The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 2, 2006

Social and Political Philosophy

Mikhail Polischuk
Pages 97-102

An Essay toward a Philosophy of the Holocaust

The tragic experience of the 20 century, the worst expression of which is the Holocaust, is a challenge to the fundamental values of civilized society. Many generations of thinkers will try to find a response to that challenge. The terrifying symbol of that challenge is Auschwitz, Universum Terroris, "the kingdom not of this world". Its understanding is beyond classical concepts of good and evil and cannot be described in the usual categories of crime and punishment. The entrance to this "kingdom" can be illustrated by Dante's words written at the entrance to Hell (Inferno): "Abandon hope all ye who enter". Finding no help either in God (the Almighty "has covered his face", as theologians put it) or in Reason (Reason has become madness), the shattered mind has to seek a new "measure of all things", to perceive wisdom born of despair, which we call holosophy.