Banality of Evil - Learning from German history

IMG_4710From 18th to 21st February, 17 scholarship holders from 11 countries as well as two scholarship holders from the Albertus Magnus Program met in the Benedictine monastery in St. Ottilien for the seminar titled “Banality of Evil”. This term – used by the German-American Jewish philosopher and conflict researcher Hannah Arendt as a reaction to the horrific events of the persecution of the Jews during the reign of National Socialism and the Second World War in Germany – formed the starting point of the seminar. The event was organized by the Head of the Eastern Europe Department, Markus Leimbach, and P. Prof. Ulrich Engel OP, Spiritual Advisor.

Vortrag Jörg LüerIMG_4662Dr. Jörg Lüer (German Commission Justitia et Pax) focused on the social dimension of violence based on the perception and reception by the individual and the society. By giving an analysis of the different forms and effects of violence, he explained the approaches of Justitia et Pax to overcome distress and to work on reconciliation. Prof. Dr. Ulrich Engel OP (see picture on the right) introduced the theological-religious dimension of evil and presented three theories of the origin of evil. Three Bible passages were chosen to work in small groups on the topic.

Dachau Helmut RezIMG_4703Father Cyrill Schäfer OSB offered a guided tour around the monastery in St. Ottilien and gave an insight in the difficult history of the monastery when it was used as a military hospital for Jewish concentration camp prisoners after the war.

Deeply moving was a visit to the former concentration camp Dachau. Helmut Rez (Dachau Forum) portrayed the life of the camp in a very vivid and informative way by looking at the victims’ as well as the perpetrator’s perspective, showing examples of moral courage and the negative consequences of cowardice or conformism.

The seminar was completed by morning meditations and the celebration of the holy mass, which allowed reflections on the experiences of these days.