Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

by Hannah Arendt, Amos Elon
3.8 8

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Eichmann in Jerusalem 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
lfphd More than 1 year ago
People seem most upset by the author's reluctance to agree with the commonly accepted profile of Adolf Eichmann as a rabid anti-semitic, and the quinttessential personification of evil. Emotionally it is not easy to accept that the evil men do is often times more evil than are the men themselves. The opposite is also true. But when evil is done, there must be some evil force that did it. There is, but it is not necessarily an individual man, but, rather, mankind itself. The alternative to blaming this on Eichmann is to blame it on our kind, which in some small yet uncomfortable way, means blaming it on ouselves. Freud knew about the dark side of humankind as pervasive and not restrictive to a certain few. Given the right circumstances we would be surprised who is and who is not capable of evil acts. When the author seems to let Eichmann off the hook, she puts humanity itself in his place. That is uncomfortable, especially to those not in touch with their dark side. Those people, by the way, are usually the most dangerous. They can't fight against their darkest impulses because they don't acknowledge their existence in the first place. What happened in Germany during the 1930's and 40's could happen anywhere, including here, given the right circumstances. These circumstances are unknown to Americans. Imagine 3-400% inflation etc., etc. In the final analysis, what happened was not the fault of one evil man, but of the pervassive evil that permeates humankind.
ProfessorBoh More than 1 year ago
In the historiography of the Holocaust Arendt has been controversial. However, as Elon points out in his introduction the controversy has arisen because of Arendt's style of writing. Heavily laced with sarcasm "Eichman in Jerusalem" is not so much a history of the trial nor the Holocaust. Instead, it is a commentary that raises questions about Eichman's role in the Holocaust. Was he the architect of it? Was he just one of Christopher Browning's "Ordinary Men"? Or was he something in between? To understand Arendt's view it is best to read her own words. In doing so it helps one to try to understand how something as incomprehensible as the Holocaust could occur.
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Hannah Arendt is without question one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century.She is of all political philosophers the most convincing and profound analyst of the totalitarian mind .Her great power in thought and her great reputation were perhaps only partly responsible for the distorted judgment which made this particular work a permanent stain on her reputation, not only as a thinker, but as a moral human being.For in this account of the trial of one of the principle perpetrators of the murder of European Jewry she places herself as judge and jury not simply above those in the courtroom in Jerusalem, but above Jewish history itself. In so doing she whether willingly or not seems to somehow diminish the evil of the perpetrators of the crime ( 'the banality of evil') and to indict the victims or at least their leaders for being partly responsible for this. What offends in all this is the arrogance of her tone , and her somehow distancing herself from the victims . She writes as if she is above the Jewish cultural and religious tradition which she knows only superficially. Her point of reference and belonging is to the great tradition of European thought , whose demonic underside and strong anti - Semitic face she does not truly portray.