Criminal Case 40/61, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann: An Eyewitness Account

Criminal Case 40/61, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann: An Eyewitness Account

by Harry Mulisch
     
 

The trial of Adolf Eichmann began in 1961 under a deceptively simple label, "criminal case 40/61." Hannah Arendt covered the trial for the New Yorker magazine and recorded her observations in Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil. Harry Mulisch was also assigned to cover the trial for a Dutch news weekly. Arendt would later say in her book's

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Overview

The trial of Adolf Eichmann began in 1961 under a deceptively simple label, "criminal case 40/61." Hannah Arendt covered the trial for the New Yorker magazine and recorded her observations in Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil. Harry Mulisch was also assigned to cover the trial for a Dutch news weekly. Arendt would later say in her book's preface that Mulisch was one of the few people who shared her views on the character of Eichmann. At the time, Mulisch was a young and little-known writer; in the years since he has since emerged as an author of major international importance, celebrated for such novels as The Assault and The Discovery of Heaven.

Mulisch modestly called his book on case 40/61 a report, and it is certainly that, as he gives firsthand accounts of the trial and its key players and scenes (the defendant's face strangely asymmetric and riddled by tics, his speech absurdly baroque). Eichmann's character comes out in his incessant bureaucratizing and calculating, as well as in his grandiose visions of himself as a Pontius Pilate-like innocent. As Mulisch intersperses his dispatches from Jerusalem with meditative accounts of a divided and ruined Berlin, an eerily rebuilt Warsaw, and a visit to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Criminal Case 40/61, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann becomes as a disturbing and highly personal essay on the Nazi extermination of European Jews and on the human capacity to commit evil ever more efficiently in an age of technological advancement.

Here presented with a foreword by Debórah Dwork and translated for the first time into English, Criminal Case 40/61 provides the reader with an unsettling portrait not only of Eichmann's character but also of technological precision and expertise. It is a landmark of Holocaust writing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In his book about the Eichmann trial in 1961, Mulisch is engrossed by the enigma of evil: not the incidental fact of pain, nor even the occasional nastiness of man to man, but the innate vastness of wickedness in the cosmos."—Times Literary Supplement

"Mulisch, a celebrated Dutch author who has written in many genres, originally published this account of the Eichmann trial in Holland in 1962. . . . This is the first English translation. . . . Mulisch makes an attempt to understand and expose the enigma that is Adolf Eichmann. . . . . Mulisch's conclusion is that Eichmann acted as a 'machine,' which is in many ways a more chilling conversion to contemplate than being 'hypnotized' by a madman's agenda. . . . All academic libraries should have this primary account."—Library Journal

"Mulisch provides an immensely personal account of the trial . . . that is deftly intertwined with observations of Eichmann the man and Eichmann the myth, as well as observations regarding the development of the Israeli state, which 'had no long-established institutions' and which found in the Eichmann trial a raison d'être, 'an opportunity for creative nation-building.'"—Human Rights & Human Welfare

Library Journal
Mulisch, a celebrated Dutch author who has written in many genres, originally published this account of the Eichmann trial in Holland in 1962, drawing upon his articles for the Dutch journal Elseviers Weekblad. This is the first English translation. Although Hannah Arendt's well-known Eichmann in Jerusalem may be considered the definitive account of the trial, Arendt cites this work as an influence on her own. Mulisch makes an attempt to understand and expose the enigma that is Adolf Eichmann. His chronological and often philosophical account takes him from the trial in Israel to Berlin and Poland in search of the impetus behind Eichmann's motives. Mulisch observes, as Arendt would after him, that Eichmann has become the personification of all Nazis and that the trial has become a "society event" that attributes more importance to Eichmann than he deserves. Mulisch's conclusion is that Eichmann acted as a "machine," which is in many ways a more chilling conversion to contemplate than being "hypnotized" by a madman's agenda. As there are several newer books that have come out about the Eichmann trial, all academic libraries should have this primary account, as well as Arendt's definitive one.-Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll., Painesville, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812220650
Publisher:
University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
Publication date:
04/24/2009
Series:
Personal Takes Series
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

"40/61" is the number of the Eichmann case on the roll of the District Court of Jerusalem. In this volume I give the account of an experience behind this number. An experience is different from a train of thought: it is subject to change. At the end one finds a different person, partly with different thoughts, from at the beginning. Since the account of this changing experience is announced in the first entry, I have not made any corrections anywhere: this was not supposed to be a book about Eichmann, but to remain the double report as it was intended from the start.

What follows are not the chapters of a dissertation but a series of articles originally published in Elseviers Weekblad (a weekly; so that I was relieved of the dailies' demands of providing the news). For that reason I dated them with the day of completion, not of publication, which was usually one week later. This will avoid confusion with the dates of the diary sections. I did rid the text of some inaccuracies, mainly in the diary. I have added a short passage here and there, which would not have been suitable for a weekly. Where possible quotations are in German, for in Dutch (they are no longer what they are: dangerous. For those who cannot read German, one of the most important entrances to criminal case 40/61 will in this way remain closed—maybe that makes them fortunate.

(For this English translation the quotations are given in English, so that this important entrance to criminal case 40/61 will be accessible. All footnotes are the translator's unless otherwise indicated.)

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