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At the Mind’s Limits

At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

Copyright Date: 1980
Published by: Indiana University Press
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    At the Mind’s Limits
    Book Description:

    "These are pages that one reads with almost physical pain...all the way to its stoic conclusion." -Primo Levi

    "The testimony of a profoundly serious man.... In its every turn and crease, it bears the marks of the true." -Irving Howe, New Republic

    "This remarkable the autobiography of an extraordinarily acute conscience. With the ear of a poet and the eye of a novelist, Amery vividly communicates the wonder of a philosopher-a wonder here aroused by the 'dark riddle' of the Nazi regime and its systematic sadism." -Jim Miller, Newsweek

    "Whoever has succumbed to torture can no longer feel at home in the world. The shame of destruction cannot be erased. Trust in the world, which already collapsed in part at the first blow, but in the end, under torture, fully, will not be regained. That one's fellow man was experienced as the antiman remains in the tortured person as accumulated horror. It blocks the view into a world in which the principle of hope rules. One who was martyred is a defenseless prisoner of fear. It is fear that henceforth reigns over him." -Jean Amery

    At the Mind's Limits is the story of one man's incredible struggle to understand the reality of horror. In five autobiographical essays, Amery describes his survival-mental, moral, and physical-through the enormity of the Holocaust. Above all, this masterful record of introspection tells of a young Viennese intellectual's fervent vision of human nature and the betrayal of that vision.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-01368-2
    Subjects: History, Religion
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE TO THE REISSUE, 1977 (pp. vii-xii)
    Jean Améry
  4. PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION, 1966 (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Jean Améry
  5. At the Mind’s Limits (pp. 1-20)

    Take care, a well-meaning friend advised me when he heard of my plan to speak on the intellectual in Auschwitz. He emphatically recommended that I deal as little as possible with Auschwitz and as much as possible with the intellectual problems. He said further that I should be discreet and, if at all feasible, avoid including Auschwitz in the title. The public, he felt, was allergic to this geographical, historical, and political term. There were, after all, enough books and documents of every kind on Auschwitz already, and to report on the horrors would not be to relate anything new....

  6. Torture (pp. 21-40)

    Whoever visits Belgium as a tourist may perhaps chance upon Fort Breendonk, which lies halfway between Brussels and Antwerp. The compound is a fortress from the First World War, and what its fate was at that time I don’t know. In the Second World War, during the short eighteen days of resistance by the Belgian army in May 1940, Breendonk was the last headquarters of King Leopold. Then, under German occupation, it became a kind of small concentration camp, a “reception camp,” as it was called in the cant of the Third Reich. Today it is a Belgian National Museum....

  7. How Much Home Does a Person Need? (pp. 41-61)

    The road led through the wintry night in the Eifel, on smugglers’ routes to Belgium, whose custom officials and policemen would have refused us a legal crossing of the border, for we were coming into the country as refugees, without passport and visa, without any valid national identity. It was a long way through the night. The snow lay knee-high; the black firs did not look any different from their sisters back home, but they were already Belgian firs; we knew that they did not want us. An old Jew in rubber overshoes, which he was constantly losing, clung to...

  8. Resentments (pp. 62-81)

    Sometimes it happens that in the summer I travel through a thriving land. It is hardly necessary to tell of the model cleanliness of its large cities, of its idyllic towns and villages, to point out the quality of the goods to be bought there, the unfailing perfection of its handicrafts, or the impressive combination of cosmopolitan modernity and wistful historical consciousness that is evidenced everywhere. All this has long since been legendary and is a delight to the world. One scarcely need dwell on it. Statistics show that the man on the street is faring as well as I...

  9. On the Necessity and Impossibility of Being a Jew (pp. 82-101)

    Not seldom, when in conversation my partner draws me into a plural—that is, as soon as he includes my person in whatever connection and says to me: “We Jews ... ”—I feel a not exactly tormenting, but nonetheless deep-seated discomfort. I have long tried to get to the bottom of this disconcerting psychic state, and it has not been very easy for me. Can it be, is it thinkable that I, the former Auschwitz inmate, who truly has not lacked occasion to recognize what he is and what he must be, still did not want to be a...

  10. TRANSLATORS’ NOTES (pp. 102-103)
  11. AFTERWORD Jean Amery: The Writer in Revolt (pp. 104-111)
    Sidney Rosenfeld

    Jean Amery’s suicide on October 17, 1978, ended a literary career that finds no parallel in postwar German letters, although it was determined by experiences that, unhappily, were not unique to him but were shared by scores of thousands. The victims of Nazism were countless, those who lived to bear testimony a handful. Amery, who withstood the years between 1938 and 1945 in exile, internment, hiding, and the inferno of the concentration camps, began his career late, and his time was severely measured. He was already fifty-four when this, his first book (originally entitled Jenseits von Schuld und Siihne, “Beyond...