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Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer

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A total and groundbreaking reassessment of the life of Adolf Eichmann—a superb work of scholarship that reveals his activities and notoriety among a global network of National Socialists following the collapse of the Third Reich and that permanently challenges Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil.”

Smuggled out of Europe after the collapse of Germany, Eichmann managed to live a peaceful and active exile in Argentina for years before his capture by the Mossad. Though once widely known by nicknames such as “Manager of the Holocaust,” in 1961 he was able to portray himself, from the defendant’s box in Jerusalem, as an overworked bureaucrat following orders—no more, he said, than “just a small cog in Adolf Hitler’s extermination machine.” How was this carefully crafted obfuscation possible? How did a central architect of the Final Solution manage to disappear? And what had he done with his time while in hiding?

Bettina Stangneth, the first to comprehensively analyze more than 1,300 pages of Eichmann’s own recently discovered written notes— as well as seventy-three extensive audio reel recordings of a crowded Nazi salon held weekly during the 1950s in a popular district of Buenos Aires—draws a chilling portrait, not of a reclusive, taciturn war criminal on the run, but of a highly skilled social manipulator with an inexhaustible ability to reinvent himself,  an unrepentant murderer eager for acolytes with whom to discuss past glories while vigorously planning future goals with other like-minded fugitives.

A work that continues to garner immense international attention and acclaim, Eichmann Before Jerusalem maps out the astonishing links between innumerable past Nazis—from ace Luftwaffe pilots to SS henchmen—both in exile and in Germany, and reconstructs in detail the postwar life of one of the Holocaust’s principal organizers as no other book has done

608 pages, Hardcover

First published June 10, 2011

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About the author

Bettina Stangneth

18 books11 followers
Bettina Stangneth is a German philosopher. Known for her work on antisemitism and National Socialism, she is the author of several books, including Eichmann Before Jerusalem (2014), which won an NDR Kultur Sachbuchpreis (non-fiction book award) in 2011 when it was first published in German.[

Stangneth was awarded her PhD by the University of Hamburg in 1997 for a thesis on Immanuel Kant.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 81 reviews
Profile Image for Andrew Robins.
116 reviews11 followers
November 9, 2014
I read a lot of WW2 history, and - as is probably going to be the case with most people who tackle this book - approached this work being familiar with Hannah Arendt's writing on the subject, and in particular the phrase "banality of evil". Eichmann as a cog in a big machine, a faceless bureaucrat, shifting around people with the same detachment you'd expect him to ship around any form of cargo. Eichmann not driven by hate or dogma, Eichmann the civil servant, the back office guy keeping his head down and doing his job. Evil rendered banal.

This excellent book demolishes that. It shows that Eichmann was in fact manipulative, self-serving, as ideological, as driven by hatred as the men he worked with both during and after the war. A man riven by a conflict between his pride, his need to cling on to a status "earned" during the years of the holocaust, on one hand, and the need to lay low in South America after the war.

I had always known the story of his abduction by Mossad, and his trial in Jerusalem, and - naturally - had assumed that this had been a case of a long manhunt, of a man who had taken huge care to cover his tracks, a man who stuck to his new identity in order to keep the past at bay. It turns out that this wasn't the case.

Eichmann was, at times, remarkably open about his true identity. Comfortable in his circle of fellow believers, a circle which allowed him to cling on to some semblance of prestige, of rank, the number of people who knew who he really was, and what he had done, was remarkable. His case is an interesting contrast with Mengele, who was, by comparison, obsessive about the need to lay low. Mengele lived till 1979, and even then died in an accident, whereas Eichmann went to the gallows in 1962.

The degree to which fugitive Nazis were able to feel comfortable in Argentina is remarkable. Even after their protector Peron fell from power, this continued. These are things we have known for years, but Stangneth makes it shockingly clear how lethargic the West German government agencies (themselves the post war homes of many men with highly questionable wartime CVs) were, both at home and abroad, in their "pursuit" of war criminals. Eichmann could have been brought to justice the best part of a decade earlier, had there been the slightest inclination amongst those who held the information to do something about it.

This is an excellent, extremely scholarly book. It is amongst the best researched books I have read in a long time. I read it on the Kindle, and was surprised when the book ended showing I was on 51% - the remaining 49% consisting of footnotes and references, which gives you an idea of how meticulously researched it was.

If you are thinking about reading it and only have a casual interest in the subject, you might want to flick through a copy first. An easy read, it is not. A rewarding one, very much so.

In so much as we still care about subjects like this in the modern world (and we should), this is a very important book, both for the insight it gives into Eichmann, as well as the light it casts on the post war reaction to those who committed such horrible crimes.
Profile Image for Steven Z..
598 reviews122 followers
October 4, 2014
Bettina Strangneth new book, EICHMANN BEFORE JERUSALEM: THE UNEXAMINED LIFE OF A MASS MURDERER offers a major reassessment of how we should interpret the life of the man whose work was integral to the extermination of six million Jews during World War II. After his capture by the Israeli Mossad in 1960, Adolf Eichmann tried to convince people that he was a small cog in the Nazi bureaucracy and that he was not a mass murderer. He tried to present himself as a man who was always in the background during his Nazi career and was not involved in any major decision making. In 1963 following the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt published her work, EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM: A REPORT ON THE BANALITY OF EVIL where she argued that her subject was nothing more than a bureaucrat who performed his tasks as best as he could, like a good civil servant who wanted to further his career. He went to work each day and tried to meet the goals that his job demanded. If his work involved “evil,” that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was just carrying out what his superiors expected of him. Arendt’s line of thinking was very controversial at the time and it went against the generally accepted idea that, in fact, Eichmann was guilty, and was not an ordinary man who was turned into a thoughtless murderer by a totalitarian regime. Following his escape after the war Eichmann claims to have been “an empty shell,” an apolitical person who tried to enjoy a normal life with his family while before his capture by the Israelis and his trial in Jerusalem. In the last few years documents have surfaced in several archives that contain “Eichmann’s own notes made in exile and [they] can be examined in conjunction with the taped and transcribed conversations known as the Sassen interviews.” These materials (about 1300 pages) reflect that “not once during his escape and exile did Eichmann seek the shadows or try to act in secrecy. He wanted to be visible in Argentina and he wanted to be viewed as he once had been: as the symbol of a new age.” (xx) Employing this perspective, and making excellent use of the Sassen interviews, also referred to as the Argentina papers, Bettina Strangneth has written a fascinating book that disproves Arendt’s line of thinking and shows without a doubt that Eichmann was a major cog in the Nazi extermination apparatus and the persona he presented in Israel during his trial was nothing more than an act to gain sympathy from his captors and as lenient a sentence as possible.

Strangneth states from the outset that her goal is to uncover what was the “Eichmann phenomenon,” how and why did it develop, what people thought of him and when, and how he reacted to what people thought and said about him. Strangneth succeeds in unmasking Eichmann who throughout his career assumed different roles; as a subordinate, a superior officer, perpetrator, fugitive, exile, and finally a defendant. The only one of his roles that has become well known is that of a defendant at his trial in Jerusalem. His intention was obvious, to remain alive and justify his actions. For Strangneth, we must return to the period before Eichmann’s arrival in Jerusalem to see the real Eichmann. The author effectively accomplishes her mission by examining a myriad of primary and secondary sources in a number of languages, and she uses Eichmann’s own words that were taped and written as part of interviews conducted by Willem Sassen, a Dutch Nazi collaborator and member of the SS journalist corps during the war and was the organizer and host for the interviews and discussions with Eichmann in 1957. Once the Argentina papers surfaced and Eichmann was brought to trial it created a number of problems for a West German state that sought a smooth transition to becoming a new nation free of its past. In addition to officials in Bonn, other Nazi officials who escaped after W.W.II, former Nazis who were free and serving in the West German government, and the Vatican prelates all feared what Eichmann might say.

The first section of the book, “My Name Became a Symbol,” focuses on Eichmann’s argument in Jerusalem that he was not an important figure in the Nazi regime and had little to do with the Holocaust. Strangneth methodically refutes Eichmann’s arguments by examining his career from 1934, when he joined the Nazi Party through his successful escape from Europe by boarding the Giovanni C in Genoa’s harbor in June, 1948. The author delineates Eichmann’s attempt to accumulate power as he worked his way up through the Nazi hierarchy and his success in making his name known, and establishing relationships with key Nazi figures. For example, Reinhard Heydrich, chief of Reich Main Security Office that included the Gestapo and SD, and making himself an expert on the Jewish people and their religion. The author traces Eichmann’s movements during the prewar period as he set up emigration offices in Berlin, Vienna, and Prague, and the war itself as he employed his emigration, transportation, and organizational skills to implement the Final Solution. Eichmann’s creation of excessive publicity around his own name is in sharp contrast to the “shadow” figure he presents in his jail cell in Israel. The author ends the first section by determining the accuracy of the myths surrounding Eichmann’s escape from Europe and details how he arranged his travel and settlement in Buenos Aires.

In 1953 he was able to bring his family to Buenos Aires and it was clear there was very little interest in pursuing Eichmann and bringing him to justice. At the time, Konrad Adenauer, the West German Chancellor announced to the Bundestag: “In my opinion, we should call a halt to trying to sniff out Nazis.”(146) While in Buenos Aires Eichmann grew angry that many of his accomplices and colleagues used their relationship with him to obtain lighter sentences. He wanted to defend his honor. On his arrival in Argentina, Eichmann had been taken in by the Durer group, led by Willem Sasser and Eberhard Fritsch, who published right wing magazines. As Eichmann’s anger at former cohorts increased he wanted to set down his ideas in a book with the assistance of Sassen and Fritsch.

1955 became a watershed year for Eichmann. His personal circumstances changed as his wife Vera gave birth to their fourth son and he turned fifty years old. In addition, the Peron government that had assisted Nazi exiles since the end of the war was overthrown in a coup resulting in an unstable political situation that placed Nazi escapees in the dark as to their futures. Other events became public during the course of the year that concerned those who sought a resurgence of National Socialism when Austria signed the Independence Treaty; military occupation of West Germany ended and it was allowed to join NATO and form its own military, and represent its own interests abroad. With Nazi exiles failing to influence West German elections, and with Moscow releasing German POWs, any hopes of a Nazi resurgence appeared dim at best. Along with these events during 1955 the first major historical works and documentaries began appearing that described in intricate detail the role of “the Grand Inquisitor without magic, Adolf Eichmann.” (176) The wealth of information and documentation that included Nazi letterhead, signatures, and other evidence could not be dismissed as Jewish propaganda. It began to dawn on many of the doubters in the German community in Argentina, that Nazi denials about the Holocaust were lies. This community led by Sasser, Fritsch and others needed someone with knowledge of what really happened to refute the books, articles and other media. For them, Eichmann was the answer, and this project gave birth to the Sassen interviews.

Stangneth effectively argues that when Eichmann was in Argentina he did not live a solitary life and he talked about his career incessantly. Sassen began to record Eichmann sometime around April, 1957 as Eichmann wanted to correct the historical record that was being presented in the burgeoning Holocaust literature. Eichmann’s writing in Argentina was prodigious and the Sassen transcripts would reach 1000 pages, plus another 100 pages that Eichmann had written before the interviews began. Strangneth spends a great deal of time analyzing Eichmann’s writing and convoluted logic, as he saw himself as a victim of malicious defamation, and misrepresentation. For Eichmann, he was the irrefutable witness as all the other leading Nazis were dead. The Durer group obtained all the leading books and articles pertaining to the Final Solution and examined each book with a fine tooth comb. This process allowed Eichmann to see what the rest of the world believed and he would use that knowledge to prepare his arguments to refute it. This approach was very helpful when he was imprisoned in Israel as he had practiced the major arguments against his position for years. Strangneth points out that he “presents us with his irrefutable truth in an accusatory tone, with the self-assurance of a demagogue.” (215)

The author provides descriptions of the tapes that recorded Eichmann’s views and she speculates about dates and who was in attendance. The author provides numerous verbatim comments by Eichmann; i.e., “The only good enemy of the Reich was a dead one….when I received an order, I always carried out this order with the executioner, and I am proud of that to this day. If I had not done this, they would not have gone to the butcher.” (267) Stangneth’s thoroughness is exceptional and through her analysis of the Sassen transcripts she provides insights into Eichmann’s thought process that culminates with his closing remarks where he confesses as to what was his real role in the Final Solution. This is a far cry from the Eichmann in Jerusalem who presented himself as the “cautious bureaucrat.”

The Sassen papers developed a life of their own and Strangneth recounts in detail the road the papers take once Sassen learns of Eichmann’s abduction. They seem to travel from Buenos Aires to Eichmann’s half brother Robert in Austria, then to be stolen from his office. Sassen sells part of the material to ¬Life and Stern magazines who publish excerpts from the material. The most complete transcript fell into the hands of Polityka, a Polish magazine, but when published it did not create much interest. The Israeli prosecution team in Jerusalem acquired a great deal of information, but most of it was ruled as inadmissible in court because their copies were of such poor quality, and the tapes that could have been used to show how disingenuous Eichmann’s testimony was, were not in their possession.

Strangneth brings her monograph to a close by examining the accuracy of books that were published after the trial that purported to use the Sassen documents and admonishes some for not living up to high academic standards, something that she has done throughout her work. EICHMANN BEFORE JERUSALEM, can be somewhat dry in spots but overall it is an amazing study of a subject that needed clarification and it brings to the fore primary documents that will assist future historians. One can only hope that documents that have not been released pertaining to the Sassen papers, as well as documents held by the German government will soon be made available for historical research so we can obtain an even more accurate picture of what the Nazis perpetrated throughout Europe during W.W.II.
Profile Image for saïd.
6,316 reviews972 followers
March 14, 2023
J’ai lu des paragraphes sélectionnés de cet ouvrage massif pour mon cours d’allemand il y a près de dix ans (oh, cours d’allemand, pourquoi t’ai-je abandonné ?). Peut-être, oserais-je le dire, deux choses peuvent coexister. Stangneth et Arendt, elles ont toutes les deux raison, tour à tour.
Profile Image for Paul.
888 reviews71 followers
October 29, 2014
Eichmann Before Jerusalem

For the last 50 years we have looked at Adolf Eichmann through the prism of Hannah Arendt’s reporting for the New Yorker on his trial and later her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

This was her examination of Eichmann as someone who was a bored bureaucrat who felt neither guilt or hatred. That he was an obedient servant who was ignorant of what was happening to the Jews, that he was nothing more than a state flunky who operated from a desk unquestioning the regime and submissive to the dehumanisation of the Reich bureaucracy. He book was controversial and has had a lasting effect, so much so that has only recently been published in Israel for the first time.

One thing that cannot be denied is that Arendt’s book has held a lot of sway for the last 50 years on how we think of Eichmann and the Holocaust. Bettina Stangneth’s book Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life Of A Mass Murderer looks to challenge previous misconceptions. Stagneth has been able to use recently opened archives as well as the infamous Sassen Interviews which really shows what Eichmann thought and said while he was in Argentina.

Bettina Stagneth through her well researched, excellent and incisive argument has written a book that challenges the “banality of evil” with new evidence, some of which has always been available but ignored; this is a fresh and informed reassessment of the Eichmann historical debate. When talking about Eichmann not only will Arendt’s work be used but Stangneth’s work will be required reading for the debate.

Bettina Stagneth through her book and her well written argument shows that Eichmann constructs a defence in Jerusalem is a reinvention of his persona something that when your life is on the line it is a throw of the dice. Stagneth takes you through Eichmann the person from the beginning to the end and does not fall for the show he put on in Jerusalem to show that he was anything but a boring bureaucrat, or technocrat that was just performing his job as ordered by the state.

By reconstructing Eichmann’s history Bettina Stagneth is able to demolish the long health myth that he was just a “small cog” and showing how evil and manipulative he really was. That even when he has escaped the clutches of the allies he still held the view that Jews were evil and needed destroying. Which is opposed to the picture of Eichmann set in the dock as a cautious bureaucrat and tried to hide his fanatical side.

Stagneth guides us through Eichmann’s life as the renowned Jewish expert in the SD machine and this was acknowledged in the newspapers in 1937 and 1938 by newspapers in London and Paris. They name him and know that before he moved to Berlin he was based in the SD office in Vienna and it was from here that his infamy grew. He was one that wanted the oxygen of publicity to feel important to the Reich and the growing power of the Gestapo.

Through the many documents that are available about Eichmann Bettina Stagneth reconstructs his life through the 1930s his war years and what he was doing, again showing that his name was well known by German and Jew alike, striking fear in to the Jewish community.

We are taken through his capture and his time as a POW and how he used a different name to hide who he really was and knew he need to escape if he were to survive. We are also shown how previous SS colleagues and comrades helped to hide in plain sight under another assumed name, even when the newspapers were reporting stories about him. How with the aid of the rat runs he was able to a escape to Argentina via Genoa, that he never met Bishop Hudal and how he was able to SS contacts to escape.

Stagneth also shows that with his new name in Argentina as Ricardo Klement he was able to move happily amongst fellow unrepentant Nazis. How those unrepentant Nazis were able to help him find work, use their contacts to keep his family informed and eventually bring his family to him even while they were under surveillance by those searching for him.

Stagneth also highlights the fact that the West German Intelligence Service knew that Eichmann was in Argentina in 1952 and it was not until 1958 that the CIA found out via the dusty card references. What we do know is that German Intelligence Service hand in keeping Eichmann where he was and the moral dilemma behind it until the papers are declassified.

Eichmann like many leading Nazis believed that history would eventually exonerate him and the Third Reich and went as far as drafting a letter in 1957 to the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer suggesting that he returns to Germany to stand trial so that he would get a light sentence and be able to return home. Whether this was encouraged by the former Nazis in place in the German Foreign Affairs Office we will never know until the documents are declassified.

Eichmann before Jerusalem is one of the most readable historical accounts of one person’s life and at last breaks down the myths that grew around him. Bettina Stagneth shows how he signed pictures of himself for his friends showing his former rank. This book is one of the most meticulously researched books that has not been blown off course by what has been written before. This book proves the case for Eichmann’s guilt and shows what he did and how he tried to mask it, if you have done nothing wrong you do not need to hide.

Bettina Stagneth breaks the Hannah Arendt’s myth on the “banality of evil” and lays out the case to show without doubt that he was guilty as charged. Stagneth shows that Eichmann knew exactly what he was doing before, during and after the war and he was more than a bureaucrat but the author of his own downfall.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, one of the best history books I have read this year.
Profile Image for Claudia Moscovici.
Author 17 books35 followers
May 28, 2015
Eichmann’s Extraordinary Evil: Review of Eichmann Before Jerusalem by Bettina Stangneth

In Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer (New York: Random House 2014), Bettina Stangneth challenges Hannah Arendt’s hypothesis that Eichmann represents the banality of evil: an ordinary man turned mass murder by extraordinary circumstances (the war and the rise of Nazi totalitarianism). The image of Eichmann that emerges from Stangneth’s book is one of a charming chameleon that deceives others about his intentions and his credentials. Without knowing more than a few words of Yiddish and having no knowledge of Hebrew, Eichmann relied upon the smattering of Jewish culture he got by spying on Jewish leaders to climb the political ladder and obtain an official function as Head of Department of Jewish Affairs in the SD (Security Service of the Nazi Party). Although most of the time he gave the impression of being calm and reserved, he would fly off into an ideological rage—similar to Hitler’s--whenever his objectives were frustrated or when it served his purposes (such as to intimidate Jewish leaders into complying with his orders). As if with the flip of a switch, however, Eichmann could instantly revert to being courteous and collected (for instance, when a German woman would step into one of the ideological meeting). His emotions, like his attachments, were shallow. Although he remained “loyal” to his wife, Veronika Liebl, he cheated on her and dominated her. At one point he boasted that he tore up the Bible of his highly religious wife, though eventually he allowed her to practice Christianity. Their dominance bond was quite strong, however, since Vera patiently--and faithfully--waited for years while her husband lived in hiding after the war and eventually joined him in Argentina, where he managed to escape justice for eleven years.
The picture that emerges from Stangneth’s book is not that of an ordinary man corrupted by power in a totalitarian regime—as Arendt famously indicates in Eichmann in Jerusalem, A report on the banality of evil--but that of a psychopath: a highly narcissistic man without remorse, without conscience and without the capacity for forming deeper human attachments. Hungry for power, Eichmann unscrupulously adapts himself to the norms of the Nazi regime, even anticipating Hitler’s wishes to implement a program of exterminating the Jews after the German invasion of Russia in 1941. War enabled the Nazis to carry out what couldn’t be achieved during peacetime: a systematic genocide of unprecedented proportions carried out, at least in the Eastern campaign, openly and often with the collaboration of the local populations.
Eichmann became responsible for the mass deportations of nearly 6 million Jews to concentration camps, where most victims were sent to the gas chambers. Far from merely following orders—as he later stated during his defense in the trial in Jerusalem—Eichmann showed great enthusiasm and initiative for mass murder. In 1944, when even Himmler had begun to reverse course and issued an order to stop the Jewish deportations, Eichmann went to Hungary to personally oversee the deportation and extermination of the Hungarian Jews. With astonishing efficiency, in a few months, Eichmann managed to send 437,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, where about 80 percent were killed on the spot and most of the rest died afterwards from hunger, abuse or disease. Only the heroic actions of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg prevented him from sending all of the Jews of Budapest to their deaths. Interestingly, like most psychopaths, Eichmann was a bully only with those in a position of weakness. When Wallenberg confronted him face to face and stopped the deportation of hundreds of Jews, Eichmann didn’t do anything to stop him. Only afterwards, behind his back, he railed against the Wallenberg, calling him “a Jewish dog” and “an interventionist”. Turning moral norms upside down, Eichmann felt that all those who expedited genocide were courageous heroes and those who fought against it were cowards and weaklings.
Although highly manipulative and versatile, Eichmann remained, to the very end, a man without conscience. After the war he even expressed great pride in his genocidal actions, stating that he would “leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction.” He may have boasted about his actions, but like most psychopaths, Eichmann didn’t want to have to pay their consequences. After Germany’s defeat in 1945, he fled to Austria and later, in 1950, to Argentina. There he joined a community of Nazi expatriates. Far from leading a quiet, anonymous life, this mass murderer longed for his former glory and power.
In fact, Eichmann even planned to write a book, based on a series of interviews with Willem Sassen--a Dutch collaborator and Nazi journalist also hiding in Argentina--that would not only leave his Nazi legacy for posterity but also, he hoped, instigate a second coming of the Third Reich during his lifetime. Perhaps it was this psychopath’s extraordinary hubris that finally did him in. Eventually the Mossad, Israel’s Intelligence Service, caught up with him in 1960 and brought him to Jerusalem to stand trial. He was charged, among other things, with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Jewish people. The jury found Eichmann guilty on all counts. He was executed by hanging on May 31, 1962. Perhaps no book on the subject can compete in its influence with Eichmann in Jerusalem, but in one significant respect I found Bettina Stangneth’s account far more accurate than Arendt’s: Eichmann’s evil was anything but banal.

Claudia Moscovici
Holocaust Memory
Profile Image for Charles Weinblatt.
Author 5 books40 followers
September 14, 2014
There have been many books about Eichmann’s trial and conviction in Israel for the murder of six million Jews. And there have been books about Eichmann while he was the architect Nazi genocide. But few authors have focused primarily upon Eichmann’s escape from an Allied POW camp, his quiet life in Northern Germany and years later his life with his family in Argentina, before he was captured by the Mossad.

To accomplish this, author Stangneth must examine thousands of wide-ranging documents and anecdotal sources, many of which had not yet become available to researchers or the public. She extracts and examines evidence from new sources as well, including Eichmann’s own words about his culpability in the Nazi genocide. This is the essence of Eichmann Before Jerusalem; a profoundly well-researched and authoritative work of scholarship. It is also surprisingly engaging for a work of erudite purpose.

Eichmann Before Jerusalem is a powerful and exceptionally well-researched dissertation revealing the years in which Eichmann had escaped from Allied confinement and then joined with other like-minded Nazis in Argentina, where he and his colleagues were protected by the government from extradition.

One of the key themes of this book is Eichmann’s culpability in the industrial-scale extermination of millions of men, women and children. Stangneth produces ample empirical evidence that Eichmann enjoyed his role as the eradicator of Jews. He was proud of it in the “Sassen Tapes,” where Eichmann expresses regret for not having had the time to exterminate all nine million European Jews.

This does not coincide with the “banality of evil” described by Hannah Arendt. Here we see that Eichmann is no mild-mannered clerk following orders. He relishes in improving efficiencies of scale in the industrial process of killing Jews. Eichmann’s responsibly was to make all of Europe Judenrein (without Jews). He might well have been following orders. But he also helped create orders and through this book we see that he enjoyed improving the process of murdering Jews rapidly.

Stangneth proffers a comprehensive and noteworthy level of research on Eichmann’s life as a POW under the Allies in 1945, his escape to a farm in Northern Germany and later to his life in Argentina under the Peron administration, where escaped German war criminals were treated as valued guests.

Willem Sassen, an Austrian journalist living in Argentina recorded extensive meetings of Nazi leaders who successfully fled Europe and prosecution, including Eichmann, who had escaped from the Allies. This later became known as, “The Sassen Papers.” These “Nazis in absentia” desired to revive the creed of Nazi Germany and to build a better world based upon their reactionary political philosophy. Within the hundreds of hours of recorded voices and from handwritten notes by Eichmann himself, we view their goal – a world without Jews and a fascist state in which these former Nazis could thrive and prosper, as well as pass along Nazi “virtues” to their genetically similar progeny.

Stangneth shows with detailed references that we cannot be fooled into thinking of Eichmann as a simple clerk in the Nazi system, following orders from Himmler and Hitler to murder Jews. She delivers details from the Sassen papers and beyond that prove Eichmann was not only encouraged by his responsibility, but that he had a powerful desire to complete the job worldwide.

Stangneth’s meticulous research and evocative writing style make this book a masterpiece. Her references alone constitute more than 150 pages in this 620-page galley proof. Yet, the book is completely readable by anyone with an interest in Nazi Germany or Eichmann. However, reading a very detailed and lengthy non-fiction book is at times an onerous effort, particularly for visual learners. The addition of maps, pictures, diagrams and other visual tools would enhance readability.

Stangneth’s meticulous research, driving purpose and powerful writing enable us to observe the master of genocide as he escapes prosecution and enjoys recording conversations with like-minded Nazis in absentia. Yet, in the end, Eichmann’s profound urge to be seen, admired and valued as a hero gave him a false confidence in how he would be viewed in a trial and how little time he might have to serve in prison for his nefarious past.

Anyone with an interest in history, WWII, Nazis, Eichmann, the Holocaust, genocide, or the escape of many powerful Nazis to South America will find this book an amazing collection of old and new details. Stangneth has sourced through tens of thousands of documents and countless hours of recordings to produce this empirical book about Eichmann’s escape and his life in Argentina.

Reviewer Charles S. Weinblatt is a retired university administrator and the author of published fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage.
Profile Image for Ruth.
118 reviews13 followers
February 15, 2015
This book was truly remarkable for me. It was a page-turner, even. Great translator, great writing. The author had unearthed a lot of information that was only recently available--and only to be found by someone who knew exactly what to look for. Another reader mentioned that it would probably help if the reader was familiar with the Eichmann story beforehand, and this is likely true. I had read Hannah Arendt's book, for which she took so much guff and pain and dismissal, and was sincerely hoping that Stangneth was not going to fight her, and indeed she did not. Hannah could only work with the info she had, which was very limited. Her philosophy background led her to use pure logic on the Eichmann case (which made him out to be an ordinary dullard). Anyway, if you have an interest in the details (I plan to read The House on Giribaldi Street next to learn about Eichmann's capture) surrounding the trial, this book is very illuminating. One more thing--in the Afterward, Stangneth points out how much information Germany has that it will not release, for fear of.....the usual. So if you think the story is over, it still is not.
Profile Image for Iñaki Tofiño.
Author 29 books40 followers
January 16, 2023
It is impossible not to read this book without thinking of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Bettina Stangneth has studied the life of Alfred Eichmann before his trial in Israel: his career in the Nazi administration, his escape to Argentina after the end of World War II and his activities within Nazi refugee circles, including the infamous Sassen interviews, where hi boasted about his role in the implementation of the Final Solution. What emerges from the book is the image of a cunning and deceitful character who managed to present himself during his trial in Jerusalem as a mere cog in the Nazi machinery when, in fact, he was on of the ideologues of the Holocaust. This fact challenges Arendt's perception of Eichmann and implies a complete rereading of her study on the banality of evil.
Profile Image for Emanuela ~plastic duck~.
805 reviews117 followers
September 14, 2019
Mi sembra che si sia voluta creare (anche da parte dell'autrice) una contrapposizione con il fondamentale libro di Hanna Arendt, La banalità del male, ma a mio avviso si muovono su basi totalmente diversa e si parte da due punti di ricerca storica già eseguita diversi. Questo libro è incredibilmente preciso e supportato da una ricerca che è quasi ossessiva, mentre il libro di Arendt ha una visione di più largo respiro e che a mio avviso resterà per sempre attuale, pur basandosi su materiale di ricerca molto più ristretto. In ogni caso, lo consiglio caldamente, soprattutto per scuotere la testa energicamente come ho fatto io a più riprese per l'incredulità.
Profile Image for Suus.
13 reviews
February 7, 2017
Incredible insight in the Argentinian years of Eichmann, of his character and of how several nazi's got to escape and stay 'hidden'. However, too many unneccesary details make this book sometimes frustrating and boring to read. Half the pages that limit the content to what is vital for your understanding would have made this book a more powerful read.
Profile Image for Vladimir.
111 reviews30 followers
March 1, 2019
It's a fascinating book in many ways, but if it's meant to refute H. Arendt's book then it didn't quite achieve its goal. Nonetheless, it's a meticulous portrait of a truly horrible human being.
Profile Image for YHC.
749 reviews6 followers
August 17, 2020


若是谈论起那场系统化杀害了数百万男性、女性和儿童的屠杀,任谁都无法不提及此人。然而,人们甚至都不确定他的名字:到底叫“卡尔·阿道夫”还是“奥托”?在我们自认为早已查清此人时,一些再简单不过的问题却仍然让我们惊讶。但是就多年来一直被学术界和新闻界热烈探讨的这位先生而言,我们对他的认知果真还存在如此巨大的缺漏吗?毕竟阿道夫·艾希曼的名气,甚至让海因里希·希姆莱(Heinrich Himmler)或者莱因哈德·海德里希(Reinhard Heydrich)等知名人物都瞠乎其后。既然如此,何必还要另外写一本书呢?但这其实是一个相当简单的问题:我想要探究清楚,究竟有谁在“摩萨德”(Mossad)采取其著名行动,把艾希曼从阿根廷绑架到以色列出庭受审之前就已经认识他了。

艾希曼在以色列回答得轻描淡写:“我在1946年以前几乎没有知名度,直到那位霍特尔博士(Dr. Hoettl)……给我加上恶名,说我是谋杀了五六百万犹太人的凶手。”任何人都不应因为被控有罪者讲出这种话而感到吃惊——更何况是这样一名被告。毕竟艾希曼曾经有过一句名言,声称自己“只不过是阿道夫·希特勒的毁灭机器上的一颗小齿轮罢了”。然而着实令人诧异的是,各种关于艾希曼的研究文献直到今天依旧乖乖地附和那种论调。尽管这名大屠杀凶手已在其他方面引起了巨大争议,但每个人都还异口同声地认为:在耶路撒冷审判之前,只有一小撮人熟悉“艾希曼”这个名字。

然而在阅读旧报纸的时候我却开始产生怀疑,觉得无论艾希曼的讲述还是相关研究都有不对劲之处。以色列总理大卫·本-古里安(David Ben Gurion)在1960年5月23日公开了一则震惊世界的消息,宣布已经逮捕阿道夫·艾希曼,并且将把他送上法庭接受审判。接踵而至的并非困惑的沉默,而是许许多多充满细节的长篇大论,描述那名据称没几个人认得的男子。浏览更加老旧的出版物,我的怀疑得到了明确的证实。早在审判开始很久以前,那个看似“默默无闻”的人就已经获得了比绝大多数纳粹分子都多的绰号,诸如“卡利古拉”(Caligula)、“犹太人的沙皇”(Zar der Juden)、“种族谋杀的经理人”(Manager des Völkermords)、“大审判官”(Großinquisitor)、“犹太人大屠杀的技术师”(Techniker des Judenmords)、“最终解决者”(der Endlöser)、“官僚者”(Bürokrat),以及“大屠杀凶手”(Massenmörder)等等。以上都是人们在1939—1960年间即已给艾希曼贴上的标签。那可不是后见之明,反而早就散见于各种报刊、小册子和书籍当中。我们只需要查阅一下,便能得知人们在什么时候对阿道夫·艾希曼知晓了多少,以及如何评价。在此期间,只有一小群人异口同声地唱反调,表示对他一无所知。这些人都是艾希曼昔日的同僚和战后的纳粹分子,不顾一切只想把自己的所见所闻大事化小,小事化了。但既然这样的话,又衍生出另外的问题:相关的知识为什么就湮没无闻了呢?回过头来看,那个人怎么有办法让自己在众目睽睽之下突然销声匿迹的呢?这些问题的答案都直指那个史无前例的“反人类罪行”(Menschheitsverbrechen)——我们亦可称之为“大屠杀”(Holocaust)、“浩劫”(Shoah),或者“灭绝犹太人”(Judenvernichtung)。

我们总喜欢把犯罪分子想象成一群见不得人的家伙,由于害怕公众的评断而偷偷摸摸干下他们的勾当。等到东窗事发之后,我们又总是以为公众会有一致的反应,本能地排斥那些罪犯,并将他们绳之以法。于是最初有人设法探究欧洲犹太人如何被剥夺权利、遭到驱逐和屠杀的时候,人们依旧完全按照上述刻板印象,认为是一批见不得天日的家伙瞒着“民族共同体”(Volksgemeinschaft)为非作歹。可是相关研究工作早已摆脱此种见解,不再认为那批肇事者仅仅是置身正派百姓当中的一小撮既病态又反社会的怪胎,假如百姓知道发生了什么事情的话,必定会群起而大加挞伐。我们如今已对国家社会主义“世界观”(Weltanschauung)所起的作用、对集体行为的互动,以及对极权制度的后果颇有所知。我们已经了解,暴戾的氛围甚至可以对本无残暴倾向的人产生影响;此外我们亦已探明,劳动分工能够对个人责任感造成多么灾难性的影响。尽管如此,人们在一个问题上依然争论不下:我们究竟应该把艾希曼这样的凶手归类到何处,要怎么看待他呢?艾希曼所呈现出来的面貌因叙述者而异:他或者是一个完全正常的人,却在极权主义之下被调教成缺乏主见的谋杀犯;或者是一名执迷于种族灭绝的偏激反犹太主义者;要不然根本就是一名精神病患,那个政权不过是遮掩其虐待狂本质的幌子罢了。于是关于艾希曼我们有了各种南辕北辙的形象,而且由于围绕汉娜·阿伦特《艾希曼在耶路撒冷:一份关于平庸的恶的报告》(Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil)的论战,那些形象被激化得更加水火不容。然而迄今为止,有一个视角在很大程度上受到了忽略——公众的看法。人们没有把目光投向耶路撒冷之前的“艾希曼现象”。也就是说,未曾针对艾希曼在人生不同阶段所呈现的形象进行考察。




如果我们听信艾希曼在以色列的说辞,那么他是在1945年,也就是狂妄的“千年帝国”已成废墟之后,才真正开始自己一直梦寐以求的生活的。按照其说法,之前的“犹太事务主管”转而变成一个与世无争的养兔人,回归到一直以来他内心深处的世界。毕竟邪恶的仅仅是那个政权,而且主要过错都出在别人身上,他在希特勒统治下耀眼的事业只不过是命运一个意外的转折罢了。可是艾希曼自己心知肚明,许多人可能抱持截然不同的看法,因此他小心地避免使用阿道夫·艾希曼的本名以策安全。他甚至让妻子只称呼他名字的第一个部分——得自其祖父的奥托。当其他人投降时,他冒用“阿道夫·卡尔·巴尔特”(Adolf Karl Barth)的名字隐匿在成群的战俘当中,随即用“奥托·埃克曼”(Otto Eckmann)的假名接受审讯。成功脱逃后,又以“奥托·黑宁格”的身份前往德国北部的“吕讷堡石楠草原”,与其他同样换了新名字的人共同砍伐木材。接着他摇身成为养鸡人,晚上还特地拉奏小提琴来取悦乡间的女性居民。奥托·黑宁格的生活已相当接近他日后在阿根廷养兔子时的情形,只有两个明显的不足之处——他无法联系自己的家人,而且是一名遭到通缉的战争犯:“像鼹鼠一般过着地下生活的那五年间,这成了我培养出的第二天性,每当遇见一张新面孔,我就会问自己一些问题,诸如:你认得这张脸吗?那个人是不是表现出曾经见过你的模样?他是否在回想有没有见过你?在那几年里,恐惧从未离开过我,仿佛随时都可能有人站在我的背后,突然大喊:‘艾希曼!’”他期盼,假以时日,纳粹大屠杀能够像所有杂草丛生的坟墓一般,也逐渐遭人淡忘。可是艾希曼的这个愿望未能实现。最后他除了逃亡之外看不到别的出路,于是1950年,奥托·黑宁格也消失不见了。他化身里卡多·克莱门特,经热那亚(Genoa)离开欧洲,在阿根廷获得了新的身份和官方证件,之后开始了他一直想要的那种生活:在一个水力发电站兴建项目中找到工作,率领一组测量人员纵横穿梭于阿根廷北部地处亚热带的图库曼省——当地的山脉与峡谷不禁让人联想起阿尔卑斯山区。他有许多时间骑在马背上长途跋涉、探索山地、驰骋于辽阔的彭巴草原(Pampa),甚至还两次试图登上美洲第一高峰阿空加瓜山(Aconcagua)。两年后,当他的妻子终于能够跟三个孩子一同过来团聚时,他还带着儿子们参加探险活动,向他们传授骑马和钓鱼的技巧,以及他对大自然的热爱。项目执行公司的倒闭虽然迫使里卡多·克莱门特另谋高就,在一段时间内给和乐的家庭生活带来了阴霾,但最晚在1955年,几经波折之后,他又开始时来运转:他不但成为一家兔子养殖场的经管者,还有了第四个儿子,尽管他的妻子已经过了40岁。那个“小兔子”(Hasi)于是成了父亲的骄傲。无怪乎里卡多·克莱门特起心动念,决定盖一幢自己的房子来安置他那位体型富态的妻子、四个儿子、母腊肠狗菲菲(Fifi)、母德国牧羊犬雷克斯(Rex)、自鸣钟,以及一些阿尔卑斯风景画。要是没有被摩萨德绑架的话,他应该直到今天都还过着里卡多·克莱门特那种与世无争的生活……



谁要是寻找光亮,就会被人看见。1945年之后与艾希曼有瓜葛的人,在人数上显然比之前认为的更多。追踪艾希曼如何走入地下和走上逃亡之路,我们不仅会遇见纳粹猎人和暗杀小组,更会发现他的帮助者、同情者,甚至还会找到仰慕者和友好者,虽然之后很长时间,那些人都否认自己认识艾希曼,或者称跟他只有几面之缘。例如曾经自愿参加武装党卫队并进行战争宣传的荷兰人威廉·萨森,几十年来都声称自己只不过是艾希曼的“捉刀代笔人”而已。和他一样,艾希曼的大部分朋友都否认与那名��缉犯有密切往来。他们的论调如今再也站不住脚。“阿根廷文稿”甚至揭露了究竟哪些人曾主动联络艾希曼重温过往时光,而且更重要的是,共同研讨未来的政治计划。在阿根廷的时候,艾希曼并非一个生活在失败中的贱民,就好像威廉·萨森也不只是一名好奇的记者,或者希姆莱的首席副官卢多尔夫·冯·阿尔文斯莱本并没有成为一个痛改前非的纳粹。尽管有人千方百计对他们视而不见,但这些纳粹生活在阿根廷乃不争的事实。他们已于逃离盟军的法庭之后重新组织起来,其计划远不只是开始宁静的新生活而已。艾希曼周围的那些人士既已流亡远方置身自由之中,便评论起德国和世界的发展局势来。他们雄心勃勃地炮制出各种推翻政府的计划,忙于组建志同道合者的网络,甚至还开始伪造文件否认事实,借此捍卫他们眼中那个光辉灿烂的国家社会主义。艾希曼与他们为伍,充满自信且积极参与,是一名炙手可热的专家(有数百万件谋杀案证明他的专业性)——正如他昔日在“帝国保安总局”(Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA)主管犹太事务时所习惯的那般。

因此,“艾希曼在阿根廷”并非一出独角戏,而是记录了那名前“一级突击大队长”如何惊人地展开第二事业,再度成为历史与“犹太人问题”的专家。尽管艾希曼后来竭尽全力试图说服所有人,他在战后已经洗心革面改过自新,可是针对他在阿根廷的所思所想和社交生活进行的研究,却得出了非常不一样的结论。假如艾希曼曾经在任何时候真心想要成为这个与世无争的里卡多·克莱门特,那就只有他在以色列身陷囹圄之际。他在阿根廷送给同志们的签名照片上,则自豪地署名为:“Adolf Eichmann – SS-Obersturmbannführer a. D.”(阿道夫·艾希曼——退役党卫队一级突击大队长)。

但1945年之后的艾希曼,不只是一个阿根廷的事件。在联邦德国,他的姓名同样留存于人们的记忆当中。尽管后来有些人假装对他一无所知,但存在的大量证人陈述、新闻报道和有关艾希曼的各种出版刊物,都展现出德国人如何早在1960年以前,就已经在关注他的名字以及他所代表的一切了。在研究“艾希曼现象”的时候,我们还有一个间接资料来源可供利用,而且其重要性更是不可低估:艾希曼的受害者和追捕者——尤其是他昔日同僚和知己——的证词。那些人绝不可能忘记他,因为他们必定担心,艾希曼还会像他们记住他一般深深地记得他们。任何认识艾希曼,或者仅仅知道他是谁的人,都不希望被他回忆起来。美国情报部门的档案、缉捕名单,以及德国检察机关、联邦宪法保卫局和德国外交部对外公开的少数文件,都让人得以初步勾勒出艾希曼在战后初期,尤其是在成立之初的德意志联邦共和国和奥地利的重要性。艾希曼——或者其实是他在别人心目中的形象——已经越来越成为一个政治问题。只要那名纳粹“反人类罪行”的关键证人还逍遥法外,就足以对德国人试图“通过彻底遗忘来克服过去”的做法构成威胁。艾希曼即使在阿根廷也不想安静低调地生活,甚至还打算写一封公开信给德国联邦总理康拉德·阿登纳(Konrad Adenauer),这个事实意味着他正在变成危险因子。难道果真有谁愿意让这个知道那么多内情的人,回到联邦德国来畅所欲言吗?

Profile Image for Jeff Francis.
245 reviews
November 18, 2017
I feel bad about giving this book a relatively low rating, because in many ways it’s an impressive achievement in Nazi-, and World War II-, studies. But alas, the Goodreads rating system is geared toward personal impressions.

Simply put, Bettina Stangneth’s “Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer” is not for beginners. It presupposes knowledge of Eichmann, both what he did and what happened to him.

Case in point: EBJ is, essentially, a rebuttal to the immensely influential “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” (1963). Even the “Unexamined” in the subtitle of Stangneth’s book comes off as a passive-aggressive swipe. Because of this, minutiae is analyzed to a dizzying extent, e.g. Stangneth donates much of the book to the “Sassen interviews.” So, if you don’t know right offhand what those are, that’s a sign that EBJ may be a slog.

What’s frustrating about all this is that the story of Otto Adolph Eichmann is one of the most fascinating of World War II (not to mention satisfying). And that’s the thing: because Stangneth assumes the reader already knows about Eichmann’s life and times, she glosses over the good parts, instead focusing on relatively uninteresting topics ad nauseam.

Of course it’s not all bad. The book does yield some interesting information, including exactly how Argentina became the de-facto retirement community for Third Reichers. And EBJ is the product of much thought and research (keep in mind that the author’s literally a philosopher)… yet, the target audience for this book is those who have already read extensively about the Nazis, like, possibly 50 books or more.
Profile Image for Danilo Lipisk.
91 reviews
November 10, 2022
A book that demystifies Hannah Arendt's "so acclaimed and untouchable" analysis of Eichmann's personality and Nazism itself. As this monumental work by Bettina shows, Eichmann was not just a mediocre bureaucrat, just "another screw in the gears of Nazi destruction", someone who only followed orders, without ambition who "was just doing his job" without distinct between good and evil. He was a skilled lying scoundrel, always proud of all the mass murder he was responsible for.

After reading Bettina's entire book, we come to the conclusion that Arendt naively fell into the falsification created by Eichmann, who wanted to escape at all costs the death penalty of Israeli justice. Hannah Arendt "created a whole theory" just by analyzing Eichmann's underhanded behavior during his trial in Jerusalem. (By the way, which wouldn't be the only huge mistake in Hannah Arendt's book on Eichmann, in the same book there are bizarre claims that the Nazis planned to select the "best of the Jewish people" from those who would survive the worst ordeals in order to create the seed of a renewed Jewish race and that Heydrich and Goring would be descendants of Jews... but that's for a "re"-analysis of mine on Eichmann in Jerusalem)

The book shows Eichmann's pride throughout the time he was hiding in Argentina from the mass murder work of which he was one of the main executioners. He always wanted the title of exterminator of the Jews, always wanted to be recognized for it as Sassen's recordings show. Eichmann wanted his name for posterity, even in a world where Nazi Germany was defeated. There is no "banality of evil", but rather someone well aware of the desire to murder an entire people and someone who regrets that 10 million were not gassed. Eichmann was not someone who just followed orders as he wanted to show at his trial, he was someone dedicated to perfectly doing the work he believed in until his last days of life, the work of murdering an entire people, as this was the main war of Nazism while it existed.

We ready in the book how neo-Nazis denied the Holocaust as early as the 1950s and expected Eichmann to confirm to them that the Holocaust was a rumor invented by the "winners". To the "surprise" of the Nazis and Holocaust deniers who interviewed Eichmann, Eichmann confirmed the entirety of the mass murder, shootings, gassings, and still shows his disappointment that Jews at that moment were "enjoying life" when they should have been gassed. . Holocaust deniers must have flat-Earther arguments to deny the content of the Willem Sassen recordings showed in the Bettina Stangneth book.
July 18, 2023
No, non è solo irriverenza. La quasi omofonia tra il titolo di questo libro e il famoso ‘La banalità del male‘ (1963) risulterà anzi il modo più breve di segnare la linea di confine tra il modo giusto e quello sbagliato di fare storia: in primis, l’abbattimento dei tabù, anche solo psicologici. Per quasi mezzo secolo infatti in Germania ha dominato, sul passato nazista, il giudizio emesso da Hannah Arendt osservando la sola figura di Adolf Eichmann durante il processo a Gerusalemme (1961). Lo spettacolo di quel gerarca, accusato di crimini spaventosi eppure convinto della propria innocenza, addirittura apparentemente inconsapevole del peso dei capi d’accusa, impressionò la filosofa al punto da convincerla che i nazisti, in fondo, non fossero che questo: mediocri omiciattoli trascinati dagli eventi, troppo limitati per essere ritenuti veri e propri geni del male.

Tale opinione avrebbe di fatto sortito due effetti negativi. Avrebbe infatti disincentivato da una parte il popolo tedesco a una seria riflessione sul proprio passato, dall’altra il mondo accademico ad analizzare in profondità le figure di tali presunti burattini, concentrandosi solo intorno a quella del presunto burattinaio ovvero Adolf Hitler. Così la filosofa e storica tedesca Bettina Stangneth ritiene di fare cosa buona e giusta, ricostruendo la verità intorno a Eichmann. Anche se ciò significa smentire e fors’anche umiliare il lavoro di Arendt, tacciandolo nemmeno troppo implicitamente di dilettantismo.

Inutile negare la realtà dei fatti. Arendt basò il suo saggio su poco più di quanto visto in una manciata di udienze in tribunale, Stangneth lavora invece su una quantità abnorme di dati e fonti, molti dei quali inediti. Ricostruisce in modo assai dettagliato, difficile da superare in tempi brevi, la biografia di un uomo assolutamente cosciente del proprio potere e soprattutto attivissimo persecutore degli ebrei. Altro, che mediocre ingranaggio del sistema. L’Eichmann emergente con chiarezza inoppugnabile da queste pagine (tante, peraltro: circa 600) è quella d’un uomo subdolo, sofisticato, tra i veri artefici dei mali del suo tempo.

‘La verità del male‘ è un libro impegnativo ma importante, arrivato in Italia con sei anni di ritardo e stranamente per i tipi LUISS. Si propone modestamente come base per lavori futuri che purtroppo non immaginiamo proliferare come vorremmo. Forse perché siamo, anche in questo, banali.

“Un uomo non deve necessariamente essere molto intelligente per indurre persone straordinariamente intelligenti a distruggersi con la loro stessa arma – il desiderio di vedersi realizzate le loro aspettative”
Profile Image for Dale.
23 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2021
The name Adolf Eichmann has an immediate impact on anyone who is a student of the second world war and, in particular, the holocaust. Which is unfortunate, given Stangneth's thorough insite into this man, as I'm sure Eichmann himself would relish this infamy.

This work would not be advised as a thorough account of Eichmann's career within the SS. It does give an account of his activities during Hitler's regime, but this is merely to contextualise the account which is mainly focussed on his post war activities.

The main focus of this work is Eichmann in Argentina. It is a good account of his personal interactions, his careers, his family and his associates. As well as being an in-depth insite into his personality.

I don't think can give my impressions more than that on this book. History is ultimately the judge of people like Eichmann. As a person who is interested in the psychology I found this a truly compelling work. Like all humans Eichmann was more nuanced and complicated than surface representations.

Thoroughly researched and well written I'd highly recommend to both students of history and even the casually interested reader.

Thanks for reading
Profile Image for John.
497 reviews3 followers
April 26, 2018
Author clears up the issue about 'Banality of Evil' that Hannah Arendt posit about "Eichmann(Nazi) in Trial In Jerusalem" (1961) of Eichmann--"being just a common ordinary bureaucrat doing his job faithfully" and Arendt also in the same breath, discounting the monstrosity of this one man--

Stangneth's book "Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer"
The author dismantles Arendt's argument thru the recovery of archival materials on Eichmann's activities in Argentina, (with other Nazi cohorts in a tight network) that were not available at the time of the Eichmann's trial--
Eichmann -truly evil as Evil's dedicated servant to an evil Nazi government to the core--
Surprising glimpses of possible outcomes if only---...?

Author 1 book6 followers
September 21, 2017
This is subtitled "The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer" and that is exactly what it is. The most important events in Eichmann's life have been examined relatively thoroughly. The reader who is unacquainted with the general outlines of his life will find this a very frustrating book. It reads more like an appendix than a standard biography. It is a very detailed exploration of a series of tapes that were made of Eichmann while he was hiding in Argentina and the mass of his own writing from that period which has surfaced since his trail and execution. It does very well what it aims to do, but the non-scholarly reader would do well to start elsewhere.
140 reviews
February 11, 2019
This was a long time finishing - over 3 months. The work is excellent, but it is more for academic audiences. The research is exhaustive and there were times I simply had to put it aside for a few days at a time given the amount of detail provided. Persevering was rewarding, though, as Stangneth revealed the mindset of Eichmann and the context which allowed/encouraged him to act or write on his ideas. There were several times when reading about the post-war Nazi community that didn't abandon their work at subverting democracies and promoting revisionist versions of the Holocaust that you could see echoes of groups doing that work today.
Profile Image for Nate Rabe.
124 reviews8 followers
February 13, 2018
I knew little about Eichmann before reading this book and had no idea how central he was to the 'Final Solution'. This is in some ways a prequel to Hannah Arndt's famous Eichmann in Jerusalem and covers the man's life from the end of the war up to his capture by Mossad. In addition to details about Eichmann the book gives a really eerie glimpse into the life of ex-Nazis in Argentina which welcomed them with open arms even giving them good paying jobs. Bettina Stangneth is a passionate writer and this gives the book a certain 'aliveness' that a dry academic book doesn't.
Profile Image for Philip Girvan.
285 reviews6 followers
November 13, 2018
Struggled a bit with this, putting it down in the spring before returning to it this fall. Had nothing to do with the quality of Dr. Stangneth's research or writing, both of which are top-notch. More a case of the subject matter.

Despite my qualms, I strongly recommend this book. It's an invaluable portrait of Adolf Eichmann, as thorough a documentation of the interviews he conducted by Willem Sassen and others as is available now, and gives considerable insight into the various Nazi hangers-on and wannabes living in Argentina during the 1950s.
Profile Image for Roger.
425 reviews18 followers
September 9, 2016
When we think of Adolf Eichmann, we think of a small-minded bureaucrat with an endless monotone voice - the picture of Arendt's banality of evil, the pen-pusher who mindlessly facilitated the Final Solution.

With a towering piece of scholarship, Bettina Stangneth shatters that image once and for all in this groundbreaking new book. Drawing on recently discovered material, and a concerted effort on her part through the various archives that hold material related to Eichmann, Stangneth shows that, far from being a bureaucrat, Eichmann saw himself as being on the front line of the extermination of the Jews, revelled in his notoriety, and had no regrets for what he had done. The Eichmann we saw in Jerusalem was an elaborate front, created to minimise the damage to himself and his colleagues in what was a misguided attempt to keep alive the flame of Nazism.

Stangneth starts her investigation by looking at Eichmann's career in the SS, where she shows that the image Eichmann tried to portray in Jerusalem, of being a man behind a desk working with files and signing requisitions, was far from the truth. He was an ambitious and ruthless organiser and perpetrator of the destruction of the Jews: he enjoyed his growing notoriety, and his falsely gained reputation of being a Jewish expert, which Stangneth shows as Eichmann merely being a few steps ahead of the mass of Nazis, rather than having any deep learning. Still, he used this myth to increase fear amongst the Jews, and trick them into negotiating with him in the false sense that they had something to gain from the process.

Of course the Jews couldn't change their fate under Nazi rule, and we know Eichmann joked about this during his sojourn in Argentina - we know because he was taped joking about it. Stangneth has used the taped recollections of Eichmann heavily in this book to reconstruct his thoughts and actions. While these tapes - known as the Sassen Interviews - were known to exist at the time of the trial, they were not known in their entirety, and Eichmann effectively denounced them as his drunken ramblings, egged on by an ambitious reporter. Stangneth shows this to be far from the truth.

Eichmann did not enjoy his slide into the shadows after the war, and his sessions with Willem Sassen were far from drunken ramblings: they were the first part of a bigger project to not only write a life of Eichmann, but to restore the glory of the Third Reich to the wider world. Sassen was not only a journalist, but also part of a small but active group of ex-Nazis and fellow travellers that published books and newspapers extolling the lost Reich and Adolf Hitler.

Sassen was initially drawn to speak to and publish Eichmann because of the latter's knowledge of the Final Solution. By the time the project began, in late 50s, the World was finding out more and more about the horror of the Holocaust, and Sassen and his cronies were determined to deny the so-called "lie of the six million". They thought by getting the information directly from one of the architects of the murder of the Jews they could definitively prove that those who claimed that six million Jews were murdered were lying.

The dreadful irony is that Eichmann agreed to the project for exactly the opposite reasons - he wanted to show that he was indeed the architect of the murder of six million Jews, and that it was ordered by Hitler, and that, far from being remorseful, he "would leap laughing into the pit, because millions of Jews would be lying there with him."

The whole project of the interviews collapsed once the Sassen circle realised that, far from vindicating the Nazis, Eichmann's story would condemn them from their own mouths. Hence everyone, for different reasons, wished to suppress this material once Eichmann was captured and faced trial. The interviews did however, have a big impact on the trial itself, in an unusual way.

When Sassen was interviewing Eichmann, he had copies of all the latest books published on the Holocaust provided for Eichmann to read and comment on. Of course the Israelis had no idea once they had him in custody that Eichmann had already read the works they showed him, and therefore he was one step ahead of them when it came to interrogation (of course his previous career ensured he was well-versed in interrogation techniques, and so had a counter to many of the ruses of the Israeli interrogation team). Eichmann knew exactly what the Israeli's knew about him, and what they didn't know, and used this to his advantage - while it didn't save his life, it did change the perspective of the world toward him and in fact the Holocaust itself - it wasn't a project that had a life of its own owing the efficiency of mindless German bureaucrats as Eichmann tried to portray it, but a murderous policy actively pursued and orchestrated by dedicated Nazis, with the passive collusion of much of the German and European population.

While the Eichmann version of events has slowly been deconstructed over the years by various scholars, Eichmann before Jerusalem now deconstructs Eichmann's trial version of his own life and activities. It is the first of what will no doubt be a revisionist wave of scholarship to do with this most evil of men, and of the milieu that allowed him and those like him to escape and live comfortable lives across the seas after the War.

This is a must read.

Check out my other reviews at http://aviewoverthebell.blogspot.com.au/
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jeff Sy.
15 reviews
March 29, 2020
A very well written and researched book but difficult to read bec of the subject - Adolf Eichmann. A pseudo intelligible philosopher, very cunning, highly twisted and manipulative small individual. Sad that he failed to show any remorse up to his very end.
49 reviews
June 24, 2020
Profile Image for Sam.
47 reviews2 followers
August 13, 2017
Fascinating detailed portrait of Eichmann that thoroughly debunks Arendt's "banality of evil".
50 reviews
November 29, 2017
Very interesting and extremely well researched. A complete mess when it comes to the actual writing and structure of the book.
Profile Image for Harold Hansen.
5 reviews
January 2, 2019
This book was so well researched that it was difficult just to get through a chapter at a time.
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