof the crematoria flagsfloatingover all the citiesin the tresses the wind. This is how our contemporaries rid themselves theirproblem.The crimewas too serious.On one side Bir Hakeimand the Paris barricades.the responsibility solemn. disfigured. Howwilltheyrid themselves theirlatent of remorse? "Anti-Zionism"in this respectan unexpectedwindfall. the immenseHolocaust weighson our modernity like invisible remorse. . hair Goldteeth were removedfromcadavers.554 VladimirJankelevitch ShouldWe Pardon Them ? otherJean Moulintortured. finally at thedisposal all. panting. allalibis goodthatallowthemfinally of For are to thinkof something else.But whatis the secretof Verdun comparison the in to secretof Auschwitz? This shameful secretthatwe cannottell is the secretof WorldWar II and.a thingfromwhichone divertsone'sthought and thatno humanspeechdaresdescribe.and terrifying thing. I proposeto bringthembackto thisproblem in the pagesthatfollow.In the firstplace.Whydo youstrangle in mysleep? of me Wouldmy throathave becomea chimneyfor you to spreadyour imprecations throughme? DORA TEITELBOIM Letme sayit bluntly beginwith:allthejuridical to criteria regarding statutory limitations usually applicable commonlawcrimesarein this to casebesidethe point. .Rabi too remarks withcruellucidity. in somemeasure.It grants put of permission be demto ocratically anti-Semitic.and the Germans have no groundsto reproachus for interfering their in . Comment debarrasser? titleof a playby Ionesco s'en This characterizes quite well the anxietiesof today'sapparently good conscience. in Anti-Zionism justifiedantiis Semitism. secretof modernhumanity.savagely trampled underfootby brutes because deporteeand the Resistance the fightervery often were one and the same. is becauseit givesus permission even the right even the duty to be and anti-Semitic the name of democracy. the even if we do not speakof it. That unspeakable thingwhosenamewe hesitateto pronounce calledAuschwitz. wouldno longerbe necessary pitythem. the other . Peopleof our generation sometimes like the bearers a heavyand feel of unmentionable secretthatseparates themfromtheirchildren.they It to would have deservedtheir fate. Howcan theytellthemthe truth? claimthatthe survivor Verdun We of ordinarily doesnot speakvoluntarily the monstrous mournful of and country from whichhe comes. wasin thataccursed is It place that what Claudelcalls the monstrous orgiesof hate were celebrated. Orchestras playedSchubert whilethedetained werehanged.

the The self-evident.Resistance of the assassination for example. annihilating hereticswith the fire.whichexisted only by some the of inadvertence Israel. is not "theirbusiness." that is the accused. withwhatdoesnotexist. ideological communist. is andsurvival in itselfan incomprehensible fills may idea that these "subhumans" defend themselves the superhuA astonishment.Properly stroy beliefsjudged to be erroneousor doctrinesconsideredto be esse.Anti-Semitism a graveoffenseagainsthumanbebecauseit wasthem.To a certain concesof eventodayto the existence the stateof Israel. is everything permitted.and not ings in the murderof a womanof not a newsitemcomparable. degreethisrefusalextends for theywerereproached being.Israelis transparent. at the humanof is everyhumanbeing. pretentiousness fightingfor subsistence The an scandal. But with a Jew it is unnecessary troubleoneself. of racisttrulyaimedat the beingness the being.No.It is an immense on gift sion. example.One does not negotiate.But aboveall. Russians of millions Jews. if you will. and this withoutnegotiations any kind. the only countrythathas no business is and fighters.thatis. exterminating suppressed Other. the against humanbeingashuman crimesare an assault Racist as suchandsucha person.asif thatrecognition and vitalrightthateveryhumanbeing ought to respectin everyother of humanbeing.theywere not reproached professing or that.AJew mustalways in His for livingand breathing.Butit is notevident doesnotenterintodialogue justifyhimself.The Jewswerepersecuted at all becauseof theiropinionsor theirfaith. they are for their enormity. tramplednations. annihilating accursed .an unmerited thatis believedto be conferred Israelin acwerenot theelementary it cording therightto exist.Witha Jew is being not Whenit is a Jew thatis in question. Jew does not havethe rightto be. The twentyyearsago at Montelimar.inasmuch he is thisor that(quatenus) against for adversary. manswithindignant the by his sin is to exist. withoutany title Or claimto gratitude. in to attempted annihilate the suffering not being.Next.excusehimself thata Jew mustexist. the or Freemason. exorbitance.that is. to takeup herethebeautiful of the newspaper rightto We foundedby BernardLecache: mustrespectour neighbor's owesus nothingin return exceptthe samerelive.CriticalInquiry 1996 Spring 555 is This afEair the businessof all the it business.It wasexistenceitselfthat this for the Germans. enteringinto the question.againstthe "hominity" hudid Germany not wantto despeaking manbeingsin general. crimes crimesagainst of againstthe humanessenceor. and thus claimedto accomplish inexplicable in the ovrace the by divinewill. meansthatoccurred independent from everypoint of view for are crimesof the Germans exceptional sadism. thatracialgenocide of fleshof thesemillions martyrs. wasthe verybeing of humanity. It pernicious. and our neighbor to moreoverin fact Germany. As the Inquisitors. their unbelievable in humanity the propersense of the term. enemiesof Israeldo not "recognize" existenceof nonexistent.

is the German in deeplyengrained the collective Thustheextermination of on effiect takes theannihilation thereprobates." "accursed who in it unconscious. Systeme larlymovingin its sobriety. as it were.which is particuLe concentrationnaire 3. thatcurse:neither hair that underfoot. simplyblind doctrinaires.But beyond for of the Jew is not a simple"instrument labor" the German.theinsult German gratuitous insult. trationnairenazi 1933-45 (Paris. of in aboveall a businessman search laborat lowcostwithan eye toward of surplusvalue. time that favorspardonand forgetfulness.556 VladimirJankelevitch Shou1dWePardon Them ? the suppressed existenceof thosewho radically ens of the crematoria.and he uses humancattleas an instrument labor. peopleguiltyof an original is against "deicide" a people. but I will dwell no has somethingsacredand supernatural education couldhaveplayed longeron the role thatan age-oldreligious an against here. useswomen's thattramples insult.timehas themcannot against that areimprescriptible. ontological that wickedness historyhas ever and of the most diabolical gratuitous This motives. neverceasesto reviveits leastthe colossal expresses prina quiterightly parliament The horror. voteof the French againsthumanity Crimes ciple and. against The time that dulls all things. does not diminishin the it on slaughter. evenby "villainous" Thiscrimewasnot motivated. wealth. insultis thusa purely that substance. 1968). time that consoles. Systeme concenLe The importantthesisof Olga Wormser-Migot. lapse.the proletarian Nothingcanerase crimeof beinga Jewis inexpiable.3 The materzal. the penalties nazi (Paris. Whenan actdeniesthe essenceof a humanbeingasa human wouldlead one to that limitations in the nameof morality the statutory and morality.or even a people.the time that uses up sorrowas it the the erodes mountains. the The nor political affiliation.sinceJulesIsaachasdone it beforeme. .in the propersenseof the word. known. infinite as a mineral becauseits purso This insultis not contemptuous muchas it is wicked Suchrelentlessness poseis to debaseanddegradein orderto annihilate. remains the principaland definitivework on this topic. about it. simply dogmatists theyare. the contrary. If the prejudice sin. But bourgeois.1965).an a prioriimpossibility. of of the Jewsis the productof pure wickedness.nor conversion. wickedness.monabominable being. crimeis crime.And thusthe sadistswho madesoapfromthe or production improve werenot tryingto increase of cadavers deportees is populations. whenhe exploitsindigenous theiryield.The it not contradictory even Is that absolve actitselfcontradict absurdto call for a pardonin this case?To forgetthis giganticcrime the humanity wouldbe a newcrimeagainst humanspecies. sters.this exorbitant crimeagainstnature.this unmotivated guiltyof this crime. shouldnot haveexisted.settlingand healingtime. a boss. See GeorgesWellers. indigenouspersonmay one day przmary that he is himself and join the ranksof the colonizers in his turnexploitotherindigenous or may becomean overseer.and the criminals thus to the lettera metaphysical nor nor crimeare not mere fanatics.

Thisis not to saythata prorogation ten yearswould of be necessary punishthe guiltythatremain.And yet everyday. onlytherehadbeena commando If raidof Resistance fighters France abduct in to General Lammerding.It wouldhavebeen fittingfor the grassto witherunderfoot andfor the sun neverto shine. thougharisingin nightas mares. at whichis probably mostsinister the tourist in site the world. and that near the entrancechildrenplayedon the grass. to keephim as wellfromdyingin his bed. the of as it had permitted Ante Pavelic. of Whatmorecan be saidaboutAuschwitz? referhere to the admirI ablearticleby A.this trial and the ones that in followedit will.Rosenthal.from all partsof the globe.withthe intention hypocritically bad of justifying statutorylimitations advance. and Without Israeli this commandoraid.If the sun shone. have nevertheless servedsome purpose. Manyfrivolous people who did not wantto believehavebeen forcedto learn. was thatthe sun waswarmand bright. Being a crimeof worldwide proportions.and so on seeminadequate are to be dismissed and whenone thinksof the immensity the crimes of committed. me firstof allquoteRosenthal. mostbeautiful withouta doubt the and the mostdeeplymovingthatwaseverwritten thisplaceof unbearable on horror. to One feelsthat . despitethem. the Israelis that wereright to abductEichmann to tryhimthemselves. One is alsotemptedto all conscience.on the contrary.Theycomefor manyreasons: see thatit wasreallyposto not forget.CriticalInquiry Spring 1996 557 no holdon them. publicemotionin its turndoes not And diminish over timebut neverceasesto intensiSj.if nature wasluminousand green.for Brzezinka a placeof inexpressis ible terror. Thereis nothingnewto sayabout Auschwitz. surand roundedby the affection his lovedones.It is in generalincompreto hensible time.the rowsof poplarsexquisiteto contemplate.withthe help of the Frankfurt trialsthey are beginningnow to realizewhatit was that they had divertedtheir thoughtsfrom.a natural that process without normative value. wasa pilgrim thathell: Let who to Perhaps most horriblething aboutBrzezinka the [Auschwitz].-M. standing beforethe ActionCommittee the Resistance. proofdoesnot disappear time the with but. it seemedthatthis couldonly havebeen the effectof some prodigious anomaly. die the to in his bed like a good bourgeois.visitors arrive Brzezinka.couldhave a diminishing effecton the unbearable horrorof Auschwitz.if younglaughter couldbe heard. humanrights. Boissarie. bloodybutcherof pay homageto the dead simplyby lookingat the placeof theirsuffering. multiplies.the indifference Argentine of justiceand the complicity of the policewouldno doubthavepermitted provisioner Auschwitz. the butcherof Oradour.if it werenot thatone feelscompelled testify. of gave the lie to the twogroundsgenerally invokedto justiSjstatutory limitations. thejuridicalnormsthatcan be inAll vokedagainst abduction-Argentine that sovereignty. Even thoughorganized gracelesslyandin apparently faith.

Willwe accusethosehonestbourgeois fromthe provinceswho formerly wereofficers the SS?Closeup. the executioner of is rathersympathetic. One whomto accuse. strictly speaking. hence the penaltyhardlyseemsto matter. Thus one shouldnot be surprised an unfathif omablecrime begets as it were inexhaustible meditation.The descendants the of executioners in a good mood. waves. can do nothing."5 guardsworsethan By theirdogs. Properly speaking. unof the imaginable refinements hate. The novel inventions cruelty. . 1958. and Also. 23.One cannot punishthe criminal witha punishment proportional his crime:for in to relationto the infiniteall finitemagnitudes tend to equalone another.across Europe that whichtheirarmies submerged fireandblood. . Onemustbe a vampire-metaphysician to makethatdiscovery.Rosenthal.thusthe monstrous thoughnothingwerewrong. some Machiavellian atrocity whichthe mark the old hereditary in of vampirism canbe recognized. sadism and cannotalways readin the faceof the be sadist.The bottomof this mystery gratuitous has of evil neverbeen sounded. Forthatwaspossible. whathappened is inexpiable.and the eruptions Vesuvius.I myselfwhohaveso nor manyreasonsto know.558 VladimirJankelevitch ShouldWe Pardon Them ? it is impossible visitAuschwitz to walkawaywithouta word. p.One cannot One givelife backto thatimmensemountain miserable of ashes. it seems. that would be. a grave lack of courtesy toward thosewhodied there. most diabolical of the abysses perversity."Riende nouveau a Auschwitz: prier?" Ou L'Observateur Moyendu Orient.a catastrophe itselflike in earthquakes. 12 Sept. 5. . thought One he knewandyet did not know. does not even knowany morewhomto arrest.No one is guiltybecause one that no wasevera Nazi. not the fault tidal of is 4. to whatextent. A. to and withouta line. is wellknown.Willwe accusethoseplacidand easygoing German tourists who look so well and must surelyhave good consciences? They wouldcertainlybe astonished be thustakento taskand wouldwonderwhatwe to couldwantthemfor and whatit wasall about.4 Years have passedsincethe lastlot of unfortunates "entered nude into the gas chambers.-M.everyday I learnsomething new. makesoapor lightshadesfromthe skinof deporTo tees. forcedby dogs and guards.the reactions it inspiresare aboveall despairand a feelingof that powerlessness beforethe irreparable.someparticularly revoltinginvention.all of this leavesus mute and aboveall of confoundsthe spirit.and theyfindit completely are natural to travelin noisypacks. thishadto be thoughtup. Ibid.some particularly ingenious torture. This crimewithouta name is a truly infinite crimewhosehorror deepensthemoreit is analyzed.No one herebelow had in hasa badconscience. grandiose this massacre not a crimeon a huis man scaleany more than are astronomical magnitudes lightyears.

the devilhasbroad but absurdity rathera providential Fromthe momentthatit becomes he shoulders. be as disagreeable possible us their pose. wrongin not wrongin defendingthemselves.I am afraidI mustacknowledge suchindulwomen? pregnant of exist. the Jews are always unfortunate in dying. arenot in agreement. be themselves massacred. of the satisfy advocates wouldobviously a So philosophical discovery Couldthere by any chancebe people capableof limitations.Christian for thusfoundsomeamongtheJews?Whata windfall a goodconscience One guilty! feels to the number millions.has existed.wrongin takingup armsagainstthe cutthroats living.Never having found.Jung says. millionsof exterminated of thisbrilliant Other victims.we see here . a bitheavyandevenvaguely withwhicha certainsegmentof the public can imaginethe enthusiasm themselves perspective-weretheJewsperhaps rushedto thatattractive And discovery! if by afterall?Now thereis a providential collaborators If themselves? by chancethe deportees Jews exterminated chancethe TheseJewsare so bad thatthey into shutthemselves the gas chambers? on in incinerated the crematoria purthemselves of are capable having to as to wickedness. went abouttheirbusinessduringthe occupation. full Ajournalist of good wouldit taketo movethem? Howmanymillions crimesand those betweenHitler's senseeven foundthatthe difference criteria to According the qualitative quantitative.the devilis the eternalprinalways be And thus there will always pure humanity! ciple that has perverted of the speaking inculpation the devilis not a monstrous evilones. Jewsnor particularly million of they in thesecrimes no wayexceptional.the devilexistedbeforeman. thosewho peacefully and requiredto maketheiraccountto formercollaborators to takelesdefended sons from them on the propermeansof resistingtorturers.Strictly For convenience.the Germans knows." is obviously longerthe faultof the faultof the "eternal or or Eichmann of Bormann of anyoneat all.CriticalInquiry Spring1996 559 of anyone. obligedto give evidenceof their ordealbefore defendingthemselves. spiritswho by with rather patronizingcondescension magnanimous In risk nevertookthe slightest for the Resistance. of otherswassimply(!) Jews and Resisthe journalist. seems.they are neitherhorrifiedby the massacre six gent advocates Theyfind by astonished the gas spiteof everything. cantakeon everything! no it principle.wrong wrongin letting of the whodreamof exterminating survivors Auschwitz. anycase. arenot convinced theirmonof it they strosity.out of pure wrong:wrongin For contemporaries. as everyone in accomplices the occupiedcountries. statutory who killedchildren for circumstances the wretches findingattenuating on experiments of with injections phenol to the heartand performed that Alas.One mayas well accusethe devil!The devil. distinguished werenot sufficiently doubtless tancefighters that discovered therewereJewin essayists searchof alibishaverecently put themselves in chargeof overseeing ish caposwhom the Germans and denouncingtheir comrades.

Thuswe withdraw who casuists lookuponthe quium. Auschwitz unmentionable.One they discussion. polemcampsstirup numerous Onemusttakea side:concentration as poYes. ics. as of supplies. mustinsistagain:the unsymbol remainsthe monstrous nameable sufferings whichAuschwitz of of nor of excludethe mediocrity feelingand the pedantry hairsplitting. de But stateof colloquium. it I in the habitof debating withits advocates. and they seem in no way disturbed have to at affair. wasthatwarlikeanyother. Polemics overAuschwitz? as astounding thismayappear: must ask himself lemics!A personwith any feelingor sense obviously have whatsuchpolemics couldbe aboutandhowit is thatthe polemicists to not takenthis opportunity remainsilent.thisassessment nota subject debate.The mosthorrible that a personcan experienceare most hallowedand cruel sentiments are handedover as fodderfor debate. to disascommon allhonorable one of thosegoodanddecentmisfortunes Auschwitz not simplya particular is ters.areforthe gamesto whichourbrilliant but duringthe leisurehoursof theirvacations. is Andthe ResisNor caseof humanbarbarism. of It mustbe said again:the assessment the degree of guilt of the up Jewishchildren masseandthengathered en wretches massacred who In is of theirlittleshoes.Let us leave them alone beforethese horribleimagesand tell themto sleepwell.and contestation.use evidence. a debatethere of is a pro anda con anda mixture pro andcon. mereideaof confronting withcon in shameful absurd and aboutit." we mustnot get icalbabble. pro The and literary thereis at the Societe France has or of FranSaise Philosophie at the colloquia Cerisy-la-Salle. like pillaging.No. It are tancefighterswho said no to servitude not simply"veterans. selvesovereachsummer with thedeathcampsareincompatible thiskindof debateandphilosophand Nazismis not an "opinion. Auschwitz.Our dialecticians in rare not a subject a colloquium. of Munichand elsehumorists are they designedfor the professional fromthe "collowhere. we do not feel likejoking. tion is a graveindecency talkers themgive theyarecalled.But no! Peopledebatewith to virtuosity whentheycouldjust as easilybe the only possibleresponse. sucha confrontathiscasehas something as with respectto the put beforetheir eyes the photo albumthat our friendsfrom the hallucinatory commemorative published the occaon des Federation Nationale Deporteset Resistants of anniversary the liberation the concentration of sion of the twentieth camps.560 Them? ShouldWe Pardon VladimirJanke'le'vitch scruples morand of our polemicists unburdened so manydisagreeable of allyjustifiedin no longerthinking them. Moreover. and the difficulties furnishing not. to perfectly their ease.the today's term." havingnothingto sayto the brilliant Auschwitz is of crematoria theylookuponthe horrors warin general. bombing. for someyearsbeen in a permanent precludes dialogue for Auschwitz I repeat." say.proceedsat a briskpace.if theycan." is . "TheTreblinka sustainsucha horrible is tempted.Roundtables.

of reparations.heavyartil6.personally humiliated.They do not simplyfeel. much by Like but more successful. Borodino. inconceivable the horrorof Auschwitz rebe ducedto the indeterminate abstractions knownas violence.It is necessary love to understand Jews. I insistagain: Auschwitz not an "atrocity is of war" a work hatred. grandioseslaughter. quasi-inextinguishable of is no longerclearwhythe littleFranco-German misunderstanding wouldstill occupyour thoughts. of once accounts weresettled.according custom. virtually classic the exampleof the horrorsof war justlystigmatized Goyaand Vereshchagin. a settling accounts of with. But military invasion the extermination and ofJews are twodistinct Borodino.I tell you. does That Germany renouncesall warsof aggression any pan-Germanic and designson France already lot.In the complacent evocation these of memories. Can the inexplicable.I read but of A work somewhere Treblinka made possible Verdun. shellsof Verdun the did not singleout a damnedrace.the Jewswouldbe considered principal the obstacles the great to Franco-German reconciliation. .One can understand. and we congratulate is a ourselves overthis. intimately offended. thisvulgar In disputeone windsup havingtrouble distinguishing it wasin factGermany advanced if that upon France orwhoknows?-France uponGermany. those detestable Jews impede FrancoGerman conferences. to indemnities war. In rathersimilarto that of 1940. for schoolchildrenlesson a in heroism. 1914therewasan invasion. whichwas nationalist and militarist. for two "great" of An peoplesinexplicably risenagainstone another6 nowreconciled a and in generaltransport compassionate of feeling. there one In but wasno Auschwitz. after all. Franco-German festsandfeasts. in commonwiththeir the fellowcitizens." after But 1939one couldno longerbe "above fray".The generouspacifism RomainRolof land that challenged traditional chauvinism. enterprises onlypartially that overlap thatin the finalanaland ysiscango without another.reciprocally. A However." episode of glory. veterans evenfindmotives dignity.and annexation territory. this situation. is whythe Resistance the that wasnot abovebut insideit. can easilyconceivea situation one in whichthosewhoregretted havinglaunched imperialist would the war in no way regretAuschwitz. itselfapartfrom the "Franco-German set conflict. Thanks to the Jews no doubt. And.the legitimate resentment nursedin relationto the torturersof France.politicians opportunity celebrate Franco-German an to the "fellowship arms. so whyfinallythat"reconciliation" not concernthemin anyway.Critical Inquiry Spring1996 561 one of the mostconvenient alibisof a good conscience represent to the SecondWorld Waras a simplesettlingof accounts betweenadversaries. They are in additionespecially concerned. Hitler's doesnot resemble But war the FirstWorldWarin anyway. why the "Franco-German rapprochement" littleaffectsthe Jews. in that was by effect.Verdunis.

in and crimein history aboutthe definitive it is aboutthe mostmonstrous who this to quietuspromised the criminals committed crime.In the face impulse a personof feelingis not of crime.But the crimesof Stalinare not an answerto everything. speakof everything relation nothingin particular. thejudges of the AlliedTribunal Nuremberg as talkershavesomething to the ends of the earth.But our distinguished 7.562 WePardonThem? Should VladimirJankelevitch in of Thatis to wishto drownthe problem pious lery. the hell nor purges. any periphrasis good that and will allowus to skirtthose two horriblesyllables to speakof somefor thing else. the SaintBartholomew's Massacre.7 one explanation in some sense reassuring. nor of Buttodayit is aboutneitherthe slaughter Armenians.too: Hitlerwasinspiredby the sultan of at the who organized odious massacre Armenians the beginningof the it the century. wasultimately faultof If has that Abdulhamld.nor segregationist of Verdun. timeno one willknowanylongerwhatit wasall about. torturein Algeria. can alis everyconceptual undera Nazi by readyfeelreassured theideaof subsuming anti-Semitism or framework in a trivializing law. natural The and againstforgetfulness to pursuethe nant and to fight passionately promised. We Aftera certain scarcely haveto waitfor the resultof thesecomparisons. theJewswereexterminated. Andre Neher rightly opposes this trivialization.Whichwasobviouslythe end soughtafter.the natural of sucha revolting on nor to throwoneselfinto the archives to do research the historyof a violence is moreor lesscomparable.Whatif by chanceAuschwitz onlya particular that atteststo the difficulty This confusion moregeneralphenomenon? understand quibblers whentryingto makethebad-faith one experiences of to the specificity eachproblem.or the horrors war? quality of dissolvethe exceptional or generalities.personof feelingwillnotwonthat der in whatway he mightexoneratethe guiltyor excusethe horrible impulseof a personof feelingis to becomeindigtorturers. decidedly An of Hitler.nor was our eminentcolleaguein any way astonished it. . 1962). at criminals. dialogue judeo-allemand depuis 1945. Thus nothinghappenedto the Jews thatwas not very ordiby nary. I have said that the problemof Auschwitz distinguished ourselves of intellects seemsto inherein thesewords:Howto unburden talkersinvokethe crimesof it? The most shrewdamongour brilliant providential crimessincetheyuse themto excusethose Stalin. Stalin's nor Day nor violence the UnitedStates. fix the attention the muddleheaded of have on a definiteevent." Cahiersde l'institutde sciencee'conomique 132 (Dec. trivialize discreetly to As to in genocide.The muddleheaded theirchoiceof manymeans is for of to evadethe uniqueness Auschwitz. See his "Dimensions et limites du applique'e. even betterone has been found.of placing deathcampsin a historic the exampleof a was context. eminenthistorian evenwritten the "drownings An of and at Nantes" underthe Terrorwerethe true precedent Auschwitz Treblinka.

wouldbe interested such and in alibisnow. was going to say that it is a metaphysical I abomination.Those who are movedby neitherthe slaughter Lidice. these were unintendedatrocities. Cascade. counterwiththe suffering they of the Germans duringthe war:the destruction theircities. And they willperhaps decidethatthispeopleresponsible the greatest for catastrophe in historystill got off easy.This is reallythe leastthatthey deserved.Auschwitz adds a new dimension horror. let us speakof it all the same." the friendsof DoctorMengele as areonlytoo happyto prove. The mereideaof comparing speaking the samebreath no? or in of the unspeakable ordealof the deporteesand thejust punishment of theirtorturers.the exodus of of theirinhabitants beforethe victorious ltussian army. defenseless citizens.I can only call this inversionof the most naturalimpulsesof the heartand mindperversity. is yourturnnow. crimeis incommensurable This with anythingelse whatsoever. did . The unconscious pilot who blindly droppedhisbombon Hiroshima not selectamongthe humancattle. Doctor only Mengele his kind. selective and one is guilty. unbelievable of or this twisting evidence.makes wishto of one answer.Strictly speaking.nor the shootings Mont-Valerien.Perversion treachery. not choosetheirvictims did as the refinedsadismof the Germans chose its victims.A sad distinction.whichindiscriminately crushedunfortunate.Whenone of speaksto the perverse aboutAuschwitz. eachhis own To martyrs.Many It standing beforethe ruinsof Berlinand Dresdenwillthink. is trulythe monstrous It masterpiece hate. it is nota true if perversion the moralsense.nor the massacre Oradour.Thuslet us speakof something else. crimeis comparable nothing. Withtheir six milliondead. theyabsolutely mustevadethe atrocious genocideandfind in history otherAuschwitzes willdilutethe horrorof the trueAuschthat witz. at Chateaubriant. and Chatoureservetheir indignation the bombingof Dresdenby the for English.No.If everyone "didthe same. Coventry an implacable and by adversary not precededthe Anglo-American raids.whichchillsus with its horror. and mayno for alas.Auschit. if in thisdomainthe Germans not takenthe initiative. ideais a calculated this pieceof treachery. Whenall is said and done.The anonymous of and in some waysimpersonal violencesof war. this to witz and Treblinka resemblenothing-not simplybecausein general nothingis the samethingas anything but particularly else because nothing is the samethingas Auschwitz. the hangingsat at at nor Tulle. scandalous of this reversal roles. only unpunished criminals.CriticalInquiry Spring 1996 563 betterto do.To the bombhad air ing of Dresden.yet. us let speakof nothing. of Warsaw. to if everyoneis guilty. the Jews are certainly the at top of the listof martyrs all is obviously pointless becomeindignant. one challengethese privileged scapegoats Gothichatred. And. as had as if the destruction Rotterdam. thisI meanits directed.In the firstplacea crimewas neverexcusedby allegingthatotherswouldperhapsalsobe capable of committing Moreover.Let us speakof everything. of By methodical.

the executioner of children. Hitlersaidlong in advance whathe wasgoingto do and why he plannedto do it-according to whatprinciples.however. can the extermination theJewsbe the Nor of compared the massacres the bloodydespotsof history to that organized to ridthemselves theirenemies. on of The painstaking. the nameof what in dogma. The theoreticians racism the practitioners scientific of and of atrocity both are as meticulous they are bloody.albeitthrough terror. scientific. as long-winded they are ferocious.withthatinimitable at combination of metaphysical pedantry sadism is a German and that specialty. methodically prepared. metaphysical massacre six of . trample. everyone and of and knows that todayit has becomeone of the signs of philosophical profundity. with Whatsitsname Press? it wouldbe too But easyto arrestonlythathorrible doctor.It is a matterof a of quitepreciseandveryurgentproblem: we had allowed Brid'oison if the to babbleaboutthe bombingof Dresdenand soon (whoknows?) about the "crimes" the Resistance.the sadistwho performed experiments deportees. end of the conflict. and degrade victim his beforekilling him. is it the application a dogmatic of theorythat still existsand is calledantiSemitism. extermination theJewsis something The of completely different. the thatJesusaddresses Godin the Gospelaccording was doctrinally founded. terrorism for is lessoftenan expressintention therevolutionary a degeneration of than of the revolution. However.a sudden outbreakof violence. wouldalso willingly reversing termsof the prayer I say.He explained himself length.Hispurpose not to exterminate was the Japaneserace nor to vilifyits people but to hasten.564 Vladimir Jankelevitch ShouldWe Pardon Them? nor did he destroyHiroshima of wickedness. has nothingin commonwiththe It deplorable excessesthat so often come in the wakeof revolutions but that. he was not lookingto humiliate. peThe dantictone of German racism remindsme of boththe communiques of theWehrmacht thegibberish Heidegger.It fulfills that an intention exterminate waslong and deliberately to that matured. philosophically explained. of Certainly in thisat leastthe Nazis (and weremorerightthantheybelieved themselves be)theJewsarenatural to enemiesof fascism. werenot meantto be by the revolutionary.Do we wantDoctorMengele.and systematically perpetrated the mostpedantic by dogmatists everexisted. did not deny the out he Japanese's right to live. the discovery a number and of of greatcriminals woulddo moreharmthan good if it shouldserveas a pretextfor bestowing all the othersa generaldismissal charges. as wasthe massacre the Arof of menians. extermination theJewsis neitheran the of act of vengeancenor a precaution. to to do not forgive them. administrative. of statutory limitations wouldhavegoneinto effecton 8 May1965. It is thus not a matterof the misfortunes war.for theyknowprecisely whattheydo. as as The extermination the soon on go hometo Germany peacefully and returnto his work(onetrembles to thinkof it)asa "practitioner"? Would likehimto publish memoirs you his soon.

people unanimously manytimes. chilfor machine crushing to settle.for whomit so aroundits leader.of all the others. in whomit recognized its manytimesaffirmed enthusiastic still rallies ringsin our howlingfromthe Nuremberg itself.afterall.CriticalInquiry Spring1996 565 it disaster.hasa nameandthereis no reasonnot to speakthe name that modesty todayprohibits to of thispeoplenorto succumb the strange in it. is a "in Jewsis not a misfortune itself"nor a natural million and crimefor whichan entirepeople is more or less responsible. one feltmorespontaneity well Alas. of in as moreunanimity the evocation theseterrible yearsand the of betweenthe tragedy thosefouraccursed disproportion will of frivolity our contemporaries standbeyonddoubtas one of the Shouldwe be askedto forgiveand forget? mostbitterironiesof history.whomit wildlyapproved and support. who bureaucrat spicable To Germans. Our Askedfor Pardon? HasAnyone if wouldholdlessimportance the purge limitations statutory Perhaps as if and hadbeenmoresincere complete. Resistance for destroyingJews. and tortured.Dogswouldnot haveinventedthe crenor matoria.Moreover.haveacSocialist of descendants the National The twoGermanies.the memories. saythat of the millions muteor complicit innocentamong of all to discover of the complexramifications it willstilltakea long time or responsible are arecollectively the crimeis not to saythatthe Germans There were some German as inasmuch they are Germans. the silenceof all. theenterelites.and we respectfully mobof others. dren. that people.Hereone cannotpassoverin vociferous to beforethe memorial Brandt gestureof Chancellor silencethe amazing courageof BeateKlarsfeld the entirepeoplewasassociated. us from pronouncing A crimethat was perpetrated the name of of responsibility all Germans. responsible salutethis elite lost in the in democrats the camps.The monstrous counts by fighters the hundreds and Slavs.thatis a fact.The frightful peoplecouldhaveturnedintothatpackof enraged ears. gathered a prise of the giganticextermination. complito thanks innumerable couldonlyhavefunctioned of thousands. thoughtto injectphenolinto the heartsof children. engagesthe national Germansuperiority state. sourceof perplexity dogs is an inexhaustible to thesemalefactors dogs?I swearin factthat us reproach forcomparing is the comparison unfairto dogs.Outsideof these with moreor lessclosely.thoseforwhomnothing Oradour .the torturers citiesand in the complacent helpedout or laughed. at and Those for whom the shootingsat Mont-Valerien the massacres in particular to neveramounted much. admirable the Warsaw knewhowto of provesthatthe eliteof the youngergeneration Germans takeover from the elite of whomI havejust spoken.Alas!fromthe mesmallfry of minorcriminals to thattookthe deportees theirdeathsto the dechanicfor the convoys therewere indeedfew kept the list of victims.Thata debonair Willanyone and wonder.

and it is also commercial repentance. leniency in factors. for repentance business limistatutory deferred is theircontrition worthnothing.The Germans of ing aboutthe good conscience the Germans seemsto have a new face. .Germany state. to indifference. would have a juridically lightheart. readyforgotten to limitations go intoeffect. to reparations Israelor offered tationsfor five years. when why themselves. if the frightful them.its nameis Stalingrad. and pardoned settled.Whenthey yearsforstatutory notwaittwenty that you of speakof the "wall shame.because soughtto "make for its pastmisdeeds." understand they are thinkingof they are betweenthe two is bepeople.go vacation had Asif the shameof capitulation nevertouched is you. withoutthe tanksof Joukov. its name is defeat.It is military for repentance reasonsof diplomatic purposes. pardon? wasalready demnedto die in the Warsaw owed during the occupationitself in their consent to defeat and and to unhealthyabandonment nothingness. it appearedimmediately of in of afterthe warin the rearming malefactors. communication the wallthatinhibits conthe wall of not aware the tragic thatenclosed fivehundredthousand foreshadIt A Ghetto.those people have been reconciled of pyingforcesince 1945. As homeland.Sure. in Forcesdisembarked Provence. and at the because Alliesdisembarked Normandy the FreeFrench Berlin. shameful topardoning and moralamnesia. Underpresup" it ment. wouldtheyfeelostracized Asforthe Germans amazThereis something no one wasaskingthemtojustifythemselves? are today. nameis the breakthrough Avranches. doneitsworkbeforestatutory had ous. we would have the rightto be lighthearted. therehabilitation maleThanks the toward ideologyof malefactors.the day afterthe armistice 1945theyhad alThey did whatthey werenot at all eagerto remember. and by wouldstillbe controlled Hitler. triumphant Germany andLeclerc What Europeon the ashesof martyrs. Nazismwouldreignthroughout peoplesif the enraged and wouldhavebecomeof the trampled enslaved repenGerman dogs of Europehad had heavywaterbeforethe Allies? at its tance. limitations. between a is nothingleftforus nowbutto establish sistercityrelationship citizens French unembittered remarkably Certain and Oradour Munich.There is Everything already dayis a faitaccompli.If Germany an unrepentant took becausethe Russians at causeit receivedits deathblow Stalingrad. generalsuperficiality.566 ? Them Pardon VladimirJankelevitch ShouldWe in between1940and 1945beyondsomedifficulties obtaining occurred occuwith such a "polite" supplies. naturalsix monthsafterthe war to renewfruitful found it completely contactswith the formertorturersof their businessand recreational of humiliation 1940did not it had accorded becausethis was in its interestat the moto indemnities the spoliated. Autumnin Ravensbruck marvelwelcomes Austria in Germany.Patton. Forgetfulness already wouldbecomein a senseofficial forgetfulness limitations afterstatutory Fromhere on we Our epoch is indeed lighthearted. and normative.

afterhowmuchprocrastination deplorforstatutory by peoplewho wereirritated our reThe right-thinking ablehaggling! of fusalto wipe the slatecleanwill no doubtseize the opportunity this publicopinion. we have not heardbeforenow a singlewordof Was withthe Germans. guerre. that they they have discovered have pretendedto apologize. has the graceof conversion not suddenly some worrisomesigns everythingdeclaresthe verdicts."Annete . Germans to havesomeaccounts settlewithus.CriticalInquiry Spring1996 567 publicopinionin Europeand from the unified sure from democratic in Germany factofferedthistriflingextensionof the period Resistance. betterproves Nothing limitations? statutory against we hadnot protested populaof segment theyoungGerman of thelackof spontaneity a certain its tion. and theyofferthe almsof perhaps If a few explanations.a singlewordof underWe and sympathy. a pardonis not a miracle. It But Topardon! whoeveraskedus fora pardon? is onlythedistress and wouldmakea pardonsensible of and the dereliction the guiltythat enrichedby prosperous. well nourished. and but limitations.thatwasthe thing. have wished for it. extensionto finallythink aboutother things. for suitable the swineandtheirsows. No. fat. this fraternalword! starlding But we Certainly did not expectthattheywouldbeg ourforgiveness. right.The accusedcannothaveit all ways-cannot reproach victims goodintentions.8 scandalous this will And bad spectacular faithof the Germans. aheadof one'svictim.we wouldhavereceived understanding en 8. speakingreasoncannotconceive Our horrorover that whichproperly couldhaveshownus pity wouldsmother at its birth. One mustchoose!To presumeto be parand presumeto be pardoned. lackof basicgood Get conscience. the Austrians display whomin their innermost their pursuitof criminals more and more in If to heartof heartstheycannotbringthemselves repudiate."L'Absolution Allemagnedes crimes de no. it we it sympathy is because fled fromall contact did not men and women German for the injuredto seek suchcontact? Wouldthey have had the idea of then thinkof this all by themselves? if lettersto the weeklynewspapers emotional writingso manybeautiful. Todayis the first time since 1945 that the tenuatingcircumstances. or conditions allegingexwithout donedone mustadmitto beingguilty. the with it withgratitude. is becausethey recognize and them reluctantly without in themselves them. politiqueet economique. See Bernard Lavergne'sexcellent study. tears word.willnow well in allowitselfto be demobilized turn?Butwe. theypursue it conviction. and theirownpatriotism vindicate fortheirresentment. 183 (1945)." pardonis a sinister the "economic died Pardoning in the deathcamps.If onlythe accused the pity.we knowperfectly that Certain touchedthe Germans.Perhaps to at whichthe passionof the Resistance lastmanaged arouse. its lackof urgencyto go beforethe victims.askfor a pardon!Wehavewaitedfor a wordfor a long time.Whenthe guiltyare joke.

"therebe any. in they have no connection withthe exterminated millionswithoutsepulchers.Theyareverybusywiththe "Dasein" "theexistentialproject.Agreeaboutwhat?Aboutthe numberof victims?Aboutthe kindof gas used to asphyxiate womenand children? It is like a dream. Why would we pardon those who regret their errorsso little and so rarely? RobertMindersaysforcefully that Heidegger responsible onlyforwhathe saidunderNazism also is not but for whathe refusedto sayin 1945. victims of the of German rage. is not the millionsof exterminated interest It that our Sudetenof Parisian journalism the fateof the unfortunate but GermansexpelledfromPrussia Bohemia the Slavs.Soonwe willfeel guiltyin our turnregarding Gerthe mans. ." and And yet the intellectuals could sparea manifesto! initiative nevercome. even (I do not feel likelaughing) German and on "moralists.Not he him he does not agree.metesout praiseandblame. P.cold. it is we who must settleaccounts and with him! Millions of unfortunates died of hunger.568 VladimirJanke'le'vitch ShouldWe Pardon Them? in our eyes. and would past. the but he All 9. Austrians the havepresented us with the shameful acquittal torturers. and miseryin the concentration camps. no Apparently theirso-called existentialism does not extend that far.But German if intellectuals moralists and have nothingto say. willdie in hisbeda greatthinker.Whatmatters knowing is whetherHeidegger been has slarldered. it have rejectedit withhorror."Hebelet Heidegger: Lumiereet obscurantisme.thoughhappythattheywillconcedethattherewaserroron both sides.we willwindup discovering the torturers that weretrulythe victimsof theirvictims.Francastel au siecle.1963). takesthe high ground. (Paris.Fromnow on it and by is no longera matterof the massive slaughter innocents.this totallackof consciousness! is Germany is decidedly offendedpartyandwhose It that the distress of concernto fine minds. are stillwaitingfor the of We solemngestureof reparation disavowal sucha terrible or that moralresponsibility imposedon German intellectuals. on German philosophers. And how could it repudiatea doctrinein whichHeideggeris immediately recognizable that so clearlybears and the stampof Nietzsche? mustbe said:Germany a whole-its youth. to contest.norwillthe grandproThe will testby whichGerman thoughtwouldhavedissociated unconditionitself allyfromthathallucinatory whichconcerns afterall. German on professors.Thisdoesnot concernthem. German On the today seemsto haveacquired overwhelming an pruritus discuss.Alas!as an act of repentance. See RobertMinder. and even accuse." Utopies in et institutions dix-huitieme ed. It as its thinkers theyallhavebypassed mosthorrible the tragedy history.acknowledge mistake.Wheredid theyget thisconfidence? Wheredid thisamazing good conscience come from?No doubtwe wayto thinkaboutthatcatastrophe. the greatthinker. feel in no wayresponthey sible.Willthe deportees is apologize their in turn for havingheld publicattentionfor so long?The way thingsare going.9 the contrary.

whatdid they do duringthe war?On whatgroundswould they Whoaskedthemor gavethemthe right in dareofferpardons our name? is to do it? Everyone free to pardonthe offensesthathe has personally if suffered he choosesto.thosewhoneithersuffered theyinvoke"charithat nor fought.wrote or in to the qualifies survivors pardon the placeof thevictims in the name No.thosewhoarenotconcerned. theirfamilies? it is not our placeto pardonon beof theirrelatives. this not also a charitable and as theyareasworthy the Germans other children. with their friends.Our contemporaries no .if youplease.Whensix millionhumanbeingsare murderedin the name of will is principles. settled. is for the victims pardon. it not to be expectedthatthe survivors speakof it for awhile. the service to qualified askthat to of whatinterests. lions. to whomthe brutestortured amusethemselves.for the mystery that dewill mented hatred to be whollyelucidated. is not a question beingsublime. the opportunity assume pathetic a of tudeand the temptation playing roledo not one daymakeus forget it of It the martyrs. the survivors. but thoseof others. collaborain shocking seeingformer Beyondthisthereis something of and tors.the tortured And of of Sudeten movingthe proponents pardoning. you who makeyourselves defendersof Nazicriminals? in in whosename.Askthe littlechildrento pardonyou yourselves.nor with the friendsof their For of friends. The little brutes.whatrightdoes he haveto "Who of the also JeanCassou addresses friends the Nazis: pardonthem? In the are you. is enoughto be loyal In fact.Caring thevictims.why shouldwe retainfor ourselvesthis magnaniand serious.and tell them.withthe formerSS officers.recommend we forgetpastoffenses.bywhoseauthority. whatendsdo youjudge yourself in themandleavethemforever peace?" against we ceaseall proceedings to I wouldaddthis:I do not see whyit shouldbe up to us. judges?Whyare they in such a hurryto turn the are these indulgent damit?Wherewere Schluss page and to say.Andin anycaseto be silent. soul aboutour beautiful pardon. ChrisOrthodox an Clement.Let us ratherbewarethatcomplacency attia to that and our nobleconscience.What me in admirable tian. we and grantthemonly one right:to prayif they are Christians to askour pardonif theyare not.and to the friendsof the brutes. tableduty"to preachto the victimsabouta pardonthat the torturers of account their taking for neveraskedfor. lightof whatprinciples.we will not begin a conversation the metaphysicians Nanor tional Socialism. they. Eastern As mousroleof pardoner? Olivier to terms. blameus if we dwell This matterwill not be easily on indefinitely the litaniesof bitterness.CriticalInquiry Spring 1996 569 of with same. not Letthe others.the mostfrivolous egotistical men. themselves milduty?As for the exterminated is injuries.nor with the Sturmabteilungen Germanphilosophy. halfof the littlechildren Whilewe turn to the childrenmustpardonthem themselves.that they must irritateand tire others?Manyyearswill stillbe of for necessary us to revivefromour stupor.

by keepingus fromrealizing horriblething. the thoughtof which.This waywe have avoideddespair.nor international solidarity.Thatpoignant solitude.The Catholic Churchwas silent. almost of so and without leavinganytracein humanmemory.andlet deathdo itsdiabolical for workalmost beforetheireyes. symbolic. of torturers retiredfromtheirbusiness torturewill always of find negotiating partnerslittlerepelledenoughto enterlightheartedly financial into relations . scandalous ironyof history! is It almost without precedent sucha terrible that cataclysm shouldhavesuch meagerconsequences. But we havenot spokenof themenough. Aidedby the exigencies cohabitation.mustwe not? But in the face of whathas happened. The presswas silent. the remorsefor sucha tragedy. that absolute dereliction one of the mostfrightful is aspectsof theirordeal.evenirrational gestures.Roosevelt to knew.againsttorture.The suffering beyondmeasure marked that thoseaccursed years is out of all proportion the pathetically to inadequate renewalthat the postwar periodhas broughtus.Neitherone nor the otherhad anything say. Wemustindeedsaywhat it was.This is whywe saythatwe haveneverspokenof thisthing.Fortunately.Everyone moreor lessguiltyof nonassistance is toward a peoplethreatened withdeath." the paladins as of the "holywar" it. refusing go to Germany morelike to any muchlessAustria and to acceptneitherindemnities fromthe Germans northeirreparations.and otherinjustices havearoused indignation youth. newlypersecutedare not alone any the longer."Universal conscience. this strictly speaking. and theywouldno doubtwishthatwe did not speakof themanymoreat all. wascertainly call moremovedby the burning the of roofof a mosquethanby the premeditated scientific and slaughter six of millionhumanbeings.Wemustindeedfinallyspeakof it.we willneverhavespokenof themenough!In fact. There was not yet a United Nations. Reparations.let us at leastprotest. withall of and our strengthwhilethereis stilltime. Bitter. greatest that the tragedy moderntimes.Sincenothingmorecan be done no against German the factories death.shouldslipaway quickly. amusethemselves. to choseas livingtargets for shootingpractice. Reparations littleJewish alas! for childrenwhomGerman officers.sometimes haveeven the of they providedan alibiby creating diversion a fromour obsessive nightmare.but he remained silentin order not to demoralize boys.havewe everreallyspokenof them?Letus not be afraidto say it: Now is the firstthat we have spokenof them. manytears.whatshouldwe do? In the propersenseof the verbdo all one can do now is makeimpotent. personcan bear.and to cometo this! So Since 1945othercauseshavemobilized generouspeople.theywerealone. For the importance what happenedis far from being universally of acknowledged.570 VladimirJanke'le'vitch ShouldWePardon Them? doubtdecidethatwe speakmuchtoo muchaboutthe deathcamps.Absolutely alone.becausedemocrats fromaroundthe worldjoin theircause.But theJews.The Poleswere horrified littleinthe but clinedto runrisks theJews.

No. there are no reparations for the irreparable. we protest against the L'Arche(Mar. "Non a l'Allemagne. These innumerable dead. would speak of them if we did not speak of them? Who would even think of them? In the universal moral amnesty long accorded to the assassins. By invoking these days of rage. It is the past that calls for our pity and our gratitude. nor are lovely trips or festivals. intermittent protestationsof memory is not a fair fight. The forgetfulwill take care of that themselves. we would complete their extermination.And young people demand to know about it and suspect that we are hiding something from them. calamity. business isn't everything.these tortured.nor is tourism. The past needs us to come together expressly to commemorate it because the past needs our memory. See Neher. the frivolous.And as we cannot be friends with everyone. your truly Germanintention of offering them to us.we protest against the work of extermination and against the forgetfulness that completed it. No.But you can't understand that. to recall it to the forgetful. however. the hangings at Tulle.We don't want your money. And thus something is incumbent upon us. The dead depend entirely on our loyalty. If we ceased to think of them. vacationingisn't everything. these offended.for the past on its own cannot defend itself as the present and the future defend themselves. In our turn. No. and in fact we do not alwaysknow how to reveal the terriblesecretsof which we are the bearers:the exterminationcamps. and they would be definitivelyannihilated." limitesdu dialoguejudeo-allemanddepuis 1945. We give up all of these very attractivebenefits wholeheartedly. 1965).if they are Austrian.CriticalInquiry Spring1996 571 of mutual interest to them and to take on what we are too disgusted to do. the proponents of pardoning thus recommend something that does not need to be without reasons for living is only what it is-the life of an ant or a sheep. they are only too happy to.l°It was time for Neher to remind us of it: life without reasons for living is not worth living. crime doesn't pay. these trampled. Our refusal is not without meaning. the massacreat Oradour. Who are ourbusiness. even more so. as does. and the indifferent.Our celebrationsmust endlessly save it from nothingness. Yourmarkshorrify us. the struggle between the irresistibletide of forgetfulness that eventuallyoverwhelmseverything and the desperate. in advisingforgetfulness. the past needs us to help it." . we say to the Germans. we choose sister-cityagreements rather than to irritate the fans of Franco-German hurt the survivorsof hell.Such is the case for the past in general.and tribulation.Andre Neher clarified the moral significance of that refusal with admirable seriousness and bravery.or at least hold back the nonbeing to which it is destined. There are no damages that can compensate us for the execution of six million. these massacred. the massacred have only us to think about them. Keep your indemnities. as well as "Dimensionset 10. that sealed that work forever.

But. lost by another. . indelible like the tattoos that the survivorsstill wear on their arms. no. For ressentiment can also be the renewed and intensely lived feeling of the inexpiable thing. We were spared the atrocious ordeal of these martyrs. We who by the most miraculousof chancessurviveare not better than they are. Here where we can "do" nothing we can at least feel. Because this agony will last until the end of the world. Each spring the trees bloom at Auschwitzas they do everywhere. It would be a comfortto be able to trivializethis nightmare:a war like all the others-won by one. And since we cannot spit on touristsor throw stones at them. We do not clear our debts to these precious lives. Forgetfulnesshere would be a grave insult to those who died in the camps and whose ashes are forever mixed in the earth.and accompaniedby the inevitable misfortunesof war. the memory of what happened is indelible in us.This is doubtlesswhat the brilliantadvocatesof statutorylimitationswill call our resentment.a shamefulfrivolity.572 Vladimir Jankelevitch ShouldWe Pardon Them ? dark lake that swallowedup so many precious lives. inexhaustibly. Did we deserve such luck? What happened is unique in history and doubtless will never happen these abstractions there would be nothing that was not completely ordinary. all the same. horror of the fanaticswho perpetrated this thing. and the indifferent who have already forgotten it.we will forcefullymark our mute and impotent horror before the dogs of hate. This is our "resentment" [ressentiment]. It would be a lapse of seriousnessand dignity. only one resource remains: to remember. for there have been no other examples since the beginning of time. we dream about it at night. But in fact was that past ever a present for them?The sentimentthat we experience is not called rancor but horror insurmountablehorror over what maintainsthe sacred flame of disquiet and faith to invisible things. we will think hard about the agony of the deportees without sepulchersand of the little children who did not come back. all the same we who escaped the massacreare not more to be pitied than they. Yes.we and our children will not know their trials. our night is not more black than delivering a speech. for the grass is not too disgusted to grow in those accursedfields. Today when the sophists recommend forgetfulness. We think about it during the day. of the passive who accepted it. our inabilityto settle the past. to gather one's thoughts. it protests againsta moral amnestythat is nothing but shameful amnesia. springtime does not distinguish between our gardens and those places of inexpressible misery. by putting flowerson a grave. a day will come when we will no longer even be able to explain this ever-inexplicablechapter in the annals of hate. to the massacred. by commemoratingthe Day of Deportation once a year. nothing that could upset the tranquillityof a good conscience or trouble the sleep of unconsciousness. to the Resistancefighters. sleep does not return.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful