Facing the Extreme : Moral Life in the Concentration Camps

Facing the Extreme : Moral Life in the Concentration Camps

Book Title: Facing the Extreme : Moral Life in the Concentration Camps

Author: Anne Applebaum

Format: Paperback | 307 pages

Publication Date: 01 Apr 1997

ISBN-13: 9780805042641

The Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulags provide the context for Tzvetan Todorov's unparalleled examination of the human capacity for moral life. Drawing on a striking array of documents, from little-known memoirs by eyewitnesses and survivors to the works of Primo Levi and Jetty Hillesum, Eugenia Ginzburg and Albert Speer, Todorov reconstructs a vivid portrait of the conduct of those who ran the camps and those who suffered their outrages. Challenging the widespread view that moral life was extinguished in the extreme circumstances of the camps, he uncovers instead a rich moral universe composed not of grand acts of heroism but of innumerable ordinary gestures of dignity and care, compassion and solidarity. These 'everyday virtues', Todorov argues, allowed inmates to survive morally intact in the most immoral and inhuman of conditions.

A complex and profound meditation, "Facing the Extremes" restores a lost dimension to this anguished history, even as it offers an eloquent plea for the recognition of everyday virtues as a basis for contemporary morality.