170 Hannah Arendt Quotes

These Hannah Arendt quotes are perfect daily reminders for you to think hard about the truths presented to you. With 170 of her most inspiring quotes, this collection will help you see through the information presented to us everyday.

Hannah Arendt lived through one of the darkest times in history, but she kept strong and even criticized the Nazis head on. It is through her determination to think and live through the darkness of the 20th century that we are able to learn from her essays and teachings, and in a way, try to understand its relevance in today’s social conditions.

Check out the full collection below.

Best Hannah Arendt Quotes

1. “There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.”

2. “Under the conditions of tyranny, it is far easier to act than to think.”

3. “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 and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.”

4. “Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts, as such, for in their opinion, fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”

5. “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.”

6. “No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes.”

7. “Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.”

8. “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

9. “In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world, the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing—think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.”

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

11. “Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.”

12. “Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression, and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality; that is, against the claim on our thinking attention that all events and facts make by virtue of their existence.”

13. “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”

14. “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable.”

15. “The third world is not a reality, but an ideology.”

16. “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”

17. “Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you, and you hold your life in your hands all alone—you are more master of yourself than at any other time.”

18. “The common prejudice that love is as common as romance may be due to the fact that we all learned about it first through poetry. But the poets fool us; they are the only ones to whom love is not only a crucial, but an indispensable experience, which entitles them to mistake it for a universal one.”

19. “Forgiveness is the only way to reverse the irreversible flow of history.”

20. “Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but antipolitical, perhaps the most powerful of all anti political forces.”

Hannah Arendt Quotes on The Human Condition

21. “The greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

22. “I’m more than ever of the opinion that a decent human existence is possible today only on the fringes of society, where one then runs the risk of starving or being stoned to death. In these circumstances, a sense of humor is a great help.”

23. “It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives.”

24. “Whatever touches or enters into a sustained relationship with human life immediately assumes the character of a condition of human existence.”

25. “Whatever enters the human world of its own accord or is drawn into it by human effort becomes part of the human condition.”

26. “It has always been a great temptation for men of action, no less than for men of thought, to find a substitute for action in the hope that the realm of human affairs may escape the haphazardness and moral irresponsibility inherent in a plurality of agents.”

27. “Terror as we know it today strikes without any preliminary provocation, its victims are innocent, even from the point of view of the persecutor.”

28. “However much we are affected by the things of the world, however deeply they may stir and stimulate us, they become human for us only when we can discuss them with our fellows.”

29. “Thinking, existentially speaking, is a solitary but not a lonely business; solitude is that human situation in which I keep myself company.”

30. “It is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past.”

31. “In acting and speaking, men show who they are, reveal actively their unique personal identities, and thus make their appearance in the human world while their physical identities appear without any activity of their own in the unique shape of the body and sound of the voice.”

32. “One destroys the dignity of human thought, whereas the others destroy the dignity of human action.”

33. “Humanly speaking, no more is required and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.”

34. “For no matter what learned scientists may say, race is, politically speaking, not the beginning of humanity, but its end; not the origin of peoples, but their decay; not the natural birth of man, but his unnatural death.”

35. “Since the end of human action, as distinct from the end products of fabrication, can never be reliably predicted, the means used to achieve political goals are more often than not of greater relevance to the future world than the intended goals.”

36. “The fact is that the human capacity for life in the world always implies an ability to transcend and to be alienated from the processes of life itself, while vitality and liveliness can be conserved only to the extent that men are willing to take the burden, the toil and trouble of life, upon themselves.”

37. “It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lessons that this long course in human wickedness had taught us—the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”

38. “The miracle that saves the world, the realm of human affairs, from its normal ‘natural’ ruin, is ultimately the fact of natality, in which the faculty of action is ontologically rooted.”

39. “It is, in other words, the birth of new people and the new beginning—the action they are capable of by virtue of being born. Only the full experience of this capacity can bestow upon human affairs faith and hope.”

40. “Love, by reason of its passion, destroys the in-between which relates us to and separates us from others.”

41. “Well, neither vanity nor the need for adoration—the sad substitute for the supreme confirmation of one’s existence which only love, mutual love, can give—belongs among the mortal sins; but they are unsurpassed prompters when we need suggestions for making fools of ourselves.”

42. “We can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past and simply call it our heritage, to discard the bad and simply think of it as a dead load which by itself time will bury in oblivion.”

43. “Good works, because they must be forgotten instantly, can never become part of the world; they come and go, leaving no trace. They truly are not of this world.”

44. “The point, as Marx saw it, is that dreams never come true.”

45. “Action, as distinguished from fabrication, is never possible in isolation; to be isolated is to be deprived of the capacity to act.”

46. “There is hardly a better way to avoid discussion than by releasing an argument from the control of the present and by saying that only the future will reveal its merits.”

47. “The possible redemption from the predicament of irreversibility─of being unable to undo what one has done─is the faculty of forgiving.”

48. “The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises.”

49. “Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from necessity.”

50. “Courage is indispensable because in politics not life but the world is at stake.”

51. “When an old truth ceases to be applicable, it does not become any truer by being stood on its head.”

52. “For an ideology differs from a simple opinion in that it claims to possess either the key to history, or the solution for all the riddles of the universe, or the intimate knowledge of the hidden universal laws which are supposed to rule nature and man.”

53. “Few ideologies have won enough prominence to survive the hard competitive struggle of persuasion, and only two have come out on top and essentially defeated all others—the ideology which interprets history as an economic struggle of classes, and the other that interprets history as a natural fight of races.”

54. “Nobody is the author or producer of his own life story. Somebody began it and is its subject in the twofold sense, namely, its actor and sufferer, but nobody is the author.”

55. “Exasperation with the threefold frustration of action— the unpredictability of its outcome, the irreversibility of the process, and the anonymity of its authors—is almost as old as recorded history.”

56. “That even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination might well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given to them.”

57. “Every generation, civilization, is invaded by barbarians—we call them ‘children’.”

58. “Loneliness comes about when I am alone without being able to split up into the two-in-one—without being able to keep myself company.”

59. “Because the actor always moves among and in relation to other acting beings, he is never merely a doer but always and at the same time a sufferer.”

60. “This disclosure of ‘who’ in contradistinction to ‘what’ somebody is—his qualities, gifts, talents, and shortcomings, which he may display or hide—is implicit in everything somebody says and does.”

61. “Thought and cognition are not the same.”

62. “Thought, the source of art works, is manifested without transformation or transfiguration in all great philosophy, whereas the chief manifestation of the cognitive processes, by which we acquire and store up knowledge, is the sciences.”

63. “Cognition always pursues a definite aim, which can be set by practical considerations as well as by ‘idle curiosity’; but once this aim is reached, the cognitive process has come to an end.”

64. “The earlier part of her life had taught her that, while you can tell stories or write poems about life, you cannot make life poetic, live it as though it were a work of art.”

65. “If the ability to tell right from wrong should have anything to do with the ability to think, then we must be able to demand its exercise in every sane person no matter how erudite or ignorant.”

66. “This is the reality in which we live.”

67. “Society is the form in which the fact of mutual dependence for the sake of life and nothing else assumes public significance and where the activities connected with sheer survival are permitted to appear in public.”

68. “But this was a moral question, and the answer to it may not have been legally relevant.”

69. “Wisdom is a virtue of old age, and it seems to come only to those who, when young, were neither wise nor prudent.”

70. “Whatever can be taken away from a lasting enjoyment for its own sake cannot possibly be the proper object of desire.”

71. “Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality—whatever it may be.”

72. “It is because we know happiness that we want to be happy, and since nothing is more certain than our wanting to be happy, our notion of happiness guides us in determining the respective goods that then became objects of our desires.”

73. “What are we doing when we do nothing but think? Where are we when we, normally always surrounded by our fellow men, are together with no one but ourselves?”

74. “The conviction that everything that happens on earth must be comprehensible to man can lead to interpreting history by commonplaces.”

75. “Comprehension does not mean denying the outrageous, deducing the unprecedented from precedents, or explaining phenomena by such analogies and generalities that the impact of reality and the shock of experience are no longer felt.”

76. “It is highly unlikely that we, who can know, determine, and define the natural essences of all things surrounding us, which we are not, should ever be able to do the same for ourselves—this would be like jumping over our own shadows.”

77. “Only the good has depth that can be radical.”

78. “A life spent entirely in public, in the presence of others, becomes, as we would say, shallow.”

79. “We noted before that the passion of compassion was singularly absent from the minds and hearts of the men who made the American Revolution.”

Hannah Arendt Quotes on Revolution and Tyranny

80. “Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.”

81. “One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.”

82. “For politics is not like the nursery; in politics obedience and support are the same.”

83. “Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.”

84. “The outstanding negative quality of the totalitarian elite is that it never stops to think about the world as it really is and never compares the lies with reality.”

85. “True goal of totalitarian propaganda is not persuasion, but organization of the polity.”

86. “Factuality itself depends for its continued existence upon the existence of the non totalitarian world.”

87. “The method of infallible prediction, more than any other totalitarian propaganda device, betrays its ultimate goal of world conquest, since only in a world completely under his control could the totalitarian ruler possibly realize all his lies and make true all his prophecies.”

88. “The effectiveness of this kind of propaganda demonstrates one of the chief characteristics of modern masses. They do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent in itself.”

89. “Totalitarian solutions may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social, or economic misery in a manner worthy of man.”

90. “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.”

91. “Terror becomes total when it becomes independent of all opposition; it rules supreme when nobody any longer stands in its way. If lawfulness is the essence of non-tyrannical government and lawlessness is the essence of tyranny, then terror is the essence of totalitarian domination.”

92. “In order to establish a totalitarian regime, terror must be presented as an instrument for carrying out a specific ideology; and that ideology must have won the adherence of many, and even a majority, before terror can be stabilized.”

93. “Social and economic hatred, on the other hand, reinforced the political argument with that driving violence which up to then it had lacked completely.”

94. “If we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done.”

95. “Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.”

96. “A fundamental difference between modern dictatorships and all other tyrannies of the past is that terror is no longer used as a means to exterminate and frighten opponents, but as an instrument to rule masses of people who are perfectly obedient.”

97. “Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.”

98. “When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.”

99. “As citizens, we must prevent wrongdoing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong sufferer, and spectator, is at stake.”

100. “What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.”

101. “The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their probability, which for all practical, everyday purposes amounts to certainty; the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle.”

102. “Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.”

103. “The point is that both Hitler and Stalin held out promises of stability in order to hide their intention of creating a state of permanent instability.”

104. “There are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect, but it is still an open question whether they will be able to survive an entertaining version of what they have to say.”

105. “That Hegelian dialectics should provide a wonderful instrument for always being right, because they permit the interpretations of all defeats as the beginning of victory, is obvious.”

106. “Revolutionaries do not make revolutions!”

107. “The ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy, the famous knowing of more and more about less and less, or to the development of a pseudo-scholarship which actually destroys its object.”

108. “Revolutions are the only political events which confront us directly and inevitably with the problem of beginning.”

109. “And just as you supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations – as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.”

110. “Imperialism was born when the ruling class in capitalist production came up against national limitations to its economic expansion.”

111. “The bourgeoisie turned to politics out of economic necessity; for if it did not want to give up the capitalist system whose inherent law is constant economic growth, it had to impose this law upon its home governments and to proclaim expansion to be an ultimate political goal of foreign policy.”

112. “They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.”

113. “The antisemites who called themselves patriots introduced that new species of national feeling which consists primarily in a complete whitewash of one’s own people and a sweeping condemnation of all others.”

114. “It is this state of affairs which is among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious unrest.”

115. “This perversion of equality from a political into a social concept is all the more dangerous when a society leaves but little space for special groups and individuals, for then their differences become all the more conspicuous.”

116. “What has come to light is neither nihilism nor cynicism, as one might have expected, but a quite extraordinary confusion over elementary questions of morality—as if an instinct in such matters were truly the last thing to be taken for granted in our time.”

117. “The most striking difference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.”

118. “Half of politics is “image-making”; the other half is the art of making people believe the image.”

119. “The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death-wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor finally and more plausibly, the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.”

120. “War has become a luxury that only small nations can afford.”

121. “Politically speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people are surrounded by a world of enemies, one against all, that a fundamental difference exists between this people and all others.”

Hannah Arendt Quotes on Power and Violence

122. “The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and when they can pick it up. Armed uprising by itself has never yet led to revolution.”

123. “Men have been found to resist the most powerful monarchs and to refuse to bow down before them, but few indeed have been found to resist the crowd, to stand up alone before misguided masses, to face their implacable frenzy without weapons and with folded arms to dare a ‘no’ when a ‘yes’ is demanded.”

124. “Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance.”

125. “Evil comes from a failure to think.”

126. “To them, violence, power, cruelty were the supreme capacities of men who had definitely lost their place in the universe and were much too proud to long for a power theory that would safely bring them back and reintegrate them into the world.”

127. “Nothing perhaps illustrates the general disintegration of political life better than this vague, pervasive hatred of everybody and everything, without a focus for its passionate attention, with nobody to make responsible for the state of affairs—neither the government nor the bourgeoisie nor an outside power.”

128. “Revolutionary action, more often than not, was a theatrical concession to the desires of violently discontented masses rather than an actual battle for power.”

129. “The method of infallible prediction is foolproof only after the movements have seized power.”

130. “For legends attract the very best in our times, just as ideologies attract the average, and the whispered tales of gruesome secret powers behind the scenes attract the very worst.”

131. “Only the unlimited accumulation of power could bring about the unlimited accumulation of capital.”

132. “Power was thought to be synonymous with economic capacity before people discovered that economic and industrial capacity are only its modern prerequisites.”

133. “It is insufficient to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites—where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.”

134. “Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet—and this is its horror—it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste to the entire world.”

135. “And the distinction between violent and non-violent action is that the former is exclusively bent upon the destruction of the old, and the latter is chiefly concerned with the establishment of something new.”

136. “Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.”

137. “It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.”

138. “Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it—the quality of temptation.”

139. “For when I speak of the banality of evil, I do so only on the strictly factual level, pointing to a phenomenon which stared one in the face at the trial.”

140. “It consequently turned in all directions, haphazardly and unpredictably, incapable of assuming an air of healthy indifference toward anything under the sun.”

141. “Equality of condition, though it is certainly a basic requirement for justice, is nevertheless among the greatest and most uncertain ventures of modern mankind.”

142. “The more equal conditions are, the less explanation there is for the differences that actually exist between people; and thus all the more unequal do individuals and groups become.”

143. “Evil thrives on apathy and cannot survive without it.”

144. “The ideals of homo faber, the fabricator of the world, which are permanence, stability, and durability, have been sacrificed to abundance, the ideal of the animal laborans.”

145. “The truth is that the masses grew out of the fragments of a highly atomized society whose competitive structure and concomitant loneliness of the individual had been held in check only through membership in a class.”

146. “The chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships.”

147. “What proved so attractive was that terrorism had become a kind of philosophy through which to express frustration, resentment, and blind hatred, a kind of political expressionism which used bombs to express oneself, which watched delightedly the publicity given to resounding deeds and was absolutely willing to pay the price of life for having succeeded in forcing the recognition of one’s existence on the normal strata of society.”

148. “The net effect of this language system was not to keep these people ignorant of what they were doing, but to prevent them from equating it with their old, normal knowledge of murder and lies.”

149. “The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence.”

150. “Justice demands seclusion; it permits sorrow rather than anger, and it prescribes the most careful abstention from all the nice pleasures of putting oneself in the limelight.”

151. “To do and to suffer are like opposite sides of the same coin, and the story that an act starts is composed of its consequent deeds and sufferings.”

152. “The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous—making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive—robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life.”

153. “His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed.”

154. “And if he suffers, he must suffer for what he has done, not for what he has caused others to suffer.”

155. “Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena—homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.”

156. “Aggressive warfare is at least as old as recorded history, and while it has been denounced as ‘criminal’ many times before, it has never been recognized as such in any formal sense.”

157. “The Declaration of the Rights of Man at the end of the eighteenth century was a turning point in history.”

158. “It meant nothing more nor less than that from then on man, and not God’s command or the customs of history, should be the source of law.”

159. “Slavery became the social condition of the laboring classes because it was felt that it was the natural condition of life itself.”

160. “Evil, as she saw it, need not be committed only by demonic monsters but—with disastrous effect—by morons and imbeciles as well, especially if, as we see in our own day, their deeds are sanctioned by religious authority.”

161. “Whenever equality becomes a mundane fact in itself, without any gauge by which it may be measured or explained, then there is one chance in a hundred that it will be recognized simply as a working principle of a political organization in which otherwise unequal people have equal rights; there are ninety-nine chances that it will be mistaken for an innate quality of every individual, who is ‘normal’ if he is like everybody else and ‘abnormal’ if he happens to be different.”

162. “Historically speaking, racists have a worse record of patriotism than the representatives of all other international ideologies together, and they were the only ones who consistently denied the great principle upon which national organizations of peoples are built, the principle of equality and solidarity of all peoples guaranteed by the idea of mankind.”

163. “Only a man who does not survive his one supreme act remains the indisputable master of his identity and possible greatness because he withdraws into death from the possible consequences and continuation of what he began.”

164. “Neither oppression nor exploitation as such is ever the main cause for resentment.”

165. “Wealth without visible function is much more intolerable because nobody can understand why it should be tolerated.”

166. “Tools and instruments which can ease the effort of labor considerably are themselves not a product of labor but of work; they do not belong in the process of consumption but are part and parcel of the world of use objects.”

167. “If you are confronted with two evils, the argument runs, it is your duty to opt for the lesser one, whereas it is irresponsible to refuse to choose altogether.”

168. “Its weakness has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget quickly that they chose evil.”

169. “It is because equality demands that I recognize each and every individual as my equal, that the conflicts between different groups, which for reasons of their own are reluctant to grant each other this basic equality, take on such terribly cruel forms.”

170. “The great challenge to the modern period, and its peculiar danger, has been that in it man for the first time confronted man without the protection of differing circumstances and conditions.”

Did These Hannah Arendt Quotes Serve as Your Beacon of Truth?

For most of our lives, we are presented with stories and narratives that are sold to us as the truths. However, did we really stop to think if they are actually factual truths? For Hannah Arendt, it is our duty to not be thoughtless and irresponsible with regards to information we accept as reality. It is a fact that truth can be distorted, and it is up to us to make informed decisions based on our real truths.

Which of these Hannah Arendt made you more aware of your surroundings? How do you think her ideals apply to us today? Comment your thoughts down below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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