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She concluded that Eichmann's inability to speak coherently in court was connected with his incapacity to think, or to think from another person's point of view. His shallowness was by no means identical with stupidity. He personified neither hatred or madness nor an insatiable thirst for blood, but something far worse, the faceless nature of Nazi evil itself, within a closed system run by pathological gangsters, aimed at dismantling the human personality of its victims. The Nazis had succeeded in turning the legal order on its head, making the wrong and the malevolent the foundation of a new “righteousness.” In the Third Reich evil lost its distinctive characteristic by which most people had until then recognized it. The Nazis redefined it as a civil norm. Conventional goodness became a mere temptation which most Germans were fast learning to resist. Within this upside-down world Eichmann (perhaps like Pol Pot four decades later) seemed not to have been aware of having done evil. In matters of elementary morality, Arendt warned, what had been thought of as decent instincts were no longer to be taken for granted.
In The Origins of Totalitarianism she still held on to a Kantian notion of radical evil, the evil that, under the Nazis, corrupted the basis of moral law, exploded legal categories, and defied human judgment. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, and in the bitter controversies about it that followed, she insisted that only good had any depth. Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet—and this is its horror!—it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.
Eichmann was ambitious and eager to rise in the ranks, but he would not have killed his superior to inherit his job. Nor did he display any distinctive thought of his own. It was his “banality” that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of his time, Arendt claimed. She complained that while in the trial Eichmann had been accused, absurdly she thought, of having been the very architect, the brain, behind the Holocaust, his essential brainlessness was never even brought up or discussed. It wasn't discussed partly because it was so hard to grasp. But it also was left unmentioned because Eichmann's trial was a show trial, staged by Ben-Gurion at least partly for political reasons to prove conclusively that the Holocaust had simply been the largest anti-Semitic pogrom in history.
Eichmann's alleged banality was the main reason the book provoked such a storm. Most people still assumed that murder was committed by monsters or demons. Another reason was a brief comment on the Nazi-appointed “Jewish Councils” (Judenräte). Unable to see through the Nazi scheme, acting in the vain hope that they were serving the best interests of local Jews, the distinguished notables of the Judenräte had inadvertently become instruments of Nazi determination to eliminate a maximum number of Jews with a minimum of administrative effort and cost. Neither of the two points, of course, was new. Dostoevsky would not have regarded Arendt's “banality of evil” as a cheap catchword, as Gershom Scholem did in an open letter to Arendt accusing her of heartlessness. When the devil visits Karamazov, he turns out to be a shabby, stupid, and vulgar lout. Before Arendt, others had emphasized the discrepancy between the personal mediocrity of monsters like Hitler or Stalin and the horrendous evil they unleashed on the world. Nearly everybody who attended the trials of mass killers after the war, some of them respected doctors and pharmacists, came away with the disconcerting impression that the killers looked pretty much like you and me. The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him,” the implication being that the coexistence of normality and bottomless cruelty explodes our ordinary conceptions and present the true enigma of the trial. In a similar vein, Simone de Beauvoir said that at his trial after the war the French Nazi Pierre Laval seemed commonplace and inconsequential, an unimaginative and feeble little fellow.
Similarly, long before Arendt's book, many in Israel and elsewhere had charged the Judenräte with complicity in the Nazi scheme. Six years before the book came out, in a sensational libel case heard in the District Court of Jerusalem, the presiding judge had spoken far more critically about the Judenräte and about Jewish collaboration with the Nazis than Arendt did in that brief passage. Similar charges had been made for years in several well-known books, Jean-Francois Steiner's Treblinka, Tadeusz Borowski's This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, and, of course, Raul Hilberg's monumental The Destruction of the European Jews, a book that Arendt repeatedly referred to.
What was new and especially provocative in Arendt's account was the insistence on challenging Jewish communal leadership. What might they have done differently? Her answers, offered only tentatively, derived from her view of the function of truth in politics. Should the Judenräte have told the Jews the truth, when they knew it, about where they were being deported to? How many might have been able to save themselves somehow had they known the truth? Why were the Judenräe notables so disciplined and servile to authority?
Some community leaders were well aware that the deportees were going directly to Auschwitz (and not to some resettlement area in the east as the Nazis claimed). Open rebellion was of course unthinkable under the circumstances. On the other hand, why didn't the leaders of the Jewish councils refuse to accept the responsibilities assigned them by the Nazis? Insofar as they had moral authority, why didn't they advise the Jews to run for their lives or try to go underground? If there had been no Jewish organizations at all and no Judenräte, Arendt suggested, the deportation machine could not have run as smoothly as it did. The Nazis might have been forced to drag out millions of people, one by one from their homes. In such circumstances, could not more Jews have been saved?
If the Judenräte had not been so “Germanically” disciplined, if they hadn't compiled detailed lists of potential deportees, if they hadn't supplied the Nazis with these lists, if they had refrained from collecting the keys and detailed inventories of vacated apartments for the Nazis to hand over to “Aryans,” if they hadn't summoned the deportees to show up on a certain day, at a certain hour, at a certain railway station with provisions for a three- or four-day journey, would fewer people have died? Others had asked such questions before. But Arendt went further, implying that Jewish leaders had inadvertently allowed themselves to fall into a fiendish trap and become part of the system of victimization.
“The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been unorganized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people,” she wrote.
It is clear why this sentence was seen by so many as insensitive and shocking. That the Jews did have leaders and notables and local and national organizations was well known. Many had served them well in the past. Many were doing their best to ameliorate suffering. Only a few among them fully understood the extent of Nazi plans for genocide. What would Arendt have said of these leaders if they had fled abroad, as many of them certainly could have, abandoning the Jews who depended on them? Would her argument have been less shocking had Arendt shown more understanding for the ghastly dilemmas facing the leaders who remained behind? Would she have shocked less if she had raised questions about their behavior instead of contemptuously attacking them? She did recognize that beleaguered people have a tendency to hope against hope that somehow things will turn out better if they can only buy time. Would she have shocked her readers less had she registered doubt instead of attacking? Would it have shocked less had she said explicitly that the Jewish leaders “inadvertently” collaborated in their own destruction? This was certainly what she meant to say.
3.
Walter Laqueur wrote early in the controversy that Arendt was attacked less for what she said th
an for how she said it. She was inexcusably flippant, as when she referred to Leo Baeck, the revered former chief rabbi and head of the Berlin Judenräte, as the “Jewish Führer” (she excised the remark in the second printing). At times her style was brash and insolent, the tone professorial and imperious. She took a certain pleasure in paradox and her sarcasm and irony seemed out of place in a discussion of the Holocaust. A good example was her obviously ironic remark that Eichmann had become a convert to the Zionist solution of the Jewish problem. It was widely misunderstood and misinterpreted.
Her sarcasm was often self-defeating. Arendt's biographer Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has wisely written that Arendt posed the true moral issue but obscured it with needless irony. With chutzpah too, perhaps. Too often she claimed a monopoly on “objectivity” and truth, not just truth but, repeatedly, “the whole truth,” e.g “the whole truth was,” “the whole truth is.” She claimed to “understand” Eichmann better than others and freely dispensed advice to the prosecutor and defense lawyer (she despised both) and to the three judges, whom she admired. Eichmann's judges, immigrants from Weimar Germany, come off best in her book.
We now know from her private correspondence that she had come to Jerusalem with preconceived ideas about Israel, its political system, its government, and its policies toward the Arabs. She was horrified by Ben-Gurion's attempt to use the trial as a means of creating a sense of national unity among a mass of demoralized new immigrants. She also had a tendency to draw absolute conclusions on the basis of casual evidence. The Israeli police force, she wrote to Jaspers, “gives me the creeps, speaks only Hebrew, and looks Arabic. Some downright brutal types among them. They would obey any order.” If she really believed this, it is little wonder that she also believed that Ben-Gurion had staged the trial solely to force more reparations money out of the German government. She was sure that Ben-Gurion had a secret agreement with Adenauer not to allow the name of the notorious Hans Globke to come up during the trial. Globke was a high official in Adenauer's government who, under the Nazis, had compiled the official legal commentary to the Nuremberg racial laws. Globke's name nevertheless came up time and again during the trial.
Outside the courthouse doors, she decried the “oriental mob,” as if one were in Istanbul or some other half-Asiatic country. She was rightly horrified by “the peies and caftan Jews—Orthodox East European Jews—who make life impossible for all the reasonable people here.” Reasonable Israelis, in Arendt's eyes, were the yekkes, German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Austria, including her own relatives and old friends from Freiburg, Heidelberg, and Berlin. It was fortunate, she told Jaspers, that Eichmann's three judges were of German origin, indeed “the best of German Jewry.” Jaspers answered back in the same vein: “Let us hope the three German Jews gain control.”
She overreacted to the shoddy patriotism of the chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner, who used the trial to serve Ben-Gurion's deterministic view of Jewish history. In a letter to Jaspers she described Hausner as “a typical Galician Jew, very unsympathetic, boring, constantly making mistakes. Probably one of those people who don't know any language.” It would have been interesting to hear what she might have said later when, under the governments of Golda Meir and Menachem Begin, the Holocaust was mystified into the heart of a new civil religion and at the same time exploited to justify Israel's refusal to withdraw from occupied territory. She certainly had a point in criticizing Israel for its overly nationalistic and too rapid claim of a particular moral value. But she overdid it.
In later years, Arendt agreed that some of her catchwords were erroneous or exaggerated. Most mistaken was the famous or infamous subtitle on the cover of her book. The phrase “banality of evil” entered popular dictionaries and books of familiar quotations. In retrospect, she was sorry she had used it. It had led her into an ambush. Were she writing now, she told a television interviewer in 1971, she would not have used those words. By the time she said this, the great uproar was over. She still stood accused of exculpating the murderers and offending the memory of the dead.
Her comments on the Judenrate took up only a dozen out of 312 pages. They were in no way essential to the book's main argument. She seems to have added them almost as an afterthought after rereading Raul Hilberg's book. She was outraged at Hausner's self-righteous berating of certain witnesses with questions like “Why did you not rebel?” The tragic role of the Judenräte was barely mentioned at the trial, least of all by the prosecution. This made her suspicious. Her quarrel was not with the murdered Jews but with some of their leaders and with the Israeli prosecution, which she suspected was covering up for them. Her suspicion would be proven right. The aim of the show trial had not been to convict Eichmann or examine the Judenräte. Two decades after the trial, the deputy prosecutor Gabriel Bach (later a Supreme Court Justice) told an interviewer that if all those witnesses had appeared in court and told stories of the Judenräte, “no one would have remembered Eichmann!”
At first, Arendt could not understand the uproar over her remarks on the Judenräte. Then she decided it was because she had inadvertently dragged out a past that had not been laid to rest. She became slightly paranoid, convincing herself that prominent ex-members of the Judenräte now occupied high positions in the Israeli government. But the only name she was able to cite was that of a low-ranking press officer in a minor Israeli ministry.
The tone of reviews in the American press seemed to confirm her worst suspicions. The New York Times picked an associate of the Israeli chief prosecutor (!) to review the book. In the left-wing Partisan Review, a journal that had lionized her and published her work for years, Lionel Abel now wrote that she had made Eichmann “aesthetically palatable, while his victims are aesthetically repulsive.” Eichmann, Abel claimed, came off better in her book than his victims.
The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith sent out a circular, urging rabbis throughout America to denounce Arendt from the pulpit on the Jewish high holidays. Similar measures would later be made against Rolf Hochhuth for displacing guilt from the Nazis to the pope. Hochhuth, of course, had done nothing of the sort. Nor had Arendt diminished Eichmann's immense guilt, for which, she felt, he more than deserved to die. The Judenräte had made the task of the Nazis easier but the Nazis alone had slaughtered the Jews.
The scandal soon grew to outsize proportions. Saul Bellow excoriated Arendt in Mr. Sammler's Planet for using the tragic history of the Holocaust to promote the foolish ideas of Weimar intellectuals. Banality is the adopted disguise of a very powerful will to abolish conscience.
A nationwide campaign was launched in the United States to discredit her in the academic world. There was a startling disproportion between the ferocity of the reaction and its immediate cause. A group of lecturers—some flown in from Israel and England—toured the country decrying Arendt as a “self-hating Jew,” the “Rosa Luxemburg of Nothingness.” Four separate Jewish organizations hired scholars to go through her text, line by line, in order to discredit it and to find mistakes though most of them turned out to be minor: incorrect dates and misspelled names. A review of the book in the Intermountain Jewish News was head-lined “Self-hating Jewess writes pro-Eichmann book.” Other reviewers criticized her for saying that Eichmann's trial had been a “show trial.” But Ben-Gurion's intentions from the beginning when he ordered Eichmann kidnapped and brought to trial in Israel and in his public statement afterward certainly gave credence to the view that it was indeed a show trial. Its purpose, in Ben-Gurion's words, was to “educate the young” and the entire world and to give the Jewish people a voice in making a historic accounting with its persecutors. In France, the weekly Nouvel Observateur published selected excerpts of the book and asked, “Estelle nazie?” (Is she [Arendt] a Nazi?)
The reaction in Israel to Arendt's comments on the Judenräte was generally milder than in the United States. The first reviews in the Israeli press were respectful. The respected Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reprinted long excerpts of the book in a gener
ally sympathetic context. This was not surprising. In admonishing the Judenräte, Arendt had sounded more like the old-fashioned Zionist she had once been. Zionism, after all, had been a movement of Jewish self-criticism.
Months later, the literary critic Shlomo Grodzensky, a recent immigrant from the United States, launched the first Israeli attack on Arendt in the semi-official daily Davar. He began by criticizing Arendt's willingness to publish her text in The New Yorker among advertisements for Tiffany jewelry and elegant fur coats. Grodzensky insinuated that she had done it for material gain. He decried the “deadly undermining element in a Jew of Mrs. Arendt's type. She is the poison that feeds on itself and wanders with her everywhere, even to Auschwitz and Jerusalem.” No Israeli publisher brought out a translation but a book-length diatribe against Eichmann, a translation from an American book, was published as early as 1965. The first Hebrew translation of Eichmann in Jerusalem (or any of Arendt's other books) came out only in 1999.

The Eichmann trial at Jerusalem in 1961 for The New Yorker, where this account, slightly abbreviated, was originally published in February and March, 1963. The book was written in the summer and fall of 1962, and finished in November of that year during my stay as a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University.

Author: Hannah Arendt Submitted by: Maria Garcia 10110 Views View Chapter List Add a Review

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  2. This thesis examines the rhetorical significance of Hannah Arendt's report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). Author: Andrew Aaron Fransblow. Publisher: ISBN: OCLC:318364344. Category: Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) Page: 160.
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The main characters of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil novel are Adolf Eichmann, Emma. The book has been awarded with Booker Prize, Edgar Awards and many others.

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Author: Hannah Arendt
Book Format: Paperback
Original Title: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Number Of Pages: 312 pages
First Published in: May 17th 1963
Latest Edition: December 7th 2006
Language: English
Generes: History, Non Fiction, Philosophy, Politics, World War Ii, Holocaust, War, World War Ii ,
Main Characters: Adolf Eichmann
Formats: audible mp3, ePUB(Android), kindle, and audiobook.

The book can be easily translated to readable Russian, English, Hindi, Spanish, Chinese, Bengali, Malaysian, French, Portuguese, Indonesian, German, Arabic, Japanese and many others.

Please note that the characters, names or techniques listed in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil is a work of fiction and is meant for entertainment purposes only, except for biography and other cases. we do not intend to hurt the sentiments of any community, individual, sect or religion

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