Arendt, however, is not saying that racism or any other element of totalitarianism caused the regimes of Hitler or Stalin, but rather that those elements, which include anti-Semitism, the decline of the nation-state, expansionism for its own sake, and the alliance between capital and mob, crystallized in the movements from which those regimes arose. Reflecting on her book in 1958 Arendt said that her intentions “presented themselves” to her “in the form of an ever recurring image: I felt as though I dealt with a crystallized structure which I had to break up into its constituent elements in order to destroy it.” This presented a problem because she saw that it was an “impossible task to write history, not in order to save and conserve and render fit for remembrance, but, on the contrary, in order to destroy.” Thus despite her historical analyses it “dawned” on her that The Origins of Totalitarianism was not “a historical . . . but a political book, in which whatever there was of past history not only was seen from the vantage point of the present, but would not have become visible at all without the light which the event, the emergence of totalitarianism, shed on it.” The origins are not causes, in fact “they only became origins- antecedents–after the event had taken place.” While analyzing, literally “breaking up,” a crystal into its “constituent elements” destroys the crystal, it does not destroy the elements. This is among the fundamental points that Arendt made in the chapter written in 1953 and added to all subsequent editions of The Origins of Totalitarianism (see “Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government”):
If it is true that the elements of totalitarianism can be found by retracing the history and analyzing the political implications of what we usually call the crisis of our century, then the conclusion is unavoidable that this crisis is no mere threat from the outside, no mere result of some aggressive foreign policy of either Germany or Russia, and that it will no more disappear with the death of Stalin than it disappeared with the fall of Nazi Germany. It may even be that the true predicaments of our time will assume their authentic form–though not necessarily the cruelest–only when totalitarianism has become a thing of the past.