Eichmann[ edit ] Arendt takes Eichmann's court testimony and the historical evidence available, and she makes several observations about Eichmann: Eichmann stated himself in court that he had always tried to abide by Immanuel Kant 's categorical imperative as discussed directly on pp. Next, he was at the center of a widely publicized show trial in Jerusalem. Arendt noted that, during both his SS career and Jerusalem trial, Eichmann tried to cover up his lack of skills and education, and even "blushed" when these facts came to light. Still, former Ministry Official and present Undersecretary of State Globke doubtless had more right than the former Mufti of Jerusalem to figure in the history of what the Jews had actually suffered at the hands of the Nazis. In view of the scrupulous fairness of all the technical arrangements for the trial, it is among the minor mysteries of the new State of Israel that, with its high percentage of German-born people, it was unable to find an adequate translator into the only language the accused and his counsel could understand.
Share via Email Fifty years ago the writer and philosopher Hannah Arendt witnessed the end of the trial of Adolf Eichmann , one of the major figures in the organisation of the Holocaust. She objected to Eichmann's treatment as a scapegoat; she criticised some of the ways that Israel used the trial to establish and legitimate its own legal authority and national aspirations. The man was either made to stand for all of nazism and for every Nazi, or he was considered the ultimately pathological individual. He acted without any motive other than to diligently advance his career in the Nazi bureaucracy. If Arendt thought existing notions of legal intention and national criminal courts were inadequate to the task of grasping and adjudicating Nazi crimes, it was also because she thought that nazism performed an assault against thinking. Coined by political theorist Hannah Arendt, the phrase has stood the test of time.
She thought the trials failed to understand the man and his deeds. The audience is supposed to represent the whole world, and in the first few weeks it indeed consisted chiefly of newspapermen and magazine writers who had flocked to Jerusalem from the four corners of the earth. In her view, no thinking being can plot or commit genocide. There are a few reasons for this.
While she acknowledges that the Sassen Papers were not disclosed in the lifetime of Arendt, she argues that the evidence was there at the trial to prove that Eichmann was an antisemitic murderer and that Arendt simply ignored this. Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi lieutenant colonel responsible for transporting countless Jews to concentration camps and, in most cases, to their deaths, escaped Germany after World War II and made his way to Argentina, where he lived under a false name until
On Eichmann's personality, Arendt concludes: Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man was not a "monster," but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown. She thought the trials failed to understand the man and his deeds. Thank you, no more questions. While she acknowledges that the Sassen Papers were not disclosed in the lifetime of Arendt, she argues that the evidence was there at the trial to prove that Eichmann was an antisemitic murderer and that Arendt simply ignored this. Ben-Gurion had outlined them before the trial started, in a number of articles that were designed to explain why Israel had kidnapped the accused. Occasional harsh sentences were even less reassuring, for they were meted out to offenders like Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, a former S.
One was S. And since this suspicion would have been fatal to the entire enterprise [his trial], and was also rather hard to sustain in view of the sufferings he and his like had caused to millions of people, his worst clowneries were hardly noticed and almost never reported p. In some respects, the lessons were superfluous, and in others they were positively misleading. And that's fine, really. According to his findings, Arendt attended only part of the trial, witnessing Eichmann's testimony for "at most four days" and basing her writings mostly on recordings and the trial transcript. They know that the system which succeeds in destroying its victim before he mounts the scaffold.
Beyond the understanding of a human being? What had become banal was the attack on thinking, and this itself, for her, was devastating and consequential. If the audience was to be the world and the play was to be the huge panorama of Jewish suffering, the reality was falling short of expectations and failing to accomplish its purpose. Of course, they can have such thoughts, formulate and implement genocidal policy, as Eichmann clearly did, but such calculations cannot be called thinking, in her view.
And the court sentenced him to four years, two and a half of which he had already served while waiting in jail. On Eichmann's personality, Arendt concludes: Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man was not a "monster," but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown.
Arendt mentions, as a case in point, Denmark : One is tempted to recommend the story as required reading in political science for all students who wish to learn something about the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action and in resistance to an opponent possessing vastly superior means of violence.
Eichmann claimed this changed when he was charged with carrying out the Final Solution , at which point Arendt claims "he had ceased to live according to Kantian principles, that he had known it, and that he had consoled himself with the thoughts that he no longer 'was master of his own deeds,' that he was unable 'to change anything'" p. Photo courtesy Wikipedia Can one do evil without being evil?
In this way, her view recalls that of Hermann Cohen, who argued tragically in the early part of the 20th century that Jews would find greater protections and cultural belonging in Germany than in any Zionist project that would take them to Palestine. He is almost always mentioned, but never explored. The man demonstrated his unrealistic worldview and crippling lack of communication skills through reliance on "officialese" Amtssprache and the euphemistic Sprachregelung convention of speech that made implementation of Hitler's policies "somehow palatable. The transcripts assembled and analyzed in this history provide a previously unseen portrait of the Third Reich in defeat. He invoked "duty" in an effort to explain his own version of Kantianism. Remarkable for us, no doubt, is Arendt's conviction that only philosophy could have saved those millions of lives.