Bernd Magnus, professor emeritus in the Depaartment of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, has died. Professor Magnus worked on Nietzsche and Heidegger. An article in UCR Today describes how, as a child in Germany, he was sent to a concentration camp and later escaped. According to a rabbi quoted in the article Magnus had the following to say, reflecting on that time of his life:
Those of us who were infants, toddlers, or very young children were of no use in the camps. We could not serve as a labor force as many of our parents and older siblings could be forced to do. We needed food to survive even at a starvation level. We were a drain on scarce resources. Most of all, however, we were a constant distraction to our families, a reminder of a lost ‘normal’ life, a danger that constantly threatened to rehumanize inmates. Our very presence threatened to once again make human and humane the stark, brutal, and systematic dehumanization of camp victims. That dehumanization, after all, was one of the principal objectives of concentration camps. … In the typical case, therefore, we the children of the Holocaust were the first to be killed. Even before the ovens were built in the camps that had crematoria, children were already perceived as a potential menace to Germany’s Final Solution to the Jewish Question. At the very least we were perceived as a potentially subversive force in the process of dehumanization. That is why there are so few of my peers left alive today.
Magnus was the “driving force” behind the creation of UCR’s philosophy PhD program. There is an annual lecture there named for him.
UPDATE (12/3/14): Times Higher Education has published an obituary for Magnus.