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Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  386 ratings  ·  73 reviews
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 m
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Knopf (first published June 10th 2011)
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Andrew Robins
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 hea ...more
Steven Z.
Oct 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
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 u
Claudia Moscovici
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 dec
Charles Weinblatt
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 a
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 hopin ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Mar 01, 2019 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Jeff Francis
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 influen
The Jewish Book Council
Review by Jack Fischel for the Jewish Book Council. ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Phil Sageser
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 tha ...more
David Downer
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 the ...more
Nate Rabe
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Philip Girvan
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 a
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff Sy
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating detailed portrait of Eichmann that thoroughly debunks Arendt's "banality of evil". ...more
Andrei Barbu
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and extremely well researched. A complete mess when it comes to the actual writing and structure of the book.
Donna Sullivan
Jan 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
Couldn't make myself finish it, very dry extremely slow. ...more
Harold Hansen
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was so well researched that it was difficult just to get through a chapter at a time.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A deeply disturbing and revelatory book. I highly recommend reading this together with Hannah Arendt's classic, Eichmann in Jerusalem. ...more
Jill Meyer
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think almost every historian knows about the life and crimes of Adolf Eichmann before 1945 and then again, after his capture in Argentina and trial on war crimes and subsequent execution in Israel in 1962. It is the years in between his escape from justice at the war's end and his kidnapping that have remained largely unlooked at. But German author Bettina Stangneth has done a superb job of uncovering those "missing years" in her new book, "Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a M ...more
Two Readers in Love
Kudos to author Bettina Stangneth for a heroic act of scholarship. Fighting for access to the widely-scattered Eichmann materials and organizing the intentionally obscured Sassen files was clearly a long slog. (The neutral, scholarly tone of the main text is betrayed by some authorial grousing in the footnotes that show the strain; for example, encouraging other researchers to make free use of her corrected and indexed transcripts, as only one academic life should be "wasted" deciphering Eichman ...more
Andy Miller
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is history at its best. The author, Bettina Stangneth, has a provocative story and thesis that contradicts a commonly held view by Hannah Arendt among others that largely accepted Eichmann's testimony at his trial leading to conclusions such as the "banality of evil" and that Eichman and others really were"bureacrats" in the Nazi machine. But Stangneth doesn't merely present her conclusions, she carefully documents her research and shows how she came to her conclusions and why other earlier ...more
Sep 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is not a quick and easy read; it is a work of scholarship that is comprehensive and thoroughly researched and annotated. But it is well worth the time and effort to read: anyone who has ever been acquainted with Hannah Arendt's characterization of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann during his trial in Jerusalem must read this more accurate examination of the mass murderer. In 1960, Eichmann was still chillingly adept at molding his public image, and thanks to various circumstances, many obs ...more
David Corleto-Bales
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Dense but interesting book about Adolph Eichmann, his crimes and his capture, which largely contradicts Hannah Arendt's 1963 portrayal of Eichmann as merely a "banal bureaucrat, a cog in a machine." The evidence is overwhelming, as anyone who has studied the Holocaust can attest, that Eichmann was no mere bureaucrat but a major war criminal who fancied himself for years under the Nazi regime as an "expert on Jews" and was extremely career ambitious. After the war he hid under various aliases and ...more
Uwe Hook
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Eichmann Before Jerusalem by Dr. Bettina Stangneth a German Scholar is an excellent book. The book exposes the life of Adolf Eiichmann (1906-1962) who was responsible for the death of millions of Jews. Eichmann was the SS officer whose grisly assignment was to ship Jews to their deaths in concentration and extermination camps. Eichmann was a devoted Anti-Semitic demon, living the amorality of the National Socialist worldview.
This book picks up the story in 1945 when Eichmann successfully fled Ge
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone interested in XX century history. Eichmann, one of the most vilified Nazis ever, who has turned into a symbol of what Nazism may have been by the great Hannah Arendt, is here depicted in a very different way, and the result is fascinating - and shocking. Stangneth has done an extraordinary amount of research, and the result is a book that reads almost like a thriller while being at the same time a very serious, thorough, and detailed study of Eichmann’s life, both during a ...more
Ronald J Schulz
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
No mere pencil pusher, Eichmann was, as he put it: “a fanatical warrior, fighting for the freedom of my blood.” He remained a committed Nazi even after the Reich collapsed and stayed true while on the run and right up to the end. Only his tactics changed as he posed in a humble demeanor after his capture in 1960. In Argentina, he attempted to publish his unapologetic memoir, which in 1957 even shocked some of his fellow Fourth Reich advocates.
They wanted to claim the holocaust was a Jewish lie.
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Eichmann before Jerusalem. The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer" 4 7 Feb 10, 2015 09:30PM  

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“The reason Eichmann was so receptive to the totalitarian system was that he was already in thrall to totalitarian thought. An ideology that scorns human life can be very appealing if you happen to be a member of the master race that proclaims it, and if it legitimates behavior that would be condemned by any traditional concept of justice and morality. Eichmann wanted to do what he did, but above all, he wanted respect for having done the right thing. And he wanted to proselytize. That is what makes his writings so sickening.” 1 likes
“When Eichmann wanted something from people, he was always very good at telling them what they wanted to hear, and talking them into submission, until it was too late. We would do well not to underestimate Eichmann’s will to power: even in his writing, he used all the tools of manipulation at his disposal to serve it.” 1 likes
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