Hannah Arendt's incendiary classic. With all respect to Dorie (below), three points: Lippmann and Stangneth cite sources that Arendt did not have access to in 1961; IMO they trust too much to Eichmann's own assessment of himself (he was a boastful and syncophantic man, not prone to deep reflection); and to characterize Arendt's conclusion as "Eichmann was a bloodless, nearly mindless bureaucrat who “never realized what he was doing”' is an extreme oversimplification. I do agree that all three works should be read, not because Lippmann and Stangneth overturn Arendt's findings, but because they add to and improve the portrait of Eichmann. But however valid their findings about this particular man, they miss the larger point Arendt was making. There is much more to her book than Eichmann. It is also a philosophically rich and beautifully written assessment of human behaviour during the Holocaust. If Eichmann was a calculating villain, what about, say Heinz who moved into his Jewish neighbour's apartment? What about Lina who reported the communist couple for printing illegal leaflets? What about the SS officer, who claimed he was forced to commit atrocities in the East, or be killed himself? This is a book about all the people in the world who say they were only following orders, even just the order to remain silent.
Wikipedia defines someone who possesses the "banality of evil" as "an extremely average person who relies on clichéd defenses rather than thinking for himself and is motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology." Respectfully, such cannot be said of Adolf Eichmann. He knew exactly what he was doing and why he did it. He was in it for himself, to be sure, but was one of the biggest cogs in the machine, not a mere apparatchik who followed the "orders are orders" defence. Nevertheless, this is one of the classics in the true crime genre ... and if anyone still doubts the Holocaust happens or the extent of it, this book should disabuse that person of that notion.
This book could almost be listed as a historical document. So many books and articles have been written as a follow up to it. Arendt was assailed with ridicule and threats when the work came out first in article form in the New Yorker. Authors such as Deborah Lippman and now Bettina Stangneth have based years of work not only on the Eichmann issue but strongly refuting Arendt's1961 assertions that Eichmann was a bloodless, nearly mindless bureaucrat who “never realized what he was doing.” if you are interested in the subject-- start with this book...then compare to later works.
This book originated as a series of articles in the New Yorker in the early 60's based on transcripts of the Eichmann trial in Israel. The author asks the questions regarding justice versus vengeance, show trials, evidence, guilt, punishment,precedent etc. Due to the extraordinary nature of the crimes these themes are exemplified by Israel kidnapping and trying Eichmann. The prose is not the greatest but the nature of the events makes this worth reading.
A good book to read on the theme of justice.
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