I am searching the source and exact words for a quote from Hannah Arendt that I only vaguely remember:

Das Ziel totalitärer Systeme ist es nicht, die Menschen von der eigenen Ideology zu überzeugen. Vielmehr sollen sie unfähig sein, eigene Überzeugungen zu entwickeln.

The aim of totalitarian systems is not to convict you of an ideology. Rather they want to make you uncapable of having a belief.

Maybe, the news article that quoted Arendt did not cite her exact words but was referring to this quote? (Update: The below quote is easy to find. I'm searching for sources for the above quote!)

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.

  • An Internet search finds several references to the quote. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy gives the cite as The Origins of Totalitarianism (Arendt, 1968: 474). Commented Jun 28, 2020 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


The correct quote goes as follows:

The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.

It can be found in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Chapter 13, p. 468 in the 1973 edition by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (NY).

The context of the quote is the argument that totalitarianism converts classes into masses, where the people of individuals becomes The One, and instead of there being a principle of action (as in all other forms of government) it is only the Laws of Nature (or History) which are fulfilled, leaving no room for individuality, motivation, or freedom whatsoever.

Therefore, the education has to reduce humans to mere minions of the suprahuman movement, without any emotion or individual motivation behind their doing, since this would enable them to creatively develop degrees of freedom and space between themselves and the movement.

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