Ilse Aichinger, 1948
Lilly Axster
Katherine Klinger
Hannah Arendt, 1950
Hannah Fröhlich
Long version
Short version
Reference text Arendt
Nicola Lauré al-Samarai
Simone de Beauvoir, 1949
Dagmar Fink
Tom Holert
Billie Holiday, 1939
Jamika Ajalon
Rúbia Salgado
Adrian Piper, 1983
Belinda Kazeem
Anna Kowalska
Yvonne Rainer, 1990
Monika Bernold
Shirley Tate
The Aftermath of Nazi Rule
Report from Germany

Hannah Arendt, 1950

But perhaps the most striking and frightening aspect of the German flight from reality is the habit of treating facts as though they were mere opinions. […] In all fields there is a kind of gentlemen’s agreement by which everyone has a right to his ignorance under the pretext that everyone has a right to his opinion—and behind this is the tacit assumption that opinions really do not matter. This is a very serious thing, not only because it often makes discussion so hopeless […], but primarily because the average German honestly believes this free-for-all, this nihilistic relativity about facts, to be the essence of democracy. In fact, of course, it is a legacy of the Nazi regime.

What one is up against is not indoctrination but the incapacity or unwillingness to distinguish altogether between fact and opinion.

One cannot even say that the ideologies have survived for want of something better; it is rather as though the Germans, after their experience with Nazi ideology, have become convinced that just about anything will do. The party machines are primarily interested in providing jobs and favors for their members, and they are all-powerful to do so. […] Far from encouraging initiative of any kind, they are afraid of young people with new ideas. […] Consequently, what little there is of political interest and discussion occurs in small circles outside the parties and outside the public institutions. […] The parties have not only failed to enlist the support of the German intelligentsia, they have also convinced the masses that they do not represent their interests.

The most obvious experiment is to state expressis verbis what the other fellow has noticed from the beginning of the conversation, namely, that you are a Jew. This is usually followed by a little embarrassed pause; and then comes—not a personal question, such as “Where did you go after you left Germany?”; no sign of sympathy, such as “What happened to your family?”—but a deluge of stories about how Germans have suffered […]; and if the object of this little experiment happens to be educated and intelligent, he will proceed to draw up a balance between German suffering and the suffering of others, the implication being that one side cancels the other.


„Besuch in Deutschland. Die Nachwirkungen des Naziregimes“ by Hannah Arendt was published in German in: Marie Luise Knott (ed.), Zur Zeit. Politische Essays, Rotbuch Verlag, Hamburg 1999 (1986). Quotes on pages 47, 48, 69 and 44. Arendt wrote the text on behalf of the American Jewish Committee, after returning from a trip to Germany (November 1949 to March 1950) as part of their work for the Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction. The English original of “The Aftermath of Nazi Rule. Report from Germany“ was published in October 1950 in the magazine Commentary, and can be found at: