Moral Lessons from Monstrosity: The Kindly Ones and the Reader

  • Bettine Siertsema
Part of the Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy book series (LOET, volume 31)


The controversial novel The Kindly Ones by the American-French author Jonathan Littell shows a fictional Holocaust Perpetrator, Max Aue, telling in a detached way about his involvement in the mass murders in Eastern Europe, such as Babi Yar, the defeat of the German army at Stalingrad, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews and the death marches from Auschwitz. His attitude is ambivalent: he shows both unease and lack of guilt in describing his actions. His moral reasoning and the justifications he puts forward show similarities with those of historical perpetrators like Rudolf Höss and Adolf Eichmann. Aue wants to convince the reader that he is ‘just like you’, that in his position the reader would have acted in exactly the same way. This claim is weakened by his peculiar personal history and sexual doings. The flaw in his morale is caused by radically choosing the collective perspective over the individual one, both in regard to his own ideology and to the victims.


Concentration Camp Female Character Common Morality Mass Murder Mass Killing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I want to thank Professor Dr A. van Harskamp, Dr M.H. Schenkeveld and Drs Liesbeth Eugelink for the careful attention they gave to early drafts of this paper. In particular I am appreciative to the anonymous reviewer of the next to final version. I made grateful use of their remarks, as far as I was able to.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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