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Keywords:

  • Evil;
  • Holocaust;
  • prison inmates;
  • ethics;
  • morality

Fifty-eight subjects were interviewed about their concepts of evil. They include students, retirees, white collar workers, and 18 prison inmates. Many defined evil not as a moral category but as an experience of impending doom. This definition reflects and affects how many subjects experience evil as an ethical problem, leading them to “privatize” evil—experiencing it in terms of their own terror. Many have considerable difficulty connecting this experience with issues of morality and goodness. An education about evil must respectfully confront this private dimension. The same conclusion applies to how we study evil on a larger scale, such as the Holocaust. This is revealed by subjects' responses, some quite troubling, to questions about the Nazis.