The Nazis preached a certain philosophy—and they carried it out in action. They preached authority above rights, the group above the individual, sacrifice above happiness, nihilism above morality, feelings above facts, pliability above absolutes, obedience above logic, the Führer above the self—and they applied it.
The camp rulers no longer needed to batter men with denials of the physical world. The rulers made reality unintelligible, and thereby annulled the concept as a guiding factor in human life. They no longer derogated human intelligence in words. They made it helpless in fact and thereby choked it off. They did not condemn self-concern or self-esteem as a moral betrayal. They degraded the prisoner so profoundly that in the end any vestige of either was to become impossible to him. The specific element in man which the camps attacked was the conditions of the mind’s ability to function. The target was not primarily the physical conditions, but the root of man’s capacity of independence, i.e., the mind’s essential inner conditions: its grasp of existence, its confidence in reason, its commitment to values and to its own value.