LESS than six years Germany laid
the nightmare of Germany in its physical, moral, and political ruin has become almost as decisive an element in the general atmosphere of European life as the Communist movements. But nowhere is this nightmare of destruction and horror less felt and less talked about than in Germany itself. A lack of response is evident everywhere, and it is difficult to say whether this signifies a half-conscious refusal to yield to grief or a genuine inability to feel. Amid the ruins, Germans mail each other picture postcards still showing the cathedrals and market places, the public buildings and bridges that no longer exist. And the indifference with which they walk through the rubble has its exact counterpart in the absence of mourning for the dead, or in the apathy with which they react, or rather fail to react, to the fate of the refugees in their midst. This general lack of emotion, at any rate this apparent heartlessness, sometimes covered over with cheap sentimentality, is only the most conspicuous outward symptom of a deep-rooted, stubborn, and at times vicious refusal to face and come to terms with what really happened.
INDIvERENE, and the irritation that comes
when indifference is challenged, can be tested on many intellectual levels. 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 comesnot 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 (true enough, of course, but beside the point); 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 and
work on totalitarianism, The Origins of Totalitarianism, soon to be published by Harcourt, Brace. Her writings on history, philosophy, and political theory in COMMENTARY and other periodicals have won her a wide reputation. This report on Germany was written after a recent stay of several months in that country. Dr. Arendt was born in Germany, studied under Karl Jaspers in Heidelberg, and earned her doctorate at that university. She came to this country in 1941. 342...