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Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  12,889 ratings  ·  1,003 reviews
Originally appearing as a series of articles in The New Yorker, Hannah Arendt’s authoritative and stunning report on the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann sparked a flurry of debate upon its publication. This revised edition includes material that came to light after the trial, as well as Arendt’s postscript directly addressing the controversy that arose over her account ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published December 7th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published May 17th 1963)
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 ·  12,889 ratings  ·  1,003 reviews


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Lobstergirl
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I and Thou
Shelves: european-history
In order to pronounce judgment on this book, on Arendt, on the idea of "the banality of evil," you can't simply read reviews, summaries, excerpts, chunks, sentences. You have to read the entire book. You have to. Only by reading the entire book will you acclimate yourself to Arendt's tone, her idiosyncratic writing style, the way a word on p. 252 seems like an odd choice until you recall how she used the same word on p. 53.

In the wake of the book came a flood of criticism (in both senses) that c
...more
Matt
May 04, 2011 rated it liked it
“[T]hese defendants now ask this Tribunal to say they are not guilty of planning, executing, or conspiring to commit this long list of crimes and wrongs. They stand before the record of this Tribunal as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain king. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: ‘Say I slew them not.’ And the Queen replied: “Then say they are not slain. But dead they are…’”
-- from Robert Jackson’s closing argument at the Nuremberg Tribunal.

In my opinion, one of the c
...more
Garima
The horror and enigma surrounding the Holocaust trials is probably best exhibited in Peter Weiss’s play The Investigation. Based on the actual testimonies given during the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials- reading it is an experience that is cold, brutal and almost physical in ways unexpected. Witnesses try to communicate the incommunicable suffering of victims and survivors; Defendants try to deny or extenuate their respective roles in the heinous crimes and Judges try to measure up an appropriate se ...more
Hadrian
Reread. Brilliant and terrifying as ever.

Some partial reactions, which somebody else has probably written about, but I'll repeat here anyway:

--The idea of the "banality of evil" - that is, ordinary people who do evil things as part of a larger apparatus, is compelling. But is Eichmann the best example of this? He stinks more of anti-Semitism than even Arendt lets on.

--To Arendt, obedience is the same as approval. Hence Eichmann should hang.

--Eichmann was not just 'following orders', he was a 'j
...more
Trevor
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is hard to know what to say about this book. The subtitle is pretty well right: the banality of evil. Eichmann comes across as a complete fool, utterly lacking in any ability to see things from the perspective of the other. As Arendt says at one point, the idea that he could sit chatting to a German Jew about how unfair it was that he never received a promotion for his work in exterminating the Jews pretty much sums up the man.

It seems Eichmann felt he was doing his best not only for his mas
...more
Aubrey
What has come to light is neither nihilism nor cynicism, as one might have expected, but a quite extraordinary confusion over elementary questions of morality—as if an instinct in such matters were truly the last thing to be taken for granted in our time.
I've been entertained by my fair share of WWII/Nazi/Holocaust media, a glut in the marketable masses of reality's intersection with fiction the never fails to rear its head every year. Of course, that's the US for you, with its isolation and c
...more
Manny
Aug 24, 2013 marked it as to-read
We just saw the movie Hannah Arendt , and it is extremely good - possibly the best thing I've seen this year. Margarethe von Trotta's direction and script are excellent, and Barbara Sukowa is terrific in the title role.

Darwin8u
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2013
This book is amazing. In it, Arendt struggles with three major issues: 1) the guilt and evil of the ordinary, bureaucratic, obedient German people (like Eichmann) who contributed to the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, 2) the complicity of some jews in the genocide (through organization, mobilization, passive obedience, and negotiations with the Nazis, 3) the logical absurdity the Eichmann and Nuremberg Trials, etc.

In this book (and the original 'New Yorker' essays it came from) Hannah
...more
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A truly disturbing look at what motivates individuals to follow orders. While there are some who may disagree with some of the conclusions that Hannah Arendt draws I still think this is a groundbreaking study in the connection betweeen conformity and criminal compliance.
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
May 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Hannah (sometimes) in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of a Book

A new group of deportees has arrived at Auschwitz. There they are, men, women and children, all fearful, all apprehensive. A truck drives by, piled high with corpses. The arms of the dead are hanging loose over the sides, waving as if in grim farewell. The people scream. But no sooner has the vehicle turned a corner than the horror has been edited out of their minds. Even on the brink of death there are some things too fantastic
...more
Jafar
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great mix of investigative journalism and historical analysis. If you don’t have a detailed knowledge of the history of the Holocaust, this is a good place to start. Even though Arendt didn’t want to make it a philosophical or legal treatise, it makes a few bold philosophical and legal claims, the most controversial of which is the banality of evil.

Eichmann was in charge of transporting the Jews, first for forced emigration, and after the implementation of the Final Solution, to t
...more
Michael
A good one for shaking me out of a complacency in judgments and lazy simplifications in thought. The Holocaust was many circles of hell and Purgatory involving many victims and perpetrators, and so it makes sense that acts to effect justice for it can be hard to lay the right level of accountability. When Israel in 1960 kidnapped Eichmann from Argentina and put him on trial, the hope of Prime Minister Ben-Gurion and the prosecutors was to apply justice for the Holocaust to a key Nazi leader behi ...more
Jimmy
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Objective analysis of ethically devastating periods in history often seems less popular than it should be. Surely this applies to the Holocaust more than any other commonly mentioned, or generally well known genocide. As if there were some sort of a priori understanding that these events were undoubtedly exercised by the minds and wills of evil men. There is much truth to that; people rarely argue that it's possible that these people are anything but evil, or at least devoid of any sort of moral ...more
The Nerdwriter
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a heavy book. Not literally, it's only about 250 pages, but the subject matter is dark and the reporting is meticulous. Hannah Arendt catalogues the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a lieutenant colonel in the Nazi regime tasked with organizing mass deportations of Jews to extermination camps. Though Wikipedia refers to Eichmann as "one of the major organizers of the Holocaust," Arendt aims to show that the true terror of this man is in his normalcy, his blandness. It's from this book that we ge ...more
Trish
"That such remoteness from reality and such thoughtlessness can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together which, perhaps, are inherent in man—that was, in fact, the lesson one could learn in Jerusalem."

This book is positively lucid in comparison to the one other book I read by Arendt, Responsibility and Judgment, since this is a journalistic piece, first published in The New Yorker magazine in 1963. Basically the book is merely a report on the trial, which would have to exclude
...more
Leo Walsh
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt is a thought-provoking, if dense, history of the Adolf Eichmann, the major organizer of Hitler's "Final Solution" -- the extermination of every living European Jew. Coupled with some meditations of a first-rate thinker and author on politics, morality, and the gray line that exists between law and justice. Whereby legal means often impede justice, and just causes often illegal.

First off, a few mentions of the text. Arendt was a German-born Jew living in Ame
...more
Ana
In true Arendt style, the writing is concise, each sentence crafted beautifully, the subject matter studied from all sides. In some cases, she even comes to Eichmann's defense against the things he had been accused of that he hadn't done. To her, it was very important for him to be tried for his own crimes, and his own crimes only, which is a very hard thing to do considering the complexity of the German bureaucracy and the enormity of the Jewish (and other peoples') genocide. Required reading f ...more
Dave Russell
The Nazis are this modern age's greatest villains. You can stop debate on any subject just by invoking a comparison ("You know who else was in favor of the public option? Hitler, that's who!") I know, I know, Stalin killed more people than Hitler, yadda yadda yadda, but did you see the last Indiana Jones film? Nazis make much better villains.

And yet what kind of villains were they and what does this tell us about the nature of evil? Were they Shakespearean villains a la Richard III or Iago, men
...more
Eric_W
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I read this in college and it just blew me away. One of the more important books of the 20th century. Her idea that "banality" and thoughtlessness, relying on the routines of bureaucracy lie at the root of evil had a profound impact on my thinking. "It was sheer thoughtlessness that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the period," she says of Eichmann. One can still see the basic truths of her book operating very day.

The latest method to avoid accountability seems to be to
...more
Bettie
History to listen to as I bake chicken pies.

Brilliantly narrated by Wanda McCaddon

Natural follow up to Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascombe (I see the 'add book' has broken now!)

I am sure that there were many who would have loved to slap that smirk off his face.



For a superb review, I can do no less than point you towards Lobstergirl: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
Beth
Read for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018
Category: Read a book that scares you

"It is true that the totalitarian state tried to establish these holes of oblivion into which all deeds, good and evil, would disappear, but just as the Nazis’ feverish attempts, from June, 1942, on, to erase all traces of their massacres—through cremation, through burning in open pits, through the use of explosives and flame-throwers and bone-crushing machinery—were doomed to failure, so all efforts to let the
...more
Justin Evans
Dec 10, 2014 rated it liked it
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--w ...more
Rob
Sep 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Do not be fooled by the title of this book. It is not a philosophical text about the nature of evil.
This book is about the politics of the trial of Eichmann and more particularly the real politic of the Holocaust. In fact out of the many books I have read about Nazism it is the most insightful about how the Holocaust worked politically in the nuts and bolts sense.
This book is not about the horror of the Holocaust. If it was I would have put it down.
The most interesting part of the book is that
...more
Bou
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hannah Arendt did not see a demon in Eichmann, rather an ordinary person, whose evil did not come from ideological conviction but from thoughtlessness, an inability to reflection and lack of empathy. With the term ‘Banality of Evil’, Hannah Arendt has coined one of the more memorable quotes from the Eichmann process.

Hannah claims that the extraordinary circumstances in relation to the Eichmann process were multiple, and these circumstances overshadowed the central ethical, political and juridica
...more
David Cerruti
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A few words about the title, “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” It is concise and accurate in identifying the trial of 1961, but it gives no clue about the insights that lie within. I generally dislike subtitles, but this one, “A Report on the Banality of Evil,” is where the action is.

This phrase, which generated so much controversy, appears only on the title page, and once in the text, in the postscript. Later editions include an excellent introduction by Amos Elon, who used the phrase many times. I had
...more
Laura
May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: cthulhu, being-human
This book disturbed my peace with the universe. I read it while I was working on a death penalty case some years back, mostly on the bus too and from work. It led to me spending no little time starring out the window. Trembling ontologically.
Steve
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
That Ms. Arendt has published an important work on a subject with details that confound the imagination is undeniable. My principal criticisms are with her thought progression and use of language, for herein, perhaps owing to an affinity for linearity and self-evidence, does she confound my imagination. I felt in reading her work that Ms. Arendt defaults to ethereal wormholes as if to demonstrate some superior understanding of things philosophical, thus four, rather than five stars. Regrettably, ...more
Nicole
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is fascinating. It covers the trial of Adolf Eichmann who was in charger of the transportation of Jews in Nazi Germany. Both in the mass deportation of Jews in the early stages and the eventual moving of Jews to concentration camps in the later stages of the final solution. It's fascinating as a look into Eichmann's character, not because he was a supremely talented or evil person, but because he was an average bureaucrat. It's also fascinating because it deal with how such a massive n ...more
Edward
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Introduction
Note to the Reader


--Eichmann in Jerusalem : A Report on the Banality of Evil

Bibliography
Index
dead letter office
it's hard not to come away from this book with conflicted feelings. we all take for granted that what the nazis did was evil, but it's not such an easy extension to say that the people these did these things were evil. arendt's central point is that eichmann is not evil so much as he is unremarkable. he is hardworking, efficient, and actually deeply normal. this is tough to swallow, since he was an integral part of the machinery of genocide that the nazis set up during world war II and was execu ...more
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Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. Born into a German-Jewish family, she was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and lived in Paris for the next eight years, working for a number of Jewish refugee organisations. In 1941 she immigrated to the United States and soon became part of a lively intellectual circle in New York. She held a ...more
“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. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.” 156 likes
“For politics is not like the nursery; in politics obedience and support are the same.” 42 likes
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