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In her seminal 1951 work The Origins of Totalitarianism, the political philosopher Hannah Arendt examined historical developments in Europe during the period between the two World Wars and declared that "the transformation of the state from an instrument of the law into an instrument of the nation had been completed." While Arendt focused on threats to individual and minority rights posed by the repressive "nation-state," her critique also identified the complicity of an international legal system that accorded undue deference to sovereign prerogative. The collapse of the League of Nations, the ascendancy of the Nazi Party in Germany, and the ravages of the Holocaust in the 1930s and 1940s graphically demonstrate the legal, political and human costs of totalitarian nationalism. Within this historical framework, the brutal tendencies of fascism are exposed: the totalitarian state dedicates its leadership, its institutions, and particularly its security forces to the annihilation of those who do not belong to the "nation." But is fascism, conceived as state-centered ultra-nationalism, the ultimate threat to human rights, or are non-state sponsored abuses of human dignity of comparable concern?

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Columbia Human Rights Law Review



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