Why we all need to read ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’

Thomas Coombes
Feb 12, 2017 · 10 min read

1 — It begins with a refugee crisis…

Refugees stranded at the Greek border crossing of Idomeni in 2016. Photo credit: Amnesty International / Fotis Filippou

“The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human.”

Photo credit: Flickr_Danielle Attias

2 — Ignore the rights of others only at risk to your own

The clearer the proof of their inability to treat stateless people as legal persons and the greater the extension of arbitrary rule by police decree, the more difficult it is for states to resist the temptation to deprive all citizens of legal status and rule them with an omnipotent police.”

“It is quite conceivable, and even within the realm of practical political possibilities, that one fine day a highly organised and mechanised humanity will conclude quite democratically — namely by majority decision — that for humanity as a whole it would be better to liquidate certain parts thereof.”

3 — Without rights, the darkest evil becomes possible

Monument for the deported on the Jewish cemetery near the Grosse Hamburger Strasse. Photo credit: flickr_Margie Savage
Refugees forced to live in increasingly dehumanising conditions at the Greek border. Photo credit: Amnesty International / Fotis Filippou.

“Before they set the gas chambers into motion they had carefully tested the ground and found out to their satisfaction that no country would claim these people.”

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, seen from Hannah Arendt Strasse. Photo credit: flickr_Norman Z

4 — What goes around, comes around

German troops in combat with the Herero people, one of the forgotten genocides of the 20th century
Stolpersteine, memorials for individual victims of the Shoah outside their former homes. Photo credit: flickr_Joop van Dijk

5 — How hatred goes mainstream

“Hatred … began to play a central role in public affairs everywhere.”

6 — Loneliness: “the common ground for terror”

Cyber cafe. Photo credit: flickr_Conor

In conclusion:

Further Reading:

Thomas Coombes

Written by

Human rights and Hope-Based Communications @Amnesty by day, blogging about world literature in my spare time.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade