History and Judgment – Introduction

JVF Conference Papers

This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.
– Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968) p. 257.
In this rather enigmatic image, Benjamin’s angel lingers by history, unable to turn away because he cannot make sense of it.

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