Following the end of World War II, when the world discovered the Nazi concentration camps in Eastern Europe, their exposure brought the revelation that the Nazis had mercilessly slaughtered millions upon millions of innocents. This tragedy transformed human history, for never before had such a civilized society produced horrors of such scope and calculated ruthlessness. In response to the Holocaust, a school of philosophy emerged through the writings of George Steiner, Primo Levi, Jean Amry, Hannah Arendt, and others that focused on the analysis of the horrors and excesses of Nazi Germany. Post-Holocaust thought, coupled with the atrocities committed by the Stalinist state in Russia, led to the classification of such governments as totalitarian. Included in this philosophy is a work by Hannah Arendt, entitled The Origins of Totalitarianism, in which Arendt analyzes the workings and philosophy behind such systems of government. One central aspect of Arendt's work concerns her analysis of a three stage process by which a totalitarian government destroys its citizens in order to maintain its absolute power. Interestingly, these events and philosophies also influenced George Orwell, a onetime English Socialist, who wrote the novel 1984. Orwell, commenting on his work after its 1949 publication, wrote that he sought to emphasize that "totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere" (Orwell, TCLC, 301). George Orwell's 1984 uses the characterization of Winston Smith in a way that demonstrates the validity of Arendt's thesis that the destruction of individuals by the totalitarian state takes place in three stages: the juridical, the moral, and the metaphysical. .
Arendt's model, as articulated in The Origins of Totalitarianism, is based on the idea since totalitarian states can serve no end outside themselves, they must have absolute power to destroy, and therefore strive for a society where "men [are] superfluous" (Arendt 457).