Read Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt Online


Originally appearing as a series of articles in The New Yorker, Hannah Arendt’s authoritative and stunning report on the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann sparked a flurry of debate upon its publication. This revised edition includes material that came to light after the trial, as well as Arendt’s postscript directly addressing the controversy that arose over her accountOriginally appearing as a series of articles in The New Yorker, Hannah Arendt’s authoritative and stunning report on the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann sparked a flurry of debate upon its publication. This revised edition includes material that came to light after the trial, as well as Arendt’s postscript directly addressing the controversy that arose over her account. A major journalistic triumph by an intellectual of singular influence, Eichmann in Jerusalem is as shocking as it is informative—an unflinching look at one of the most unsettling and unsettled issues of the twentieth century that remains hotly debated to this day....

Title : Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
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ISBN : 1770107
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Number of Pages : 312 Pages
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Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil Reviews

  • Lobstergirl
    2018-09-14 19:04

    In order to pronounce judgment on this book, on Arendt, on the idea of "the banality of evil," you can't simply read reviews, summaries, excerpts, chunks, sentences. You have to read the entire book. You have to. Only by reading the entire book will you acclimate yourself to Arendt's tone, her idiosyncratic writing style, the way a word on p. 252 seems like an odd choice until you recall how she used the same word on p. 53.In the wake of the book came a flood of criticism (in both senses) that continues still. Here's an example of what I consider a misleading statement about the book (the misleading part is bold), from Michael Massing's October 17, 2004 article in the New York Times:...Eichmann rose to become the senior Nazi official in charge of deporting and transporting Europe's Jews to the death camps. Yet Arendt seems always to find a mitigating circumstance. ''He did not enter the party out of conviction, nor was he ever convinced by it,'' she writes. It was not any fanatical hatred for the Jews but a desire to advance his career that drove his work as a Nazi, she maintains. Although Eichmann had repeatedly visited Auschwitz and seen the killing apparatus there, Arendt, noting he did not personally participate in the slaughter, insists that his role in the Final Solution ''had been wildly exaggerated.'' She even has the occasional kind word for Eichmann, citing evidence, for instance, that he was ''rather decent toward his subordinates.'' Over all, Arendt concludes, Eichmann ''was not Iago and not Macbeth. . . . Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all.'' I would hardly describe those things as "mitigating circumstance[s:]." After each one I ask, So? And? Are we all such simpletons that we require mass murderers to be 100% uncompromising monsters, in every aspect of their lives and motives? Why do we require this of Eichmann - that he be a perfervid, sadistic Jew-hater who would have liked to beat every one of his victims to death with a club, if only he'd had the time? Furthermore, what would these circumstances be mitigating? Arendt believes Eichmann is guilty of genocide and should be put to death - where's the mitigation, again?Massing writes:Arendt's solicitous treatment of Eichmann seems all the more unaccountable when compared to her relentlessly harsh portrayal of Europe's Jewish leaders. In a book dripping with sarcasm and scorn, Arendt reserves some of her bitterest comments for the Jewish leaders who cooperated with the Nazis. Had these leaders not so obligingly provided lists of Jewish residents, had they not so diligently compiled accounts of Jewish possessions, had they not so uniformly counseled submission to German deportation orders, many of the millions who perished during the war could have been saved, Arendt contends. ''To a Jew,'' she writes, ''this role of the Jewish leaders in the destruction of their own people is undoubtedly the darkest chapter of the whole dark story.''First, Arendt's treatment of Eichmann is hardly "solicitous," a strange word indeed, making me wonder if Massing and I read the same book. Her treatment is relentlessly scornful. I found nearly every word she wrote about him "dripping with sarcasm and scorn." Arendt clearly finds Eichmann beneath contempt in every respect, utterly guilty of crimes against humanity, and deserving of his death sentence. On the subject of the Jewish Councils to which Massing refers, Arendt does indeed blame them to a degree. As Amos Elon notes in his excellent introduction to this edition, her criticism of them went over better in Israel than America, because "Zionism, after all, had been a movement of Jewish self-criticism." Massing goes on to pretend that Arendt is establishing a moral equivalency between the Nazi authorities and the Jewish authorities, which is a ridiculous assertion and belied by everything in the book. Isn't it at least conceivable that Jews might find the role of their Jewish leaders in their destruction "the darkest chapter" - the same way a parent who accidentally causes the death of her child would grieve in a darker, more profound way than if the child had been killed by someone else?Michael A. Musmanno's review of the book in the May 19, 1963 New York Times is also full of groaners. (Musmanno was a presiding judge at the Nuremberg Tribunal and also testified against Eichmann at his trial.) I'll just pick one. He quotes Arendt: " punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes." Seems about right to me...all around us we see punishments, yet fresh crimes blossom anew every morning. But Musmanno concludes: "This, in effect, says it was a terrible mistake to punish Eichmann at all!" Except, her book says the opposite, over and over. He lifts this from a section in which Arendt is writing about the necessity and protection of international law in dealing with genocide and crimes against humanity.What Does She Mean By the Banality of Evil?Most of us have some of idea of what she must mean by "the banality of evil" before we pick up the book. But she only uses the phrase twice - in the subtitle, and in the last sentence of text before the Epilogue. She uses it in the context of Eichmann's last words as he goes to the gallows. I'll quote at length:He was in complete command of himself, nay, he was more: he was completely himself. Nothing could have demonstrated this more convincingly than the grotesque silliness of his last words. He began by stating emphatically that he was a Gottgläubiger, to express in common Nazi fashion that he was no Christian and did not believe in life after death. He then proceeded: "After a short while, gentlemen, we shall meet again. Such is the fate of all men. Long live Germany, long live Argentina, long live Austria. I shall not forget them." In the face of death, he had found the cliché used in funeral oratory. Under the gallows, his memory played him the last trick; he was "elated" and he forgot that this was his own funeral.It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us - the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.So here she is making no mention of the paper-pushing bureaucrat, just-following-orders aspect that everyone commonly associates with the phrase (she does touch on these things elsewhere in the book). Rather, she is writing about the "grotesque silliness," the clichéd quality, of his words. Elsewhere she notes that Eichmann would come up with "stock phrases," slogans, nonsensical and meaningless (particularly to an intellectual like Arendt), such as his claim to the court that he "would like to find peace with [his:] former enemies;" i.e., this director of administrative massacres (Arendt's term) wished to make nice with Holocaust victims. Eichmann's vocabulary was so limited and inelastic that sometimes the Israeli authorities couldn't understand him, and he couldn't find another way to express the same idea. He apologized to the court, saying, "Officialese [Amtssprache:] is my only language." Arendt thought he had a mild case of aphasia, and adds: "But the point here is that officialese became his language because he was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliché." And, "The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such." Over and over, Eichmann's nonsensical rhetorical idiocies transformed him from monster into clown; this, for Arendt, was what made him the face of the banality of evil.

  • Garima
    2018-09-11 21:58

    The horror and enigma surrounding the Holocaust trials is probably best exhibited in Peter Weiss’s play The Investigation. Based on the actual testimonies given during the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials- reading it is an experience that is cold, brutal and almost physical in ways unexpected. Witnesses try to communicate the incommunicable suffering of victims and survivors; Defendants try to deny or extenuate their respective roles in the heinous crimes and Judges try to measure up an appropriate sentence against the evil involved that keeps on getting bigger, hideous and unbearable. In the course of brief dialogues, Weiss deftly manages to raise some inconvenient questions and leaves the tough task of contemplation for the readers. In that sense, where this play ends, Eichmann in Jerusalem begins.One last question, the most disturbing of all, was asked by the judges, and especially by the presiding judge, over and over again: Had the killing of Jews gone against his conscience? But this was a moral question, and the answer to it may not have been legally relevant.I am tempted to say that Hannah Arendt followed Eichmann’s trial as an impartial third party whose aim was to view things in the light of a relevant objectivity but it would be too bold a claim given my superficial knowledge about the concerned subject matter. Still I can say that she definitely strives to penetrate the colossal intricacy of Nazi machinery along with the challenges faced by a wary legal system. It’s not a coin we are talking about but a demonic labyrinth of ‘crimes against humanity’ and the difficulty in analyzing its structure must have been enormous. From the outset only, Arendt’s lucid and assured writing conveys the much needed message that whatever shall follow will not complicate the already complicated events but rather deconstruct the methods and consequences of venomous indoctrination.What stuck in the minds of these men who had become murderers was simply the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique, which must therefore be difficult to bear. This was important, because the murderers were not sadists or killers by nature; on the contrary, a systematic effort was made to weed out all those who derived physical pleasure from what they did. And in the centre of all this is a man sitting in the bullet proof glass cage, recounting the whys and hows and wheres of the gross injustice he perpetrated while Arendt carefully observes his various stances actuated by a thorough research and presents a ‘report’ that is worth reading for the sheer amount of information and new perspectives it offers for our perusal. Although all her arguments bear a force that warrants some sort of reaction even from the unaffected, there are instances where things appears to be stretched a little too far on her part especially when it comes to pass judgments on Eichmann’s character. And no, I’m not referring to the ‘banality’ which is most likely a foregone conclusion (and Arendt herself regretted the use of that word) but certain extraneous assumptions. The ‘banality’ however, whether that of a person or some invisible evil force can’t be dismissed in its entirety when one reads the following words:Just as the law in civilized countries assumes that the voice of conscience tells everybody “Thou shalt not kill,” even though man's natural desires and inclinations may at times be murderous, so the law of Hitler's land demanded that the voice of conscience tell everybody: “Thou shalt kill,” although the organizers of the massacres knew full well that murder is against the normal desires and inclinations of most people. Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it- the quality of temptation. Maybe there are many philosophies at play here that I didn’t able to differentiate or even recognize but one thing that is apparent against the tragic backdrop of wars is the dwelling place of truth that usually gets blurred or wiped out under the layers of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. Arendt has explored those very places in a manner that is admirable and brave.

  • Matt
    2018-09-10 22:20

    “[T]hese defendants now ask this Tribunal to say they are not guilty of planning, executing, or conspiring to commit this long list of crimes and wrongs. They stand before the record of this Tribunal as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain king. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: ‘Say I slew them not.’ And the Queen replied: “Then say they are not slain. But dead they are…’”-- from Robert Jackson’s closing argument at the Nuremberg Tribunal. In my opinion, one of the central failings of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was its list of defendants. Leave aside all questions of international law, “victor’s justice,” and tu quoque arguments, and this is what you notice: that the Nuremberg dock was filled with the lesser lights of the Nazi Party. Absent was Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler, dead by their own hands. Absent was the troll Bormann, who never escaped Berlin. Absent was Heydrich the hangman, killed by Czech partisans long before the tide turned. The most (in)famous Nazi in the dock was the suave and corpulent Goering, but even he was not destined for the noose. He escaped with the aid of smuggled cyanide. This left the victorious Allies punishing halfwits and lackeys and avatars of evil: the Jew-baiter Streicher, so foul and vile even Hitler despised him; the lapdog Keitel, without a brain in his head; the incompetent von Ribbentrop; the furiously backpedaling Doenitz; the quite-possibly insane Hess. Destroying this grab-bag of thugs and louts was a cold comfort. Today, aside from Goering and the unctuous and self-serving Speer, the Nuremberg defendants are mostly forgotten. We don’t think of Nazism extinguished at the end of a rope; instead, we think of Hitler and his goofy mustache and wild gesticulations and struggle with the notion he somehow escaped justice. Thus, it is quite possible that the mantel of most (in)famous Nazi war criminal falls upon the thin shoulders of balding, bespectacled Adolf Eichmann. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, he was captured by the Mossad during a brazen raid in Argentina. Next, he was at the center of a widely publicized show trial in Jerusalem. Mainly, though, we remember Eichmann (while we forget Frick, Funk, Sauckel and Schirach) because of three words: Banality of evil. Coined by political theorist Hannah Arendt, the phrase has stood the test of time. It has a pseudo-intellectual patina that has become a kind of shorthand in discussions of the Nazi regime. If you want to sound smart without knowing much at all, just spit it out (just make sure you pronounce “banal” correctly). As such, it is ripe for misuse (see, e.g., From a marketing standpoint, “banality of evil” is solid gold, the politico-historical equivalent of “show me the money!” It has kept Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem relevant and in print since the 60s, and there is no indication the book or the phrase is going anywhere. Interestingly, though, the phrase only appears once in the text: as the book’s last lines. It is only explained by Arendt in a postscript. And that's fine, really. There are plenty of people around willing to argue about what those words mean and whether they are correct. Eichmann in Jerusalem is, in Arendt’s words, a “trial report.” The book version is cobbled together from her reporting for The New Yorker, as well as some later research. I don’t like to disagree with an author over her own creation, but Eichmann in Jerusalem doesn’t really feel like a trial report, or at least not as I conceive such a thing. This book doesn’t concern itself with the nuts-and-bolts of the trial; it does not analyze opening and closing statements, witness credibility, or the incisiveness of cross examination. To be sure, some of these things are touched on, but if you want the story of the trial itself, how it went down, day by day or week by week, you’ll have to look elsewhere. (By my rough count, there are about seven chapters devoted mainly to Eichmann’s activities during the Holocaust, while there are only two chapters devoted solely to the trial).Instead, Arendt has written Eichmann’s story as based upon what she learned at the trial. Indeed, the bulk of Eichmann in Jerusalem reads like any other nonfiction book about the Nazis. It covers the Wannsee Conference, forced emigrations, deportations, and finally the rail-lines to the death camps. The only unique angle is that Eichmann is at the center of this narrative. And this is saying something, I suppose. Despite his infamy, and despite the fact I’ve read more than my share of Nazi-centric books (my wife would say far more than my fair share), I’ve never really learned a lot about Adolf Eichmann. He is almost always mentioned, but never explored. This is due to the fact that however involved he was in the Holocaust, he was, at the end of the day, a functionary.Accordingly, I don’t mind Arendt’s decision to focus on the man at the center of the trial, rather than the mechanics of the trial itself. The problem I had, however, is with Arendt’s writing style. For the last few minutes, I’ve struggled to find the best way to express what I mean. The words “clunky” and “inelegant” spring to mind, as does the phrase “dense prose.” I would also venture to say she displays “curious sentence structure.” Whatever the actual diagnosis – I’m a lawyer, not a grammarian – the result forces the reader to grapple with the material, rather than absorb it. This is a book I had to force my way through. Sometimes I’d read entire pages before realizing I had no idea what’d just been said. Despite being only 300 odd pages, it felt like a long, plodding slog.(None of this is helped by the massively long paragraphs and Arendt’s curious hesitation about indentations. This makes for aesthetically displeasing pages). Eichmann in Jerusalem carries a lot of baggage with it, which I suppose is the reason people continue to read it, despite its literary shortcomings. Some of the recent controversy involves Arendt’s relationship with crypto-Nazi cum philosopher Martin Heidegger. Frankly, I don’t have much to say on that score, and it feels a little too insider-academics to me. Still, there is plenty of controversy right there on the page, in black and white, without delving into Arendt’s sex life. While reading, I picked out three major areas of potential criticism. The first critique, which I agree with, is in Arendt’s treatment of Jewish leaders during the war. It is a matter of historical fact that Jewish leaders were utilized by the Nazis in order to expedite the Holocaust. The trouble with Arendt’s interpretation, though, is that she essentially accuses them of collaboration. This just isn’t the case. Yes, the Judenrat assisted the Nazis, but they did so with a knife at their throats, and that’s an important piece of the puzzle that Arendt ignores. Had the Judenrat resisted, Spartacus-style, as she clearly wished they had, they would’ve been liquidated and replaced, and nothing would’ve changed. Instead, the Judenrat, for the most part, did what they could to ease the situation for their people. And in return, they are blamed in hindsight for lacking complete knowledge of all the Nazis’ contemporary machinations.(On this topic: the idea of Jewish resistance, or lack thereof, is far more complicated than Arendt makes it out to be. First of all, most of these people had no formal military training. Unlike in the movies, where one can learn all the arts of war during a brief montage, in the real world, one must be taught to be a soldier. Second of all, the Jews of Europe were not a monolithic group: they came from Germany and France and Austria and Poland and on and on. Who’s going to coordinate this resistance? And how? Finally, the Germans had a certain tendency to respond unfavorably to partisan action. Indeed, Hitler’s Partisan Order spelled out mathematically how many enemy were to be killed for each lost German life. After Heydrich’s assassination, 1,300 Czechs were murdered, 13,000 were deported. And these were non-Jews that Hitler needed as labor. With all these disadvantages, Judah Maccabee himself, risen from the grave, couldn’t have fomented serious resistance).The second major criticism leveled at Arendt has to do with her portrayal of Eichmann, and her choice of those three magic words to sum him up. The Eichmann that Arendt presents is indelible: a high school dropout and intellectual dud; a bureaucratic ladder-climber; an unoriginal man who spoke in catchphrases and slogans like some kind of evil Abed from Community. His “banality,” as Arendt explains, is in his lack of imagination. He never would have murdered someone with his own hands, but he was perfectly willing – operating within the Nazi framework, in which his actions were lawful – to facilitate the deaths of millions. It’s impossible to say whether Arendt’s portrait is entirely correct. It is, after all, impossible to know the human heart. However, she has come under criticism for taking Eichmann too much at his word, and failing to realize Eichmann was minimizing his role. To be honest, I’m not sure that Eichmann was shrewd enough to reframe himself in that way. Anyway, one has to ask, even if he was, what end he was hoping to achieve? He was damned either way, and whether he came off as an unquestioning bureaucrat or a mustache-twirling villain, he was going to stretch. In other words, Eichmann didn't really have all that much motive to lie. On that point, however, I must admit that I’m predisposed to Arendt’s conception of Eichmann in particular, and Nazi-era Germans in general (which places me contra anything Daniel Jonah Goldhagen writes). I'm no expert on human nature, but I just can't believe that somehow, for some reason, the Germany of 1933-1945 had an astronomically high percentage of psychopaths and sociopaths and sadists operating outside the realm of fundamental human morality. Instead, to use Christopher Browning’s phrase, I think most Nazis were “ordinary men.” That is, they were men (and women) subject to national-political pressures, social pressures, and group pressures that coerced them follow Hitler’s will. Some of them undoubtedly believed in the mission, wholeheartedly, but this was the result of their complex existence within a paradigm that effectively convinced people that up was down, left was right, and evil was good. The farther away from the killing, the easier this became. A third and final criticism of Arendt is in her vigorous attacks on the fairness of the Jerusalem trial. Like the first controversy, discussed above, I don't think this one carries much weight. There is nothing groundbreaking in her critique of the process and procedures of the Eichmann Trial; indeed, the items she cites are in line with what other legal scholars (such as Nuremberg prosecutor Telford Taylor) have written. Importantly, at the end of the day, she acknowledges Eichmann’s guilt, and states flatly that he deserved to die: And just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people…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. It would’ve been more satisfying were Eichmann a monster. So too with Hitler, Himmler, Goering and the rest. Monsters can be recognized; monsters can be destroyed. But these men weren’t monsters. They were of this earth. When Hitler put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, it turned out that he was flesh and bone and soft tissue, just like the rest of us.That, I suppose, is why Arendt’s Eichmann is so discomforting.

  • Trevor
    2018-09-12 22:21

    It is hard to know what to say about this book. The subtitle is pretty well right: the banality of evil. Eichmann comes across as a complete fool, utterly lacking in any ability to see things from the perspective of the other. As Arendt says at one point, the idea that he could sit chatting to a German Jew about how unfair it was that he never received a promotion for his work in exterminating the Jews pretty much sums up the man. It seems Eichmann felt he was doing his best not only for his masters, but also for the Jews too. This was the part I found most surprising. He knew the Jews were being exterminated, that this was more or less inevitable, and so given this inevitability the ‘moral’ thing to do was to make the whole process as clean and ‘painless’ as possible. I kept thinking of Bauman talking about the holocaust as a huge exercise in ‘hygiene’. There really is no part of this that doesn’t quickly sink into a horrible kind of absurdity.The problem with the holocaust is the sheer scale of it makes trying to hold it in your head comparable to trying to understand the universe, you can feel yourself sinking into insanity. And it is not just the whole ‘so many!’ problem, although, obviously, it is that as well, but mingled with that is the remarkable level of planning involved, to which Eichmann was clearly dedicated and hardworking to a fault. The problem this book raises isn’t the reassuring ‘you would need to be a monster’ – because how much better the world would be if that were true. It isn’t even the ‘we would all be Eichmann if placed in similar circumstances’. That, in fact, simply and demonstrably isn’t the case. We have endless examples of people who actively chose not to be Eichmann, people who knowingly paid for not being Eichmann with their lives, and did so as an active choice. The thing that this book makes terribly clear is that simple bureaucratic processes can be used to remarkable effect in normalising the unthinkable – in fact, you can commit genocide on an unprecedented scale if you have people worrying about train timetables and the supply of gas rather than where the trains will go and what the gas is for. There was an insanely horrible part of this where she says that many Germans would have preferred suicide to defeat, and that some may well have felt those damn Jews had used up all of the gas. The world really can be endlessly perverse in the most unspeakable of ways.A particularly interesting part of the book was the discussion of why the Nazis dealt with the Zionists. All Jews were bad, but at least the Zionists had some sense of national feeling. I’d never thought of the monstrous consistency that might lie at the heart of nationalism.And yet, this book left me feeling terribly uneasy. Once Eichmann was in Israel it was clear he was going to die – for as much as Israel may not have wanted this to be seen as a show trial, clearly this was a story with only one possible ending. The concern I had was that this guy really couldn’t be called a ‘mastermind’ in any sense that doesn’t inspire the bitterest of ironic laughs. He was, in some ways, proof that the Nazis recognising that to promote him beyond where he was would only result in an exemplar case of the Peter Principle. He was highly effective at organising logistics, but his motivation was not genocide or hatred of the Jews – I dread to say it, but that would at least make sense. Instead he was just some guy pitifully obsessed with following orders in the hope of getting a promotion, seeking to impress his superiors and completely obsessed with efficiency. I certainly cannot bring myself to be sorry for his fate, but then neither can I feel the world is all that much better without him. He was a fool, a terrifying fool doing his job. And that fact is the most terrifying of all about this book, I fear.

  • Aubrey
    2018-09-19 22:19

    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.I've been entertained by my fair share of WWII/Nazi/Holocaust media, a glut in the marketable masses of reality's intersection with fiction the never fails to rear its head every year. Of course, that's the US for you, with its isolation and capitalism and pride. It's no use saying that I wish I had never sought out such things to fill my time, for reasons of a complete undermining of reception of this book if nothing else. But oh, how I would like to.For politics is not like the nursery; in politics obedience and support are the same.What I have faith in these days is a future of ever increasing alignment between morality and legality. In the present I only supplicate in front of a reassurance that there indeed exists a concept of progress between my modern day and the ones before. A progress more aligned with my personal sensibility of ethics and individual level of comfort, at any rate....and if he suffers, he must suffer for what he has done, not for what he has caused others to suffer.What we have here, in this book, is a collusion of time, place, and people. Hannah Arendt went to Jerusalem to report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, doing so through means of fact, analysis, and the lines of legal and politic that governments trundle along their way on. As a result of my reading, my thinking has undergone a paradigm shift on the level that it did upon encountering The Second Sex. The subject material differs, but my interpretation is the same: I can never afford to become cynical, for that implies I've learned enough to be so. Fear, anger, and a burning desire to know more? That's acceptable.And if he did not always like what he had to do...he never forgot what the alternative would have been. Not only in Argentina, leading the unhappy existence of a refugee, but also in the courtroom in Jerusalem, with his life as good as forfeited, he might have still preferred—if anybody had asked him—to be hanged as Obersturmbannführer a.D. (in retirement) rather than living out his life quietly and normally as a traveling salesman for the Vacuum Oil Company.According to the primary evidence Arendt utilized, Eichmann was deemed both sane and normal by six psychologists. He suffered from neither guilt nor anger, but from at most the frustration of one who has always been down on their luck, someone who joined a movement in history in hopes of a promising potential and never quite fulfilled it. His memory consisted not of the timeline of the war, but of the timeline of this potential: his study of Jewish texts, his interaction with fellow members of the S.S., the hows and wherefores of his coming to be and the end all question of his reasons for staying on.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. Eichmann's great susceptibility to catch words and stock phrases, combined with his incapacity for ordinary speech, made him, of course, an ideal subject for "language rules."Eichmann was banal in the least sense of the word. His lack of intelligence not only spelled his doom due to little caution and less attention paid to his bragging tongue, it also made him perfectly happy to appropriate the words the far more discreet Nazi Party told him and construct his thinking with such. In view of the Jewish Question, he termed himself both "expert" and "idealist", the former a lie and the latter a peculiar trait that led to largely respectful collaborations with Jewish Elders all over Europe regarding evacuations/deportations and related matters. Using these phrases, working towards a higher rank in the S.S., claiming responsibility for millions of deaths with both complete lack of guilt and oddly lofty sense of history; all of that, each and every time, made him "elated."In [Eichmann's] mind, there was no contradiction between "I will jump into my grave laughing," appropriate for the end of the war, and "I shall gladly hang myself in public as a warning example for all anti-Semites on this earth," which now, under vastly different circumstances, fulfilled exactly the same function of giving him a lift.The facts here are ugly, awkward, and fucking sadistic. Eichmann's trial by sheer happenstance touches on, amidst so much more, the defining of "crimes against humanity", genocide versus "administrative massacres", the history of anti-Semitism and subsequent conflict between the Jewish understanding of pogroms and the world's views of crime and punishment, and the limits of current laws of warfare, and indeed the very terms of "justice", in the face of World War Two. Here, the trial in Jerusalem faltered in the face of a completely legal indictment and subsequent explanation of such, as did every other trial of WWII war criminals and lesser collaborators. Here, history will repeated, not because we do not know it but because we now know the punishment and, as such, can act accordingly. Here, the world took action, and one wonders whether that result was worth the trigger, and whether worse things could have happened had not the final push occurred. Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it—the quality of temptation.A banality of evil is the necessity of mid-civilization crises of morality like this when it comes to eliciting a legal, political, worldwide recognition of what humanity cries for, religion aspires to, and human instinct, well. I don't have much faith in that last bit anymore.But this was a moral question, and the answer to it may not have been legally relevant.

  • Manny
    2018-08-28 22:19

    We just saw the movieHannah Arendt , and it is extremely good - possibly the best thing I've seen this year. Margarethe von Trotta's direction and script are excellent, and Barbara Sukowa is terrific in the title role.

  • Darwin8u
    2018-09-06 20:19

    This book is amazing. In it, Arendt struggles with three major issues: 1) the guilt and evil of the ordinary, bureaucratic, obedient German people (like Eichmann) who contributed to the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, 2) the complicity of some jews in the genocide (through organization, mobilization, passive obedience, and negotiations with the Nazis, 3) the logical absurdity the Eichmann and Nuremberg Trials, etc. In this book (and the original 'New Yorker' essays it came from) Hannah Arendt isn't going for easy, cliché answers. She isn't asking rhetorical or weightless questions. While some of her positions might not be fully supportable, the very act of asking tough questions (that don't fall into easy boxes) is a gift to humanity. Arendt's tactic of giving no one an automatic free pass, while also not allowing people like Eichmann to become cartoonish characters of evil, allows her the room to push the idea that the potential for evil exists not just in dark, scary places, but in well-lit, and very efficient bureaucracies and we all (even Israel) might be asked to push or pull a lever if we aren't paying close attention.

  • Jon(athan) Nakapalau
    2018-09-16 17:15

    A truly disturbing look at what motivates individuals to follow orders. While there are some who may disagree with some of the conclusions that Hannah Arendt draws I still think this is a groundbreaking study in the connection betweeen conformity and criminal compliance.

  • Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
    2018-08-29 18:14

    Hannah (sometimes) in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of a Book A new group of deportees has arrived at Auschwitz. There they are, men, women and children, all fearful, all apprehensive. A truck drives by, piled high with corpses. The arms of the dead are hanging loose over the sides, waving as if in grim farewell. The people scream. But no sooner has the vehicle turned a corner than the horror has been edited out of their minds. Even on the brink of death there are some things too fantastic for the human imagination to absorb.This is a true account, though unfortunately I can’t remember exactly where I read it. I think it was Anus Mundi, Wiesaw Kielar’s memoir of the five years he spent in the death camp, but I can’t be certain. It came to mind on reading Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem; A Report on the Banality of Evil. Why, you may wonder? Simply because Hannah Arendt had a prefect, retrospective knowledge; she is wise after the event. She knows what the outcome is going to be for those people on that platform. They did not, even so far as that final stage. But Arendt assumes that they and their leaders did; that they collaborated with the machinery of death. That is the worst failure of the greater failure in her account of the Eichmann trial. This is not a review; it’s a literary post-mortem. Arendt’s book is too well-known, a controversial ‘classic’ over which a prefect avalanche of words has descended. These are my own, an exposure of what I consider to be possibly the worst example of bad-faith, dissimulation and prejudgement ever penned. It’s a dishonest book that attempts to hide its dishonesty in the way that Eichmann attempted to hide his guilt. It is a book, if I can put it like, this that was ‘only obeying orders.’ What do I mean exactly? Precisely this: before a word of evidence had been heard in that court in Jerusalem Arendt had set an agenda. She came armed with preconceptions, all drawn from The Origins of Totalitarianism, her magnum opus. In a sense Eichmann’s guilt or innocence were irrelevant to the main point, which was to repackage him as a perfect example of ‘totalitarian man’, a cog in a machine, programmed simply to obey orders. One thing worked in her favour: people came to Jerusalem expecting to see a monster. What they saw was a rather tawdry, balding, bespectacled middle-aged German of wholly forgettable appearance. This was the sort of individual one would pass in the street without a second glance. He was disappointingly banal, which gave Arendt her leitmotiv, the theme she played throughout Eichmann in Jerusalem. What she gave us in the end was an account that did much to obscure the real Eichmann, even so far as setting aside altogether the anti-Semitism which formed such a part of his character and political outlook. Eichmann may have been a colourless mediocrity, but his actions, the evil behind his actions, was most assuredly anything but banal. There is opportunism here that also has to be understood, the opportunism not just of Arendt, who also had an anti-Zionist agenda, but the opportunism of those who latched their wagons to her star. The person who comes first to mind here is Stanley Milgram, author of a famous experiment on obedience and authority, so flawed in methodology and scientific rigour that it verges on the fraudulent. People like Eichmann, he concluded, were not sadistic monsters. They were simply individuals who had abdicated all moral choice to a greater authority. Had Arendt not proved this to be so? What we were given was a form of psychological profiling devoid of history, of context, of politics, of ideology and of all cultural preconceptions. But the Arendt-Milgram Axis, if I can express it so, worked. It was a great influence on those who needed excuses, those who sought to dissolve a particular set of historical factors into a more ‘universal’ explanation, one which served to relativise the Holocaust, robbing it of all uniqueness. The Holocaust, as David Cesarani says in Eichmann and his Crimes, was simply depicted as a function of modernity. Arendt did not spend long in Jerusalem; she did not need to; she had already made up her mind, exposed initially in reports which were not reports in the New Yorker. She vacuum-packed the Holocaust for a modern audience, for people who were trying to make sense of the complexity of it all; people who were trying to make sense of the colourless executioner in Jerusalem. She gave people an Eichmann who was ‘like us’, who demonstrated a latent potential present in everyman. The best critique of the disingenuousness of Eichmann in Jerusalem comes, in my view, from Yaacov Lozowick, a one-time admirer of the book;There was very little that was banal about Eichmann or any of his accomplices, and the little that could be found was not relevant to what they had done. Arendt’s point of departure was wrong. Although she was primarily a philosopher, she had written an historical analysis – and without checking the facts. Moreover, she had refrained from taking into account much potentially relevant information. Above all, her position was the result of ideological considerations, not careful scholarship. There was also a paradox, that of a Jew who herself had anti-Semitic, not just anti-Zionist tendencies. In a letter to Karl Jaspers dated April, 1961 she describes Gideon Hauser, the chief prosecutor at the Eichmann trial, as a “typical Galician Jew, very unsympathetic, is always making mistakes.” Of Israel and Israelis in general she wrote that “The country’s interest in the trial has been artificially whetted. An oriental mob that would hang around any place where something is going on is hanging around the front of the courthouse." She goes on like this, fulminations against ‘oriental Jews’ that would not have been out of place in the Third Reich. Arendt created the myth of the twentieth century – the myth of the desk-bound killer and his supine, cattle-like victims. Her Jews, as I said, collaborated in their own destruction. The various Jewish Councils established by the Nazis in the ghettos of occupied Europe were little more than the adjutants of death. Jewish complicity here was necessary to prove the ‘moral collapse’ that was one of the essential features of her particular totalitarian model. All evidence to the contrary, all evidence of Jewish resistance is ignored. But by far the most important omission is the forms of deception the Nazis practiced, to be carried right to the threshold of destruction, something Vasily Grossman alighted on in his essay The Hell of Treblinka. Eichmann in Jerusalem is a book that comes close to justifying the monster who was a man, close to excusing him of all practical and moral responsibility. Arendt’s understanding of Eichmann and his times is impoverished in the extreme. She obscured the real Eichmann in the way that he himself deliberately tried to obscure the facts. If there was a Jewish collaborator with Nazism after the fact she is no better example. Elegantly written Eichmann in Jerusalem may have been, but this should not be allowed to obscure its worthlessness as an account of the man, the motives and the crimes. Only one judgement remains: as a book Eichmann in Jerusalem is banal.

  • Orsodimondo
    2018-09-20 21:01

    SIGNORA ARENDT, MA COSA CI TROVAVA DI COSÌ BANALE NEL MALE?Capita che il male non lambisca la banalità, anzi, capita che proprio nel caso si tratti di un nazista, il Male non sia una serie di procedure burocratiche o stupidità.Oggi ho letto un articolo di Susanna Nirenstein (da non confondersi con la sorella Fiamma) che ho trovato esprimesse perfettamente il mio pensiero e sentimento su questo libro. Susanna Nirenstein non è certo la prima, e non sarà l’ultima a dire queste cose: il favore che ha goduto il libro di Hanna Arendt è da tempo messo in discussione, in Europa e oltre oceano. Ma Susanna Nirenstein riesce nell’impresa senza astio o livore, che invece accompagnano spesso altri critici, feriti dalla “banalità” dell’interpretazione di Arendt.Eccolo integralmente:S’intitola "Il processo. Eichmann a giudizio", ma potrebbe quasi chiamarsi "Processo ad Hannah Arendt" la mostra che arriva da Berlino ed è pronta ad aprirsi negli spazi delle Murate, le ex-prigioni di Firenze, il 23 gennaio (fino al 18 febbraio), quattro giorni prima del Giorno della Memoria. La visione e la lettura dei numerosi video e documenti del procedimento che iniziò l'11 aprile 1961 a Gerusalemme dopo il clamoroso rapimento da parte del Mossad, l'11 maggio 1960, del direttore del Dipartimento Affari Ebraici IV B 4 delle SS rifugiato in Argentina – dell'organizzatore prima dell'espulsione degli ebrei dalla Germania, del loro trasferimento a Est e poi dei trasporti verso i campi di sterminio da tutta l'Europa occupata – la lettura proposta dai curatori tedeschi, dicevamo, si differenzia infatti dalla diffusa interpretazione della filosofa tedesca che seguì (ma solo in parte!) l'avvenimento epocale nella capitale israeliana per il New Yorker e vide in Eichmann "la banalità del male". Il Male che Eichmann incarna non ha niente di "banale", come mette in luce il percorso creato dalle fondazioni berlinesi Topografia del Terrore e Memoriale degli Ebrei Assassinati in Europa, la statura di Eichmann non è affatto quella di un grigio burocrate incastrato nel motore della tirannia come una qualsiasi rotella inconsapevole e necessaria al meccanismo. La visione della filosofa tedesca era senz'altro legata alla sua tesi sulla cappa psicologica invincibile del totalitarismo, e serviva forse a salvare dalla colpa collettiva il popolo tedesco in mezzo a cui si era formata e forse persino Heidegger, il suo maestro, che al nazismo aveva aderito. Arendt alla fin fine così si dimostrava aperta alla tesi della difesa di Eichmann: «ho solo obbedito agli ordini, sono stato solo un dente di un ingranaggio, non sono mai stato antisemita», senza attribuire la giusta importanza né allo svelamento inedito dei testimoni, né alla personale convinzione ideologica nazista che aveva spinto lui come milioni d'altri "volenterosi carnefici" al genocidio.Ecco invece le tappe della sua biografia: legato fin da giovanissimo alla destra austriaca che chiedeva l'annessione alla Germania e si nutriva di antisemitismo, presente nell'estremismo militante, lettore attento fin dalla fine degli anni Venti di giornali nazional-socialisti, parte di quel misero 3% che nel '30 in Austria votò per il partito nazista a cui aderisce definitivamente nel '32. Nel Reich dal '33, all'indomani della vittoria di Hitler, Eichmann riceve una formazione paramilitare nelle SS e nel '34 entra nel Servizio di Sicurezza del Reichfuehrer Himmler, e ben presto con gradi sempre più alti nell'unità "Affari ebraici", dedita a forzare gli ebrei a lasciare la Germania. Alla conferenza di Wansee del '42 che mise a punto il piano della "soluzione finale" fu uno degli organizzatori (e lì, lo vediamo dire in tribunale, si sentì sollevato come Ponzio Pilato perché erano stati "i protagonisti, i papi del Reich" a decidere, anche se era lui stesso a prospettare le soluzioni possibili). Himmler lo definì "lo specialista" quando nel '44 lo chiamò come sempre a deportare velocemente mezzo milione di ebrei ungheresi ad Auschwitz, un "maestro" della spoliazione, dell'emigrazione forzata, e ben presto del trasferimento nei lager. Persino nella sua deposizione nel '61 in Israele Eichmann chiama gli ebrei "parassiti".Cosa ci vide di "banale" Hannah Arendt? La sua intuizione, o la sua forzatura, che tanto ha condizionato la riflessione sulla Shoah come di un evento fatale perpetrato da uomini senza volto, non funziona (fu l'autorevole Raul Hilberg a dirlo per primo, seguito ben presto da tanti altri storici): una mappa mostra gli infiniti spostamenti di Eichmann in tutti i luoghi caldi dello sterminio, la storiografia più recente ne certifica le continue iniziative, la partecipazione attiva alla macchina della morte, la conoscenza esatta di quel che stava avvenendo, l'antisemitismo convinto (il comandante di Auschwitz Rudolf Hoess l'aveva definito "ossessionato dalla questione ebraica"). Un quadro confermato anche dall´intervista data nel 1957 da Eichmann a Willem Sassen, un giornalista ex SS (in Italia nel '61 la pubblicò Epoca).

  • Jafar
    2018-09-01 20:15

    This book is a great mix of investigative journalism and historical analysis. If you don’t have a detailed knowledge of the history of the Holocaust, this is a good place to start. Even though Arendt didn’t want to make it a philosophical or legal treatise, it makes a few bold philosophical and legal claims, the most controversial of which is the banality of evil.Eichmann was in charge of transporting the Jews, first for forced emigration, and after the implementation of the Final Solution, to the death camps. He didn’t run the death camps, or command firing squads, or operate the gas chambers. He wasn’t in charge of finding and rounding up the Jews either. He was a mid-level S.S. officer who was just good enough to arrange for trains and take care of the logistics of the transportation. He put millions on those trains, knowing fully well where they were heading and what fate was awaiting them.Without trying to lessen the magnitude of his crimes – and this is a very important point – what Arendt wants to add to our understanding of Eichmann (and our understanding of the nature of evil) is how utterly banal he was. Here’s a guy who couldn’t even finish high school. He’s a bit dim even though he tries to quote Kant during his trial. He has a limited vocabulary and can’t help using clichés. He’s constantly complaining about how he didn’t get promoted as high as he wanted. He’s adamant that he didn’t hate the Jews. He was just doing a job – nothing personal. He admits that the Nazis were committing genocide, and he theatrically (and obviously disingenuously) offers to hang himself in public to “teach a lesson to all the anti-Semites.” But when it comes to the question of his own personal guilt, he insists that he was just unlucky to be at the wrong time and place and working a particular job for a state that had its apparatus set upon genocide. “Anybody else would have done the same.” That’s the really scary part. Many others would have done the same.People who refuse to believe how banal evil can be, who think that murderous evil can only come from a monstrous and sadistic psychopath who’s a freak of nature in the worst imaginable way, should look at any civil war. Pick your choice of the recent ones: Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq, Syria. Look at all the good, normal people who were living happily with one another, but one day decide that it’s a good idea to hack their neighbors to death because ideology and a totalitarian state can cause what Arendt calls "a total moral collapse." Is banality of evil hard to accept because it makes us uncomfortable about ourselves, because it means that, if by the twist of fate, we’re put in a similar position, we’ll also be the one killing our neighbors or being an accessory to it or simply looking the other way?

  • Cemre
    2018-09-19 01:23

    Uzuuun zamandır bu kadar koşuşturmalı bir hafta geçirmemiştim. Bu sebeple kitabı planladığımdan çok daha uzun bir süre içinde bitirebildim. Bu tamamen benim yüzümden oldu, yoksa kitabı gerçekten büyük bir beğeniyle okudum.Kitap, Arjantin'den İsrail ajanları tarafından kaçırılıp İsrail'e getirilen ve yargılanıp idam edilen Yahudi katliamında rolü bulunan -kimilerine göre büyük bir rol kimilerine göre ise küçük- Adolf Eichmann'ın yargılanma sürecini anlatıyor. Sadece yargılama sürecine değil Nazilerin yaptıklarına, diğer ülkelerin Yahudilere olan tavırlarına da yer veriyor. İyi ki Kavgam'ı okuduktan sonra okumuşum. Bazı şeyleri çok daha net görebildim. Hannah Arendt bir Yahudi; ama bence olayları elinden geldiğince tarafsız bir gözle izleyerek aktarmış. Adolf Eichmann, pek çok Yahudinin ölümüne dolaylı olarak (kimseyi direkt öldürmemiş; ama öldürülmelerine bir şekilde neden olmuş) sebebiyet veren bir adam, bu doğru; fakat yargılanmasında ciddi sıkıntılar var ve bunları da okuyucuya sunmuş. İlk olarak Arjantin'den kaçırılıp getiriliyor. Yahudi hâkimler tarafından yargılanıyor (her ne kadar Yahudi olmaları adil kararlara ulaşmalarına engel olmasa da ister istemez kafalarda soru işaretleri oluşuyor). Suçun işlendiği tarihte suç olarak düzenlenmemiş suçlardan ötürü yargılanıyor (soykırım suçu o tarihlerde kanunda yok) ve bunlardan ötürü bir ceza veriliyor. Yani suç ve cezaların geri yürümezliği prensibinden bahsedilemiyor. İsrail'de yargılanıyor; ama suç işlendiğinde İsrail Devleti henüz kurulmamış. Yani Eichmann'ı yargılayan yer ne suçun işlendiği yer mahkemesi ne de mağdurların bulunduğu yerlerin mahkemesi. Yani yetkili mahkeme açısından da bir sıkıntı olduğunu söylememiz mümkün. Bunun yanı sıra verilen ceza idam. Denebilir ki bu adam milyonlarca insanın ölümüne sebebiyet verdi, bu sebeple bu adama yaşama hakkı tanınmamalı. Bunu anlıyorum; ama devlet eliyle bir insanın öldürülmesini çok da kabul edemiyorum. Yargılamaya dair detayların yanı sıra Eichmann'ın kişiliğini de bence Arendt başarıyla çizmiş. Okurken aklıma hep Wilheml Reich'ın "Dinle Küçük Adam" kitabı geldi. Eichmann da tam bir "küçük adam." Hayatı boyunca hiçbir işte dikiş tutturamamış, kendisini hiçbir zaman değerli hissedememiş. Nasyonal Sosyalist Parti sayesinde kendisini bir şeyleri başarabilen, değerli bir insan olarak hissedebilmiş. Mahkemenin yaşadığı sıkıntılardan biri de bu aslında. Eichmann oldukça "sıradan". Bir sadist değil, bir akıl hastası değil, aksine normal bir adam. Yahudilere karşı bir düşmanlığının olmadığını da söylüyor hatta. Führer'inin kendisine verdiği emirleri uyguladığını, kim olsa aynısını yapacağını söylüyor. Bu iddiadaki doğruluk payı bence esas ürkütücü olan. Ben oldukça etkilendim, oldukça keyif alarak okudum. Bu döneme ait mutlaka okunması gereken bir eser olduğunu düşünüyorum.

  • Michael
    2018-08-29 21:24

    A good one for shaking me out of a complacency in judgments and lazy simplifications in thought. The Holocaust was many circles of hell and Purgatory involving many victims and perpetrators, and so it makes sense that acts to effect justice for it can be hard to lay the right level of accountability. When Israel in 1960 kidnapped Eichmann from Argentina and put him on trial, the hope of Prime Minister Ben-Gurion and the prosecutors was to apply justice for the Holocaust to a key Nazi leader behind the Final Solution. What they got for a show trial to educate the public and satisfy needs for justice was instead a bit of a hollow victory in pinning blame on a bureaucrat (chief of Jewish Affairs in RSHA Department IV B 4) who claimed he only followed orders from in the chain from Hitler and Himmler to Heydrich to organize the transportation of Jews to the death camps and was not a Nazi ideologue or even anti-Semitic. He was charged with murder, crimes against humanity applied as war crime, and crimes against the Jewish people. The precedent for a war crime charge under international law passed after the commission of the crimes had a precedent from the Nuremberg Trials. The venue of Israel for adjudicating a crime against the Jews was argued to be parallel to the prosecution of war criminals carried out by each occupied nation after the war. After many months of the trial, with two months of witnesses to Jewish oppression and slaughter in German and the various occupied counties and a token defense featuring mainly Eichmann’s testimony, he was found guilty on all counts and hanged. I didn’t think there would be much of a story here beyond a judicial process of turning Nazi evil into documented human crimes and resolution with unremarkable human punishment. But the delving of Arendt’s book into the judgments of this man and her framing of truths gleaned about the causes of the genocide brought up many disturbing aspects of the Holocaust I needed to ponder. Such as how significant a role cooperation by Jewish leaders played in the magnitude of the slaughter and how pervasive the support of non-fascist elements of the population was for the success of the Final Solution. The book forced me to either agree with her affirmative answers on both of these counts or with the many people, including former Zionist friends, who were outraged with her conclusions. I have long struggled over seeing this genocide (and others) either as an aggregate crime of a few powerful leaders or as some kind of madness of a people attributable to certain flaws of group behavior wired into human nature. There is fuel here for a combination of both outlooks. Arendt was pretty shocked at how “average” Eichmann seemed. He was kind to his employees and probably good with kids and dogs. His participation in the machinery of genocide as a matter of course and with little sense of guilt is the core of her tagging her book title as the “banality of evil.” His thinking in aphorisms, overall motivation in careerism, mental juggling of self-justification, and sincere belief that he was a friend to the Jews all lead Arendt to conclude that this man was almost incapable of true thinking or moral judgment. This a novel face for evil, one that aligns with the efficient bureaucracy of oppression as she had already explored in her most famous work, “The Totalitarian State.” For the first years of the war, Eichmann’s job was to promote emigration of the Jews and to work with the Zionists on the establishment of an alternative Jewish homeland to the British protectorate of Palestine, which was not ready to take more than 10 million Jews of Europe. His planning seriously explored Madagascar and eastern Poland. However, voluntary emigration was a different kettle of fish from forced removals, a process that begins with disenfranchising people under the Nuremberg Laws, stripping away assets, making them stateless to dispense with any legal recourse, and then to concentrate them in ghettoes prior to mass evacuations. For the ramping of this approach, he learned that the first step was to engage the Zionist leaders to help with every step in the process. After the famous Wansee Conference of January 1942, in which the entire civilian government was engaged for the mission of the Final Solution with no complaint, the system set up for emigration was readily converted to mass extermination. Both Eichmann and the Jewish leaders who knowingly facilitated the process could somehow reframe their efforts as minimizing the suffering of the victims. The method of gassing was adopted from innovations in a euthanasia program, and I suppose the cruel deception . My most significant education from this book came from her examination of the variations in implementation and completion of the Final Solution in the various occupied countries. How Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Finland ended up with relatively smaller fractions of Jews killed compared to Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, and Holland. In some cases, the divergent outcomes seemed related to whether the Jewish population had been established for centuries versus being composed mostly of recent immigrants and whether or not anti-Semitism was already rampant among the government leaders. Cases of modest compliance with the genocide reveal how vulnerable the Nazis were to widespread resistance in the population and courageous defiance by political leaders. Even within the Nazi bureaucracy, Arendt argues that refusal to participate in the Final Solution was not subject to severe punishment. Eichmann could have transferred to another department, but obviously he couldn’t handle the loss of power and esteem. While reading this book (by audiobook), I had the pleasure of seeing a German movie about Arendt and her struggles with the controversy of her New Yorker pieces on the trial, which were the foundation for this book. She cold intellectual analyses and ironic tone added to the negative reactions to her shining a light on the cooperation of many Jewish leaders. The movie portrays the self-doubts and anguish in her personal life which are not evident in her book. Her courage and the impact of her thinking were moving to me. It’s a tough subject to wrap your head around. At my stage I am more in a collective guilt phase, one where I don’t ask who is responsible but take Weisel and Levi to heart on the value of bearing witness to what the human species has done.

  • Jimmy
    2018-08-25 19:06

    Objective analysis of ethically devastating periods in history often seems less popular than it should be. Surely this applies to the Holocaust more than any other commonly mentioned, or generally well known genocide. As if there were some sort of a priori understanding that these events were undoubtedly exercised by the minds and wills of evil men. There is much truth to that; people rarely argue that it's possible that these people are anything but evil, or at least devoid of any sort of moral restraint. Of course, this is really too general an assessment of bad things happening to really help anyone understand the various circumstances which seem to influence the existence of certain historical tragedies such as the Holocaust. In other words, genocide, or various other crimes against humanity are caused by several different factors. This is part of Arendt's central thesis, or at least applicable to it. She wants not only to understand the psychological motivations for Eichman's actions, but what circumstances lead him to do the things that he did. Which makes Eichman in Jerusalem one of the most controversial statements made on the nature and motivating force behind evil men and their violent actions in the history of writings on the philosophy of ethics. Adolf Eichman, a meek salesman who eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of the Schutzstaffel truly was a perfect subject through which Arendt could examine the nature of evil. Turns out it's actually pretty boring, as we learn that in the end, he was just being a "good soldier", and basically just desired a high-paying job.Eichman in Jerusalem is in so many ways, a difficult book to analyze. On the whole it's an historical account of the holocaust, particularly the bureaucratic complications that Jewish deportation entailed. She also runs through the trial itself. And at times it's a philosophical treatise on the extent to which the law is truly capable of trying someone for war crimes (especially in the case of the Eichman trial since it was in Israel). Many controversial questions arise. Was this man simply following orders? Why did the Jewish people not rebel in the concentration camps? Was the Holocaust itself, merely the bureaucratic, logical conclusion that came after realizing that deportation of the jews was financially, as well as logistically, impossible?The Jewish intelligentsia polemically raped Arendt, decrying her as a "self-hating Jewess" and the "Rosa Luxemburg of Nothingness". Several groups of Jewish scholars scrutinized the text for tiny mistakes; the result being a few misspelled names and incorrect dates. The great American novelist Saul Bellow wrote Mr. Sammler's Planet as a direct criticism of Arendt as an example of the gall that certain intellectuals have when analyzing such morally taboo subjects. She lost many of her good friends. And the fact that she once had an affair with Martin Heidegger, a Nazi, and the supreme jackass of continental philosophy, didn't really help her intellectual reputation The question is; is it really necessary to excoriate a woman's moral character simple because she investigated some of the less desirably defined aspects of evil, even going as far as to coin the term the "Banality of Evil". This is all very problematic.Furthermore, in reading it, it's often difficult to gauge how sympathetic Arendt truly is to a tragedy such as the Holocaust. The tone of her writing is extremely wry and sarcastic. And there is rarely a passage in the book that suggests a deep ethical concern about the plight of the Jews. Still it's ultimately impossible to actually believe that Arendt truly thinks that the Jewish people were meek, willfully walking directly into mass slaughter. She asks questions that, as I've mentioned, are so of off limits when talking about the Holocaust.

  • Trish
    2018-09-20 01:00

    "That such remoteness from reality and such thoughtlessness can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together which, perhaps, are inherent in man—that was, in fact, the lesson one could learn in Jerusalem."This book is positively lucid in comparison to the one other book I read by Arendt, Responsibility and Judgment, since this is a journalistic piece, first published in The New Yorker magazine in 1963. Basically the book is merely a report on the trial, which would have to exclude examination of the issues that the trial raised, e.g., Why did it have to be the Germans? Why did it have to be the Jews? What is the nature of totalitarianism? What is the nature of evil? But Arendt goes as far in including relevant facts that pertain to the trial as she can, and it is ravishingly interesting. Arendt was already so well-informed by then about the history of development of the "Final Solution" in which millions of Jews (and others: Russian functionaries, Gypsies, the asocial, the sick, and mentally-ill patients) were killed.Of course we want to know how the Holocaust could happen, and Arendt goes a long way to showing us the compliance of so many government officials of other countries, of German functionaries, and of ordinary citizens. Fear played a large part, but there was more. In Germany, the management of information and expectations was so complete that, for instance, ordinary Germans were convinced that Hitler would gas them eventually, if the war was lost: "The Russians will never get us. The Fuhrer will never permit it. Much sooner he will gas us." They did not sound indignant, she reports, but resigned. Such an action must have seemed rational, in their universe.In the Postscript to this book, Arendt points out that this report of the trial, when first published in The New Yorker, caused an outcry ascribing to her attitudes which she does not possess, and attributing to her words she did not say: "Even before its publication, this book became both the center of a controversy and the object of an organized campaign…The controversy began by calling attention to the conduct of the Jewish people during the years of the Final Solution, thus following up the question, first raised by the Israeli prosecutor, of whether the Jews could or should have defended themselves. I had dismissed that question as silly and cruel, since it testified to a fatal ignorance of the conditions at the time. It has now been discussed to exhaustion, and the most amazing conclusions have been drawn…Since the role of the Jewish leadership had come up at the trial, and since I had reported and commented on it, it was inevitable that it too should be discussed. This, in my opinion, is a serious question, but the debate has contributed little to its clarification.""There is of course no doubt that the defendant and the nature of his acts as well as the trial itself raise problems of a general nature which go far beyond the matters considered in Jerusalem. I have attempted to go into some of these problems in the Epilogue, which ceases to be simple reporting.Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his own personal advancement, [Eichmann] had no motives at all. And this diligence in itself was in no way criminal; he certainly would never have murdered his superior in order to inherit his post. He merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing." Superior orders, Arendt points out, are, in law, no excuse for failures of judgment, though persons on trial often have this taken into consideration when their sentences are meted out. Eichmann was hanged shortly after the trial ended, so following orders was not considered to be exculpatory in his case.One of the things that damned Eichmann was not his following of orders, per se. He did his job to the best of his ability, something of which he was inordinately proud. When, in 1944, he received orders from Himmler countermanding earlier behaviors, i.e., that he should now take care of the Jews instead of transporting them to the killing fields, Eichmann sabotaged his orders as much as he dared, to the extent at least that he felt he was 'covered' by his immediate superiors. Arendt suggests that his conscience "prompted Eichmann to adopt his uncompromising attitude during the last year of the war," and one can certainly understand his confusion and distress. All his previous excellent compliance that required him to silence thought was now being shown for what it was--a terrible crime.This report holds within it so much of human behaviors, bad and good. We are blessedly treated to the wonderful story of true clarity of thinking in the case of Denmark: "The story of the Danish Jews is sui generis, and the behavior of the Danish people and their government was unique among all the countries of Europe—whether occupied, or a partner of the Axis, or neutral and truly independent. One is tempted to recommend the story as required reading in political science for all students who wish to learn something about the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action and in resistance to an opponent possessing vastly superior means of violence…Italy and Bulgaria sabotaged German orders and indulged in a complicated game of double-dealing and double-crossing, saving their Jews by a tour de force of sheer ingenuity, but they never contested the policy as such. That was totally different from what the Danes did.When the Germans approached them rather cautiously about introducing the yellow badge, they were simply told that the King would be the first to wear it, and the Danish government officials were careful to point out that anti-Jewish measures of any sort would cause their own immediate resignation. It was decisive in this whole matter that the Germans did not even succeed in introducing the vitally important distinction between native Danes of Jewish origin, of whom there were about sixty-four hundred, and the fourteen hundred German Jewish refugees who had found asylum in the country prior to the war and who now had been declared stateless by the German government. This refusal must have surprised the Germans no end, since it appeared so “illogical” for a government to protect people to whom it had categorically denied naturalization and even permission to work…The Danes, however, explained to the German officials that because the stateless refugees were no longer German citizens, the Nazis could not claim them without Danish assent…What happened then was truly amazing; compared with what took place in other European countries, everything went topsy-turvy…riots broke out in Danish shipyards, where dock workers refused to repair German ships and then went on strike… " Police units arrived from Germany for a door-to-door search for Jews to deport, but they were forbidden to break down doors, so only Jews who voluntarily opened their doors to them were seized. The Jewish community had been warned by Danish officials, who had been told by a German shipping agent, who had probably been advised by the German official in Copenhagen whose attitude had, when resistance had been firm, practically melted away."Politically and psychologically, the most interesting aspect of this incident is perhaps the role played by the German authorities in Denmark, their obvious sabotage of orders from Berlin, It is the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. They themselves apparently no longer looked upon the extermination of a whole people as a matter of course. They had met resistance based on principle, and their 'toughness' had melted like butter in the sun, they had even been able to show a few timid beginnings of genuine courage."It is a great relief to discover that something worked against the thoughtless, just-following-orders persistence of the perpetrators’ human machine. In the context of my other recent reading and thinking, I have a couple of things to say: that Thomas Pynchon’s book Inherent Vice says something about thoughtlessness and evil—how we must struggle against thoughtlessness at every opportunity in order not to do evil. And with respect to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, we must think about the effects of lifestyle on energy usage and how this affects climate and the world. We must demand better from our government.This is one of the indispensable books for it is the jumping point for so much fruitful thought and discussion.

  • Leo Walsh
    2018-08-30 20:22

    Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt is a thought-provoking, if dense, history of the Adolf Eichmann, the major organizer of Hitler's "Final Solution" -- the extermination of every living European Jew. Coupled with some meditations of a first-rate thinker and author on politics, morality, and the gray line that exists between law and justice. Whereby legal means often impede justice, and just causes often illegal.First off, a few mentions of the text. Arendt was a German-born Jew living in America who covered Eichmann's 1962 trial for The New Yorker. In the trial, Israel tried Eichmann for his role in the Holocaust, facilitating the death of 6 million Jews during his tenure with the Third Reich. The book Eichmann in Jerusalem collectes these articles and is now considered a classic in political science. Background aside, the "Eichmann" Arendt reveals is creepy, but not in the way you'd expect. Eichmann wasn't a monster, Instead, he was an average Joe. This makes him scarier than were he a monster, since the next Eichmann could be a neighbor, a family member, a child... or even me, sad to say. Eichmann, who demonstrated a shocking lack of self-awareness during the trial fulfilled his job of organizing the slaughter of millions even though he 1) knew what he was doing, 2) vomited and was deeply disturbed when he saw that actual goings-on in the death camps, and 3) did not hate Jews. Instead, ever officious, Eichmann fulfilled the orders his superiors gave him to the best of his ability. He seems to lack the moral compass to be able to "climb above" reality and see what he was doing with drop-dead clarity. And before you think you would stand up, consider the classic experiment about compliance with authority conducted by Stanley Milgram. In that experiment, subjects were asked to shock a "victim" -- in reality, a confederate of Milgram -- for every incorrect answer they gave on a test. Of course, the shock was fake, and the "victims" were actors who yelled and pleaded louder as the voltage increased. Despite the obvious torture the subjects thought they were inflicting on the "victims," 65% of the participants, just regular New Have Joes and Janes like Eichmann, administered the final shock, marked "FATAL." See this YouTube video for just how horrific this looks, since the telling just doesn't do the experiment justice. Seen in this light, Eichmann presents a real-life of this "Milgram effect," but "in action" in the "real world." Where the experiment's "FATAL" label was real, and real people died. Problem is, the Milgram experiment explains Eichmann. But it does not explain how Germany, a modern, well-run country, lacked the institutional wherewithal to block this vile abuse of a state's power. How could Hitler waste resources on something that not only makes zero sense while fighting (and losing) a war on two fronts? This makes the most mind-boggling thing about the book the sprawling, costly, well-ordered machine that lay behind Final Solution. Hitler brought the entire power of the state to bear on what he called the "Jewish Question," a half-baked conception. Hitler enlisted every part of society -- soldiers and railway executive and chemical manufacturers to dentists to jewelers, etc -- to enact his "vision" of eradicating the Jewish people. That he got away with this confuses me. Arendt raises other issues I was only vaguely aware of. For instance, no matter how bad the Nazis were, some in the Jewish community aided with the Final Solution, rounding up Jews for the death-camps. These collaborators were scared, and helped the SS to save their own lives, an extreme mitigating circumstance. Arendt feels society should not punish these collaborators due to their extenuating circumstances, unlike EIchmann, their lives were being threatened. While Eichmann cold walk away at any time. Regardless, Arendt possesses a hard-headed devotion to the [capital-'T'] Truth. So she refuses to let the collaborators off the hook entirely. They were wrong, and complicit. Guilty, but not legally criminal since they acted out of self-defense.In the book's final section, Arendt ponders at length in dense, lucid prose the politics behind states, the use of coercive power, and justice. She makes a powerful case for the justice of Israel's capture of Eichmann -- the secret service kidnapped him in Argentina, and tried him for genocide of the Jewish people by a nation where he had committed no crimes. Further, Israel as a contemporary nation-state did not exist during the Holocaust. Arendt continues with an exhaustive analysis of war crimes, genocide, and the role of international bodies in the post-Nuremberg world.All told, Eichmann in Jerusalem is a captivating read. A lot of the details left me uneasy. And the cold, detached, officious way that Eichmann carried out his duties scares me. But it is important, since in 2017, it seems as if totalitarianism is on the rise, challenging liberal democracy for supremacy. This book should give all thoughtful readers a framework to consider their own situation by.

  • The Nerdwriter
    2018-08-31 20:58

    This is a heavy book. Not literally, it's only about 250 pages, but the subject matter is dark and the reporting is meticulous. Hannah Arendt catalogues the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a lieutenant colonel in the Nazi regime tasked with organizing mass deportations of Jews to extermination camps. Though Wikipedia refers to Eichmann as "one of the major organizers of the Holocaust," Arendt aims to show that the true terror of this man is in his normalcy, his blandness. It's from this book that we get the famous -- and controversial -- phrase "the banality of evil." And it's true: Eichmann was much like a middle-manager, a logistics man, concerned most of all with his own position and title within the Reich, even while genocide occurred all around him. The focus of this book is the trial, but since Eichmann oversaw the transport of Jews from several different countries, Arendt provides a unique window into Europe during World War II. There was much I didn't know about the Holocaust in this book, namely, how each country reacted to Hitler's insistence on deportation, then liquidation, of the Jews. She also provides a unique window into the mechanics of the Third Reich, which is to say, the mechanics of evil. Cooperation with Hitler's "Final Solution to the Jewish Question," though not ubiquitous among German allies and occupied territories, was terrifyingly easy for the Nazi's to secure.Though the prosecution (and through them the newly-founded state of Israel) sought to make Eichmann's trial an indictment of Nazism writ large, Arendt focuses aggressively on Eichmann, the man on trial, and on the formal questions of legality and justice in a case like this. As a result we get a deeply important work of political theory, which indicts not only the villain and his evil ideology, but the cooperators and careerists who carry it out for him.

  • AnaVlădescu
    2018-09-13 23:21

    In true Arendt style, the writing is concise, each sentence crafted beautifully, the subject matter studied from all sides. In some cases, she even comes to Eichmann's defense against the things he had been accused of that he hadn't done. To her, it was very important for him to be tried for his own crimes, and his own crimes only, which is a very hard thing to do considering the complexity of the German bureaucracy and the enormity of the Jewish (and other peoples') genocide. Required reading for anyone interested in the Holocaust, its conditions, perpetrators and, as well, its victims.

  • Bettie☯
    2018-09-02 21:24

    History to listen to as I bake chicken pies.Brilliantly narrated by Wanda McCaddonNatural follow up to Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascombe (I see the 'add book' has broken now!) I am sure that there were many who would have loved to slap that smirk off his face.For a superb review, I can do no less than point you towards Lobstergirl:

  • Justin Evans
    2018-08-26 23:08

    It's very hard to see, at this point, what on earth in this book made everyone so angry, and, apparently, still does make everyone so angry. Arendt's argument here (though note that in other places she insists, disingenuously, that she made no argument and just presented the facts) is that ordinary people do evil things ('banality of evil'), that this is best understood in the context of modern bureaucracy, and that the Eichmann trials bear more than a little resemblance to Soviet show trials--with the key difference being that Eichmann deserved to be put on show.Perhaps what angers people is Arendt's general slipperiness. She extols the impersonality of justice over the personal nature of power, but never seems to worry that bureaucratic impersonality and judicial impersonality are uncomfortably similar. She criticizes the Eichmann court for admitting so much irrelevant 'evidence,' in the form of holocaust survivor's testimony--the court, she says, can only judge the moral guilt of a person for their actions, the court is not the place for social theory or wider considerations. And she's right... but her book is not a court, and she uses the "in court we can only judge one person, not a society" argument to avoid dealing with larger historical and social questions (*why* in Germany?) She has a good reason for this: claiming that 'all are guilty' erases important distinctions between, e.g., Eichmann, and a Hausfrau just trying not to get imprisoned by the SS. Analyzing societies tends to suggest that everyone in the society is guilty to some degree. Therefore analyzing societies would erase the distinction between Eichmann and our Hausfrau. Arendt wants to think and write about human freedom; she wants to stand against the social-engineering of totalitarian societies; she wants to do this so badly that she simply refuses to engage with the *actually existing* social engineering that goes on even in democratic societies (see: mass media); she refuses to engage with the actually occurring structural forces that shape our world (see: global capitalism). So although Arendt is, on the one hand, the smartest person in the room (particularly when that is a court-room), she also comes across as stunningly obtuse. She seems to be caught halfway between traditional philosophy (she remained close to and impressed by Karl Jaspers), political theory (obsessed as it is with political freedoms and giving short shrift, all too often, to social issues), and social theory. She seems to have realized that one can't analyze the modern world without social theory, but also to fear it, as if the analysis of social determination was itself social determination, and not a necessary step towards recognizing and overcoming the forces that shape our world. I don't think this is the only way to hold on to a sense of human freedom, and it's tremendously frustrating to read this brilliant woman--head and shoulders above almost all twentieth century theorists--not engage with the most important intellectual tradition of her time.

  • Dave Russell
    2018-09-20 20:19

    The Nazis are this modern age's greatest villains. You can stop debate on any subject just by invoking a comparison ("You know who else was in favor of the public option? Hitler, that's who!") I know, I know, Stalin killed more people than Hitler, yadda yadda yadda, but did you see the last Indiana Jones film? Nazis make much better villains. And yet what kind of villains were they and what does this tell us about the nature of evil? Were they Shakespearean villains a la Richard III or Iago, men revelled in their evil? Or perhaps Bond supervillains like Goldfinger or Drago with grandiose dreams of world conquest? Hitler was certainly a charismatic megalomaniac capable of seizing power and twisting people to his will. But Hitler alone did not accomplish the deeds that would later make the Nazis the catchword for evil. He needed a vast bureaucracy. Departments and sections and sub-sections and sub-sub-sections all staffed by secretaries and undersecretaries and directors and on and on. Adolf Eichmann was one such bureaucrat, and not a particularly high up one. The S.S. to which he belonged was divided into four departments. One department, the R.H.S.A., was divided into four sections. Section IV was divided into four bureaus. Eichmann headed one of the four offices within Bureau IV, specifically Bureau IV-B-4. It was his office's job to deport the Jews to the killing centers. How they were rounded up and what happened to them at the killing centers were handled by other departments in the vast machinery of the Nazi Government. It was not his concern. In 1960 he was captured in Argentina and taken to Israel to stand trial. Hannah Arendt covered the trial and wrote what she subtitled, "A Report on the Banality of Evil." What she noticed was that Eichmann, rather than being a larger than life evildoer, was rather ordinary. When speaking, he relied heavily on slogans and cliches. He thought rather ruefully of his career as a "hard luck story," because of the office politics he had to endure. In short, he was far from the brown shirt wearing, virulent, violent Anti-Jew we think of when the word Nazi is invoked. Starting from this fact, Arendt creates a fascinating meditation on evil and the character of the men who carry it out, and the implications this has for the concept of criminal justice.While I found her picture of the vast bureaucratic operation that was the Final Solution to be compelling, the major difficulty I had with the book was in her writing. She is not always clear and her sentences are sometimes completely cumbersome, which prevents me from giving this book the five stars her portrait deserves. Why is it so hard to find a non-fiction writer who is also a great prose stylist?

  • Eric_W
    2018-09-09 01:14

    I read this in college and it just blew me away. One of the more important books of the 20th century. Her idea that "banality" and thoughtlessness, relying on the routines of bureaucracy lie at the root of evil had a profound impact on my thinking. "It was sheer thoughtlessness that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the period," she says of Eichmann. One can still see the basic truths of her book operating very day.The latest method to avoid accountability seems to be to claim one is "too busy" to be brought to trial. This tactic, used by Bob Bennett, in an effort to keep Clinton from having to answer charges in the Paul Jones case, is now being used by members of the Bush administration to avoid having to face possible charges for ostensible war crimes.That kind of thinking brings a whole new meaning to "banal".

  • Bou
    2018-09-03 00:21

    Hannah Arendt did not see a demon in Eichmann, rather an ordinary person, whose evil did not come from ideological conviction but from thoughtlessness, an inability to reflection and lack of empathy. With the term ‘Banality of Evil’, Hannah Arendt has coined one of the more memorable quotes from the Eichmann process.Hannah claims that the extraordinary circumstances in relation to the Eichmann process were multiple, and these circumstances overshadowed the central ethical, political and juridical problems that were created during the process. These circumstances were created by Ben-Goerion and the prosecution itself. With the process, Israel wanted to make a showcase to its young generation (born after the war) and to the world, in presenting the horrors of the Holocaust. In this way, too much was claimed from the prosecution which function was, after all, merely to speak justice.First of all, there was the problem of the abduction of Eichmann from a foreign country, which clearly was against international law. On such a base, Hannah Arendt postulates that this removed the right to prosecute Eichmann according to the Israeli law, but rather to the International Law, and therefore the case never should have been held under the jurisdiction of Israel. The same problem arises due to the fact that the prosecutors accused Eichmann of the fact that he was facing trial for “crimes against humanity”, which in itself should have been a reason to prosecute Eichmann under the jurisdiction of (for example) the Tribunal in The Hague.Another problem that is described by Hannah Arendt is Eichmann itself. The judges were never able to completely understand the nature and motives of Eichmann itself - an important task for a judge in order to create a fair conviction.The problem with this fact was exacerbated due to the fact that Eichmann was just so frightently plain, one of many and not the perverted sadist that we wanted him to be. The banality of evil. This raises the problem that today, or in the future, another human being can be born who will again do the terrible things that Eichmann has done, and not be able to understand the scope of the evil that he is creating.In the end, Eichmann was - no doubt - guilty. His reasoning of ‘collective guilt’ and the fact that he just acted ‘according to orders’ didn’t reflect the fact that obedience is just another word for consent and support for one of the greatest crimes in human history.

  • Rob
    2018-09-13 01:08

    Do not be fooled by the title of this book. It is not a philosophical text about the nature of evil.This book is about the politics of the trial of Eichmann and more particularly the real politic of the Holocaust. In fact out of the many books I have read about Nazism it is the most insightful about how the Holocaust worked politically in the nuts and bolts sense.This book is not about the horror of the Holocaust. If it was I would have put it down. The most interesting part of the book is that it was not some sort of massive leviathan which could not be stopped. Arendt makes the case quite convincingly that when the Nazi's schemes were opposed outright as they were in Denmark or where confronted by the Italian authorities plain dishonesty and occasional moral refusal to go along ('to participate in this policy is against the honour of the Italian army')their will disappeared.The other surprising fact is the Nazi's relationship with the various national Jewish authorities. The Nazi's drew them into being collaborators with their own destruction. They provided lists of Jews, collected Jews into ghettos, enforced the 'resettlement' of Jews. As for Eichmann himself? Well he was a middling bureaucrat with muddled views on Jews. Willing to go along with it for his career and because he believed in the morality of following orders wholeheartedly. You may need a Hitler for such radical evil but you certainly need an army of dull witted doers of others bidding to implement it.

  • Kaggelo
    2018-08-25 17:13

    Η εμπειρια της αναγνωσης αυτου του βιβλιου ηταν καθηλωτικη και συγκλονιστικη. Προκειται για ενα τεραστιο σε σημασια και σπουδαιοτητα εργο, η αναγνωση του οποιου ειναι απαραιτητη και επιβεβλημενη προκειμενου να καταστει δυνατη η πληρης κατανοηση ενος πρωτοφανους και φρικιαστικου γεγονοτος της ανθρωπινης ιστοριας. Προκειται για την περιγραφη της δικης του Αιχμαν στην Ιερουσαλημ, ο οποιος κατηγορηθηκε οτι ανηκε στους βασικους συντελεστες της συλληψης και εκτελεσης του σχεδιου της Τελικης Λυσης, δηλαδη της εξοντωσης των Εβραιων της Ευρωπης κατα τον Β' Παγκοσμιο Πολεμο. Η περιγραφη δινεται μεσα απο την ματια της φιλοσόφου Hannah Arendt, η οποια καλυψε την δικη ως απεσταλμενη του New Yorker με την ιδιοτητα της πολιτικου δημοσιογραφου(οπως προτιμουσε η ιδια να παρουσιαζει τον εαυτο της). Το κειμενο της Arendt στην ουσια προκειται για μια βαθια μελετη των βασικων παραμετρων της δικης, που παρουσιαζονται με την μεγιστη δυνατη αντικειμενικοτητα, ψυχραιμια, ακριβεια, ειλικρινεια και ολοκληρωτικη αποφυγη καθε συναισθηματισμου(η ιδια ηταν Εβραια). Εξεταζονται η φυση, προελευση και συνθεση του δικαστηριου, η προσωπικοτητα του κατηγορουμενου, η ουσια του κατηγορητηριου και κατ επεκταση περιγραφονται και εξεταζονται ολες οι πραξεις, ενεργειες ή παραλειψεις του κατηγορουμενου οι οποιες οδηγησαν στα εγκληματα κατα του εβραικου λαου καθως και οι συνθηκες και το κοινωνικοπολιτικο πλαισιο μεσα στο οποιο ελαβαν χωρα. Η γραφη ειναι διεισδυτικη, πυκνη και διαυγης, εχει απιστευτο ρυθμο και καλλιστα η μελετη αυτη θα μπορουσε να διαβαστει και ως ιστορικο μυθιστορημα. Στον επιλογο γινεται αποπειρα να απαντηθουν τα εξης ερωτηματα: Ηταν αρμοδιο το Περιφερειακο Δικαστηριο της Ιερουσαλημ να δικασει τον Αιχμαν ή επρεπε να δικαστει απο ενα Διεθνες Δικαστηριο; Κατηγορουνταν για εγκληματα κατα του εβραικου λαου ή κατα της ανθρωποτητας και ποιος ειναι ο σωστος ορισμος αυτων; Ηταν ο Αιχμαν ενα τερας, ενας διεστραμενος σαδιστης; Ή (ακομα χειροτερα) ηταν απλα ενας συνηθισμενος ανθρωπος που εκτελουσε με την μεγιστη τυπικοτητα τα διοικητικα του καθηκοντα;Εν κατακλειδι, η Arendt δινει την προσωπικη της απαντηση και ερμηνεια στο βασικο ερωτημα: Η δικη κατεληξε σε επιτυχια ή αποτυχια σε σχεση με τον βασικο και αντικειμενικο στοχο να αποδοθει δικαιοσυνη;Θα πρεπει να τονισω οτι η αναγνωση του τελευταιου και πιο ενδιαφεροντος μερους του βιβλιου, οπου η Arendt προχωρησε στα βασικα συμπερασματα και στην ερμηνεια του αποτελεσματος της δικης, έγινε με πολυ μεγαλη υπερενταση και με την μεγιστη πνευματικη και ψυχικη εγρηγορση. Αυτο συνεβη γιατι, περα απο την εξαιρετικη παρουσιαση του τελους ως κορυφωσης και λυσης ενος δραματος, ηταν συγκλονιστικα και ενιοτε ανατριχιαστικα τα συμπερασματα που αφορουν στις εγγενεις αιτιες του πρωτοφανους εγκληματος.Συμπερασματα που επιβαλλεται να χρησιμοποιηθουν ως μαθημα στην κατευθυνση της αποφυγης παρομοιων γεγονοτων στο μελλον. Η Arendt υπογραμμιζει εμφατικα την δυναμη και αξια που εχει η ολοκληρωμενη και αντικειμενικη γνωση και κατανοηση αυτων των γεγονοτων μεσα στο παραπανω πλαισιο. Μετα την πρωτη εκδοση του βιβλιου προκλήθηκε θύελλα αντιδράσεων με αποτελεσμα να ξεκινησει μια εντονη διαμαχη και να οργανωθει μια μεγαλη εκστρατεια με αντικειμενο το βιβλιο. Η εκταση της διαμαχης ηταν τοσο μεγαλη που εφτασε στο σημειο να κατηγορηθει η Arendt για αντισημητισμο. Στο υστερογραφο αυτης της εκδοσης γινεται αναφορα στα γεγονοτα των αντιδρασεων και δινονται καποιες σημαντικες απαντησεις και επισημανσεις. Σε αυτο το πλαισιο ανηκει και η ανταλλαγη επιστολων αναμεσα στην Arendt και τον Γκερσομ Σολεμ, ενος επιφανους σιωνιστη, που παρουσιαζονται με τιτλο "ΔΥΟ ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΕΣ ΓΙΑ ΤΗ ΡΗΧΟΤΗΤΑ ΤΟΥ ΚΑΚΟΥ" στην νεα σειρα που εγκαινιαστηκε προσφατα από τις εκδοσεις ΑΓΡΑ. Τελος, να προσθεσω οτι η μεταφραση του Βασιλη Τομανα ειναι εξαιρετικη, οπως επισης εξαιρετικο ειναι το επιμετρο της Πηνελοπης Κουφοπουλου.5+1 stars

  • David Cerruti
    2018-09-17 23:59

    A few words about the title, “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” It is concise and accurate in identifying the trial of 1961, but it gives no clue about the insights that lie within. I generally dislike subtitles, but this one, “A Report on the Banality of Evil,” is where the action is.This phrase, which generated so much controversy, appears only on the title page, and once in the text, in the postscript. Later editions include an excellent introduction by Amos Elon, who used the phrase many times. I had seen the phrase before I knew of the book, and it had no special meaning to me.That changed in October 2013. The British artist Banksy spent that month in New York City creating his signature street art. The Mayor called his work vandalism, not art. Possibly in response to that comment, Banksy purchased a banal oil painting in Housing Works, a thrift shop. The 36”x24” landscape was signed by K. Sager. I doubt that it cost more than $100. Banksy then oil painted in a Nazi on a bench enjoying the view, signed it, and titled it “The banality of the banality of evil.” He then donated it back to Housing Works, which put it on an auction site for charities. It sold for $615,000. Housing Works motto: “fighting to end AIDS and homelessness.”Photo credit by Banksy.

  • dead letter office
    2018-09-08 22:12

    it's hard not to come away from this book with conflicted feelings. we all take for granted that what the nazis did was evil, but it's not such an easy extension to say that the people these did these things were evil. arendt's central point is that eichmann is not evil so much as he is unremarkable. he is hardworking, efficient, and actually deeply normal. this is tough to swallow, since he was an integral part of the machinery of genocide that the nazis set up during world war II and was executed after his sentencing at jerusalem in the early 1960's. it's unsettling, to say the least, to see her make a persuasive case for eichmann's essential normality, but i think it's important not to make the mistake of characterizing the nazis as monsters. eichmann's defense is that he broke no laws under the legal system of his country, and that he was only doing his job and his duty. in fact, he would have been subject to punishment either way: immediate punishment by the nazis if he disobeyed his orders, or delayed punishment by the international courts set up after the war if he obeyed.this brought home like nothing else the fact that the "inhumanity" of the nazis is a misnomer. the real horror is that the perpetrators of the holocaust were plenty human.

  • Zahreen
    2018-09-18 22:54

    This book, while sometimes a little hard to read, gave me such food for thought that I have re-read it many times just to grasp all that Arendt is trying to accomplish in this book. Her statements about the "banality of evil" and the "thoughtlessness" that creates evil acts without malevolent intent I think have a lot of relevance for Americans, who work in a world without thinking about how our place in society and in a greater machine affects other people - particularly how it affects others negatively. We would rather turn a blind eye to it - much like Eichmann did - and that is exactly what Arendt is warning against. Very important book to read!

  • Laura
    2018-09-16 19:13

    This book disturbed my peace with the universe. I read it while I was working on a death penalty case some years back, mostly on the bus too and from work. It led to me spending no little time starring out the window. Trembling ontologically.

  • Hadrian
    2018-09-09 00:00

    Brilliant in analyses. 'Banality of evil' only occurs once or twice, and it seems to be misinterpreted - the banality of Eichman's thoughts and his blind devotion to fascism, not just the mere 'I was following orders' facade he put up.