Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a Desk Murderer

Overview

Becoming Eichmann, the first account of Eichmann’s life to appear in over forty years, reveals a surprising portrait of the man once seen as epitomizing the “banality of evil.” Drawing on recently unearthed documents, David Cesarani explores Eichmann’s early career, when he learned how to become an administrator of genocide, and shows how Eichmann developed into the Reich’s “expert” on Jewish matters, becoming ever more hateful and brutal. This sobering account deepens our understanding and challenges our ...

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Overview

Becoming Eichmann, the first account of Eichmann’s life to appear in over forty years, reveals a surprising portrait of the man once seen as epitomizing the “banality of evil.” Drawing on recently unearthed documents, David Cesarani explores Eichmann’s early career, when he learned how to become an administrator of genocide, and shows how Eichmann developed into the Reich’s “expert” on Jewish matters, becoming ever more hateful and brutal. This sobering account deepens our understanding and challenges our preconceptions of Adolf Eichmann and offers fresh insights into both the operation of the “Final Solution” and its most notorious perpetrator.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
To the Israeli prosecutor who interrogated him in 1961, Adolf Eichmann was a fanatical anti-Semite and a central figure in the annihilation of the Jews. To Hannah Arendt, he was a dim-witted bureaucrat, a cog in the machinery of destruction that was the Holocaust. British historian Cesarani, author of numerous books on the Holocaust and Jewish history, offers a more complex and nuanced portrait. Based on research into sources that were unavailable in the 1960s and on the most recent scholarly work on the Holocaust, Cesarani corrects the historical record on numerous issues. Contrary to popular myth, he says, Eichmann had a normal childhood and a socially and professionally successful young adulthood. Eichmann joined the SS not because he was a misfit but because, like so many German and Austrian middle-class men, he found the Third Reich a great engine of social mobility. Cesarani's biography is convincing on many counts. But in the end, the broad outlines of Arendt's portrait in her brilliant Eichmann in Jerusalem remain standing. Eichmann may have been more intelligent and skilled than she concluded, but he was the perfect expression of the highly bureaucratized and systematic killing process that the Nazis perfected. 8 pages of b&w photos, 2 maps. (May 15) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Booklist
Presents a compelling vision of Eichmann...Few biographies, and fewer Holocaust histories, are as innovative or as nuanced.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Well presented and exhaustively documented...Helpful discussions of what the Eichmann story has meant to different people at different times.
Library Journal
Cesarani (history, London Univ.) has written the most detailed, complete, and balanced biography of Eichmann in 40 years. Most works have concentrated solely on Eichmann's capture, trial, and execution during 1960-62; however, Cesarani also focuses on his childhood, Nazi Party days, and exile in Argentina. The greatest strength of the book is the analysis refuting previous attempts to categorize Eichmann as an ordinary "desk clerk" just following orders. Cesarani states that "each generation has seen what it wanted to see in Eichmann": to the Israelis, he was the personification of the evils of the Nazi system; to others, a victim of the totalitarian state, as in Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, or a mere robot, as in Harry Mulisch's Criminal Case 40/61. In Cesarani's view, Eichmann was not predisposed to genocide; nor was he a blameless "cog" in the wheel of the Holocaust. Rather, he taught himself morally to accept and execute a genocidal plan. In the context of recent genocides (Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia), Eichmann can be seen as neither unique nor banal but as a warning that anyone can become a g nocidaire. Recommended for academic libraries and Holocaust collections.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll., Painesville, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306815393
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 4/23/2007
  • Pages: 472
  • Sales rank: 1,439,448
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

David Cesarini, one of Britain’s leading historians, is Research Professor in History at Royal Holloway, London University. He has published widely on Anglo-Jewish history and the history of Zionism.

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