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On the Meaning of Life in the age of the Most Meaningless Death

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Using the cases of Pavel Florensky and Edith Stein (who were killed in a Soviet and a Nazi camp, respectively) as a jumping board, the author proposes a phenomenological reconstruction of the process of “demolition of man” (Primo Levi), to which prisoners were subjected both in Hitler's and in Stalin's camps. This essay, relying systematically on first-hand accounts from camp survivors, dwells on several stages of this process, which were strikingly similar in the two types of camp: “becoming an enemy,” “becoming a number,” “becoming a thing,” “becoming nothing.” One of the conclusions of the article is that, despite the numerous differences between the Nazi and the Soviet regimes, there was a sense in which their approach to what they considered “enemies” was fundamentally similar.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Texas Tech University, The Honors College, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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