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Returning to Dachau:
The Living and the Dead

- Abstract

Off and on for close to twenty years, and beginning long before my own experience made them a very personal and immediate issue, the problems posed by totalitarian society have occupied my mind. A year (1938-39) in the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald made me realize what a central role the concentration camp (or prison) plays as an instrument of control under totalitarianism, and how essential it is in shaping the individual’s personality into the type such a society requires. At first, therefore, it was the psychology and the sociology of the concentration camp that interested me most.

The result was a monograph published during the war, when information about the camps was still meager, which was met with skepticism in many places. In it, I described the ways in which the integrity of the human being was undermined by the camp regimen and his personality radically changed. But a more important study remained to be written, one that would deal with the problem of reviving, restoring, and reintegrating the personality that had undergone the experience of the concentration camp. And this, the rehabilitation of traumatized or “destroyed” individuals, has been my vocation for many years.

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