Posted by on Oct 1, 2012 in Antisemitism, Books, Highlights, History, Ideas, Jewish, Politics, Quotes, Shoah | 1 comment

(from “Why Auschwitz” – in an “auto-interview”)

 It is the duty of everyone to meditate on what happened. Everybody must know or remember that Hitler and Mussolini, when they spoke in public, were believed, admired, adored like gods. They were “charismatic leaders”; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the credibility or the justice of the things they said but from the suggestive way in which they said them, from their eloquence, from a subtle dramatic art of theirs, perhaps instinctive, perhaps patiently practiced and learned. The ideas they proclaimed were not always the same, and in general were aberrant, or silly, or cruel. And yet they were acclaimed with hosannahs, and followed all the way to death by millions of the faithful.

It is therefore necessary to be suspicious of charismatic leaders, or rather, of those who seek to convince us with other tools than reason: we must be cautious about delegating to others our judgment and our will. Since it is difficult to distinguish true prophets from false, it is as well to regard all prophets with suspicion. It is better to renounce revealed truths, even if they exalt us by their simplicity and their splendor, or if we find them convenient because we can acquire them gratis.

It is better to content oneself with other more modest and less exciting truths, those one acquires painfully, little by little and without shortcuts, with study, discussion and reasoning, those that can be verified and demonstrated.

Primo Levi

— for more of the interview in New Republic —