Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics)

The controversial journalistic analysis of the mentality that fostered the Holocaust, from the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism   Sparking a flurry of heated debate, Hannah Arendt’s authoritative and stunning report on the trial of German Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann first appeared as a series of articles in The New Yorker in 1963. This

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The controversial journalistic analysis of the mentality that fostered the Holocaust, from the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism
 
Sparking a flurry of heated debate, Hannah Arendt’s authoritative and stunning report on the trial of German Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann first appeared as a series of articles in The New Yorker in 1963. 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.While living in Argentina in 1960, Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was kidnapped and smuggled to Israel where he was put on trial for crimes against humanity. The New Yorker magazine sent Hannah Arendt to cover the trial. While covering the technical aspects of the trial, Arendt also explored the wider themes inherent in the trial, such as the nature of justice, the behavior of the Jewish leadership during the Nazi Régime, and, most controversially, the nature of Evil itself.

Far from being evil incarnate, as the prosecution painted Eichmann, Arendt maintains that he was an average man, a petty bureaucrat interested only in furthering his career, and the evil he did came from the seductive power of the totalitarian state and an unthinking adherence to the Nazi cause. Indeed, Eichmann’s only defense during the trial was “I was just following orders.”

Arendt’s analysis of the seductive nature of evil is a disturbing one. We would like to think that anyone who would perpetrate such horror on the world is different from us, and that such atrocities are rarities in our world. But the history of groups such as the Jews, Kurds, Bosnians, and Native Americans, to name but a few, seems to suggest that such evil is all too commonplace. In revealing Eichmann as the pedestrian little man that he was, Arendt shows us that the veneer of civilization is a thin one indeed.

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Comments

Pretend Person says:

Betwixt Ignorance and Wisdom is Judgement At one level, this book is a report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in which is considered the competency of the court to try Eichmann, the appropriateness of the law, the legality of Eichmann’s kidnapping in Argentina, the fairness of the trail, the adequacy of the defense, the tactics of the prosecution, the conduct of judges etc. Nor, as stated by Hannah Arendt herself in the postscript, is this book intended to be about the greatest disaster in the history of the Jewish people,…

Lisa Nel says:

A timeless philosophical perspective which has been in some ways … A timeless philosophical perspective which has been in some ways misunderstood by its denouement statement, ‘the banality of evil.’ What Arendt meant ( in my opinion) was not that the evil was banal nor that the perpetrators or conspirators should in any way be exempt or exonerated. What she meant was that the banality is in the fight for justice or to understand or to in some way seek recompense for that evil. She leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind of her convictions: she’s as stupefied as…

Thomas M. Magee says:

Troubling and Educational. The Holocaust is an often told story. Hundreds if not thousands of books are written about it. This book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem” has to be the book to read on the subject. The book tells the story of Adolph EIchmann’s trial in Jersusalem for crimes committed in the Holocaust during WWII. This is a trial for a person who personally did not kill one Jew. He was a mere Lt. Colonel in a huge bureaucracy, buried deep down in the organizational chart. How can that be? I think the answers in…

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