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Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963)

by Hannah Arendt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,171503,020 (4.17)68
Hannah Arendt's authoritative report on the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann includes further factual material that came to light after the trial, as well as Arendt's postscript directly addressing the controversy that arose over her account.
  1. 40
    The Nuremberg Interviews by Leon Goldensohn (Ronoc)
  2. 20
    The Eichmann Trial by Deborah E. Lipstadt (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: This book describes the ins and outs of the trial and puts both the trial and the Arendt book in historical context.
  3. 20
    Bruder Eichmann : Schauspiel by Heinar Kipphardt (MeisterPfriem, MeisterPfriem)
  4. 20
    Men in Dark Times by Hannah Arendt (Ronoc)
  5. 21
    Hunting Eichmann: how a band of survivors and a young spy agency chased down the world's most notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (EduardoT)
  6. 10
    De zaak 40/61 : een reportage by Harry Mulisch (marieke54, uhibb-l-kutub)
  7. 00
    Justice at Nuremberg by Robert E. Conot (TheLittlePhrase)
  8. 00
    Hannah Arendt (film) by Margarethe von Trotta (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Der biografische Film von Margarethe von Trotta über Hannah Arendt stellt den Eichmann-Prozess in den Mittelpunkt. Der Film enthält sowohl fiktionale als auch Dokumentarausschnitte aus dem Prozess. Das Buch "[...] von der Banalität des Bösen" wird zum Prüfstein ihrer Freundschaften.… (more)
  9. 11
    A Train of Powder by Rebecca West (inge87)
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» See also 68 mentions

English (38)  Italian (6)  Spanish (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (50)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
One of the most difficult books I've ever read, but quite worth it. "The banality of evil" largely describes the life of Eichmann, who was essentially a loser, helped into a position by his father, and then who played fairly minor roles in the Nazi administration. He boasted excessively about his role, and his role did bring him into contact with Jewish groups as a go-between, so at some point he was viewed as a major figure in the holocaust. He escaped to Argentina and lived in poverty there, bragging about his role during the war, and then was kidnapped by the Israelis and brought to a trial in Israel. The trial itself was seriously flawed, to the point where the conviction and execution created bad precedents for the future.

The best evidence seems to suggest Eichmann didn't play a particularly major part in the mass killings of the holocaust, and may not have directly killed anyone, but did facilitate forced displacements and other crimes.

The author certainly doesn't excuse Eichmann for his crimes -- she outlined the other similar precedents (Gestapo arresting someone overseas, and an Armenian private citizen who killed someone responsible for the pogrom against Armenians and using that as his defense), and essentially argued that the court should have conducted some things differently (permitted defense witnesses, excluded some prosecution witnesses who were irrelevant) and sentenced Eichmann to hang for different reasons than it did. I'm not really sold on that (I think simply assassinating him overseas would have been the morally and politically correct course of action), but it was interesting that for even questioning events to this degree she has been pilloried as an anti-semite or pro-nazi or whatever. ( )
  octal | Jan 1, 2021 |
It's very hard to see, at this point, what on earth in this book made everyone so angry, and, apparently, still does make everyone so angry. Arendt's argument here (though note that in other places she insists, disingenuously, that she made no argument and just presented the facts) is that ordinary people do evil things ('banality of evil'), that this is best understood in the context of modern bureaucracy, and that the Eichmann trials bear more than a little resemblance to Soviet show trials--with the key difference being that Eichmann deserved to be put on show.

Perhaps what angers people is Arendt's general slipperiness. She extols the impersonality of justice over the personal nature of power, but never seems to worry that bureaucratic impersonality and judicial impersonality are uncomfortably similar. She criticizes the Eichmann court for admitting so much irrelevant 'evidence,' in the form of holocaust survivor's testimony--the court, she says, can only judge the moral guilt of a person for their actions, the court is not the place for social theory or wider considerations. And she's right... but her book is not a court, and she uses the "in court we can only judge one person, not a society" argument to avoid dealing with larger historical and social questions (*why* in Germany?)

She has a good reason for this: claiming that 'all are guilty' erases important distinctions between, e.g., Eichmann, and a Hausfrau just trying not to get imprisoned by the SS. Analyzing societies tends to suggest that everyone in the society is guilty to some degree. Therefore analyzing societies would erase the distinction between Eichmann and our Hausfrau.

Arendt wants to think and write about human freedom; she wants to stand against the social-engineering of totalitarian societies; she wants to do this so badly that she simply refuses to engage with the *actually existing* social engineering that goes on even in democratic societies (see: mass media); she refuses to engage with the actually occurring structural forces that shape our world (see: global capitalism).

So although Arendt is, on the one hand, the smartest person in the room (particularly when that is a court-room), she also comes across as stunningly obtuse. She seems to be caught halfway between traditional philosophy (she remained close to and impressed by Karl Jaspers), political theory (obsessed as it is with political freedoms and giving short shrift, all too often, to social issues), and social theory. She seems to have realized that one can't analyze the modern world without social theory, but also to fear it, as if the analysis of social determination was itself social determination, and not a necessary step towards recognizing and overcoming the forces that shape our world.

I don't think this is the only way to hold on to a sense of human freedom, and it's tremendously frustrating to read this brilliant woman--head and shoulders above almost all twentieth century theorists--not engage with the most important intellectual tradition of her time. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Hannah Arendt captures the character of Adolph Eichmann in this reportage on his trial in Jerusalem. She notes that he had an "almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow's point of view." ( )
  jwhenderson | Sep 23, 2020 |
קראתי את הספר כשהוא הופיע בעברית סוף סוף לפני שנים. התרשמתי אז אבל בימים אלה הרגשתי צורך לקרוא אותו מחדש, גם בגלל ההתעסקות שלי בהשמדת יהודות הונגריה וגם בגלל ההרגשה ההולכת ומתחזקת שלי שעלינו ללמוד על הנאצים כדי להילחם במה שקורה אצלנו. הפעם קראתי אותו במהדורה לא מצונזרת ובאנגלית והתרשמתי הרבה יותר. ראשית משום שזה סיפור מדהים ומקפיא שארנדט מספרת אותו בדיוק כפי שצריך, ביובש, עם הרגשת צדק וכעס ובלי סנטימנטליות ועם מאזן נכון בין הכללי לפרטי. למעשה, למרות שארנדט טוענת שהיא עוסקת רק במשפט לא פחות ולא יותר, אני חושב שזה ספר מדהים ללמוד ממנו על השואה. הסיבה השנייה היא שהספר מעלה מספר שאלות חשובות מאין כמוהן. החשיבות של האחריות האישית, התפקיד של הנהגת היהודים בסיוע לשואה, החשיבות של הפעולה העצמאית - מי שמנסה להציל את עצמו לפעמים ניצל, מי שלא לרוב מושמד. ההבדלים בין ההתנהגות של עמים שונים בזמן השואה. ייזכרו לטוב הדנים, ההולנדים, הבולגרים, האיטלקים. ייזכרו לרעה הרומנים. הלקח החשוב שגם נגד כוח אכזרי ככוח הנאצי אפשר להתנגד ובהצלחה. ספר חשוב ומרתק. אפשר להבין למה לא כולם בארץ אהבו אותו אבל זה רק ציון לשבח לספר. ( )
  amoskovacs | Sep 10, 2020 |
I read the Dutch version. ( )
  NankoTeunis | Jun 3, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Adolf Eichmann administrerte Nazi-Tysklands deportering av jøder til utryddelsesleirene, og sto i 1961 tiltalt for "forbrytelser mot det jødiske folk og mot menneskeheten". Filosofen og statsviteren Hannah Arendt, som selv hadde sittet i Gestapos fengsel, dekket rettssaken i Jerusalem som reporter for magasinet The New Yorker.
Det vår fornuft ikke kan fatte, hevdet hun, var at denne 55-årige, skallete, tynne, lutende og pregløse noksagt av en forhenværende SS-Obersturmbannführer, der han satt i glassburet i Jerusalem i 1961, kunne ha forvoldt så mye lidelse fra sitt skrivebord.

Hannah Arendts bok reiser de ufravikelige og ubehagelige spørsmål om ondskapens vesen i vår tid: Er så mye lidelse bare mulig fordi offeret umenneskeliggjøres som "undermennesker" av altomfattende ideologier? Er slike forbrytelser bare mulig fordi de kan dirigeres av skrivebordsmordere langt fra ofrenes skrik og nedverdigelser? Er slike massive folkemord bare tenkelig i et byråkrati som pulveriserer det personlige ansvar?

I dagens Europa er Adolf Eichmann en uhyggelig påminnelse om hvilke grusomheter et lydig menneske kan få seg til å begå, når ønsket om å tekkes sine overordnede overskygger alt.

"Det er min dype overbevisning at ondskapen aldri er 'radikal', at ondskap bare er ekstremt, og at ondskapen verken besitter dybde eller en demonisk dimensjon. ... Der ligger dens 'banalitet'. Bare det gode har dybde og kan bli radikalt."
Hannah Arendt i et brev til Gershom Scholem, 1963

"I Hannah Arendts person møtte jeg en hel epoke i europeisk politisk kultur. Hun er en personlighet som har fulgt meg siden, og som ingen kan unngå som ønsker å forstå 'vår tids byrde', de totalitære diktaturer."

Professor Bernt Hagtvet i det innledende essayet til Eichmann i Jerusalem. En rapport om ondskapens banalitet.
 

» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arendt, Hannahprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guérin, AnneTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaddon, WandaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Half a dozen psychiatrists had certified him [Eichmann] as 'normal'–'More normal, at any rate, than I am after having examined him,' one of them was said to exclaim."
"The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else."
"In Israel, as in most other countries, a person appearing in court is deemed innocent until proven guilty. But in the case of Eichmann this was an obvious fiction."
"For just as a murderer is prosecuted because he has violated the law of the community, and not because he has deprived the Smith family of its husband, father, and breadwinner, so these modern, state-employed mass murderers must be prosecuted because they violated the order of mankind, and not because they killed millions of people."
"The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal...that this new type of criminal...commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or feel that he is doing wrong,"
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Hannah Arendt's authoritative report on the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann includes further factual material that came to light after the trial, as well as Arendt's postscript directly addressing the controversy that arose over her account.

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Penguin Australia

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