Blogs > Liberty and Power > On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Jan 27, 2005 6:58 pm

On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

In April of 1946, about a year after the world had discovered the nightmare of Nazi concentration camps across Europe, Ayn Rand wrote a"Foreword" to her novelette, Anthem, that reflected on the collectivist roots of the statist brutality that had made these camps possible. On the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it is fitting to recall Rand's words:

The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one's eyes shut. They expect, when they find themselves in a world of bloody ruins and concentration camps, to escape moral responsibility by wailing:"But I didn't mean this!"
Those who want slavery should have the grace to name it by its proper name. They must face the full meaning of that which they are advocating or condoning; the full, exact, specific meaning of collectivism, of its logical implications, of the principles upon which it is based, and of the ultimate consequences to which these principles will lead.
They must face it, then decide whether this is what they want or not.

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Stephan (K-dog) Kinsella - 7/14/2005

Thanks Chris for a reminder of what originally attracted me to Rand. This was Rand at her best. The quote is reminiscent of one of my favorites by Mises, “No socialist author ever gave a thought to the possibility that the abstract entity which he wants to vest with unlimited power—whether it is called humanity, society, nation, state, or government—could act in a way of which he himself disapproves.”
—Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 692 (rev'd ed. 1966), available at (sorry, Steve, for the link)

Max Swing - 1/28/2005

Since I live in Germany, it was an obligation and one of the most horrible but also necessary voyages we went to during "Gymnasium". It is a horrible sight (even today) and it was only topped by the comments of Ex-"Prisoners", who survived the cruel torture.

I also visited the DDR camp Hohen-Schönhausen in East-Berlin,where I also got a tour lead by ex-prisoners. They showed us how cruel the Sowjet regime was and the only difference to NAZI was the missing of the ovens. Although some of the prisoners said that they'd prefered to die than to live on, because they can't forget this for a single night.

There were 2 kinds of torture, first psychological than physical. The only use of this torture was to crush the spirit and the body of the prisoners. It wasn't even a try to convert the "inhabitants".
They had to stay awake every day during night, not getting any sleep. They didn't see other prisoners during their stay in the sterile "hospital of mind".
They were questioned multiple times over the day, always changing the patterns of time and questions. If they misbehaved they came to the physical torture chambers. In overcrowded cells they got nothing to eat and from time to time were brought to the actual torture complex. I don#t want to go on, because I want to spare you the things those Communists have done.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 1/28/2005

I can't imagine the impact of such a visit, Bill. I've never been to Europe, but this is surely one stop that must be a brutal reminder of an awful period in human history.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 1/28/2005

Reading these words of moral clarity from the likes of Rand and Mises---well... I suspect it's among the reasons why many of us here became libertarians to begin with.

Thanks, guys.

Steven Horwitz - 1/28/2005

Now, now Stephan. I have my issues, but that doesn't mean there's not good stuff at TMI too. ;)

William Marina - 1/27/2005

When I visited Auschwitz-Berkenau, I was struck by how relatively modest were the experiments and ovens at the former, although horrible enough, but the sheer scale of the latter, the barracks running on forever, and the huge ovens, that had to be cleaned often because of the accumulation of human grease, that were blown up by the Nazi tugs before the Soviets arrived, have to be seen to be believed.