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Yes, There Are Men in This Terrible World Who are Guilty – “Life and Fate” – Vasily Grossman

April 9th, 2012 · No Comments · Genocide, Human Rights, Humanism, Morality, Philosophy, Totalitarianism

There is divine judgement, there is the judgement of a State and the judgement of society, but there is one supreme judgement: the judgement of one sinner over another. A sinner can measure the power of the totalitarian state and find it limitless: through propaganda, hunger, loneliness, infamy, obscurity, labour camps and the threat of death, this terrible power can fetter a man’s will. But every step that a man takes under the threat of poverty, hunger, labour camps and death is at the same time an expression of his own will. Every step Kaltuft had taken – from the village to the trenches, from being a man-in-the-street to being a member of the National Socialist Party – bore the imprint of his will. A man may be led by fate, but he can refuse to follow. He may be a mere tool in the hands of destructive powers, but he knows it is in his interest to assent to this. Fate and the indivudal may have different ends, but they share the same path.

The man who pronounces judgement will be neither a pure and merciful heavenly being, nor a wise justice who watches over the interests of society and the state, neither a saint nor a righteous man – but a miserable, dirty sinner who has been crushed by Fascism, who has himself experienced the terrible power of the State, who has himself bowed down, fallen, shrunk into timidity and submissiveness. And this judge will say:

‘Guilty! Yes, there are men in this terrible world who are guilty.’

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