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Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt
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“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.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“For politics is not like the nursery; in politics obedience and support are the same.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Adolf Eichmann went to the gallows with great dignity. He had asked for a bottle of red wine and had drunk half of it. He refused the help of the Protestant minister the Reverend William Hull who offered to read the Bible with him: he had only two more hours to live and therefore no “time to waste.” He walked the fifty yards from his cell to the execution chamber calm and erect with his hands bound behind him. When the guards tied his ankles and knees he asked them to loosen the bonds so that he could stand straight. “I don’t need that ” he said when the black hood was offered him. He was in complete command of himself nay he was more: he was completely himself. Nothing could have demonstrated this more convincingly than the grotesque silliness of his last words. He began by stating emphatically that he was a Gottgläubiger to express in common Nazi fashion that he was no Christian and did not believe in life after death. He then proceeded: “After a short while gentlemen we shall all meet again. Such is the fate of all men. Long live Germany long live Argentina long live Austria. I shall not forget them.” In the face of death he had found the cliché used in funeral oratory. Under the gallows his memory played him the last trick he was “elated” and he forgot that this was his own funeral.

It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us-the lesson of the fearsome word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet--and this is its horror--it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it—the quality of temptation.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him,” the implication being that the coexistence of normality and bottomless cruelty explodes our ordinary conceptions and present the true enigma of the trial.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil
“And just as you supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations – as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world – we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“The net effect of this language system was not to keep these people ignorant of what they were doing, but to prevent them from equating it with their old, "normal" knowledge of murder and lies. Eichmann's great susceptibility to catch words and stock phrases, combined with his incapacity for ordinary speech, made him, of course, an ideal subject for "language rules.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“[Justice] demands seclusion, it permits sorrow rather than anger, and it prescribes the most careful abstention from all the nice pleasures of putting oneself in the limelight.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“In the Third Reich evil lost its distinctive characteristic by which most people had until then recognized it. The Nazis redefined it as a civil norm.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“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.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“For when I speak of the banality of evil, I do so only on the strictly factual level, pointing to a phenomenon which stared one in the face at the trial. Eichmann was not Iago and not Macbeth, and nothing would have been farther from his mind than to determine with Richard III 'to prove a villain.' Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all… He merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing… It was sheer thoughtlessness—something by no means identical with stupidity—that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period. And if this is 'banal' and even funny, if with the best will in the world one cannot extract any diabolical or demonic profundity from Eichmann, this is still far from calling it commonplace… 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.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“There are more than a few people, especially among the cultural élite, who still publicly regret the fact that Germany sent Einstein packing, without realizing that it was a much greater crime to kill little Hans Cohn from around the corner, even though he was no genius.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“It is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past. No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Of these, only the last, the crime against humanity, was new and unprecedented. Aggressive warfare is at least as old as recorded history, and while it has been denounced as "criminal" many times before, it has never been recognized as such in any formal sense.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“...and if he suffers, he must suffer for what he has done, not for what he has caused others to suffer.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Hence the problem was how to overcome not so much their conscience as the animal pity by which all normal men are affected in the presence of physical suffering. The trick used by Himmler--who apparently was rather strongly afflicted with these instinctive reactions himself--was very simple and probably very effective; it consisted in turning these instincts around, as it were, in directing them toward the self. So that instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“For the lesson of such stories is simple and within everybody's grasp. Politically speaking, it is that under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not, just as the lesson of the countries to which the Final Solution was proposed is that "it could happen" in most places but it did not happen everywhere. Humanly speaking, no more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“And the German society of eighty million people had been shielded against reality and factuality by exactly the same means, the same self-deception, lies, and stupidity that had now become engrained in Eichmann's mentality. These lies changed from year to year, and they frequently contradicted each other; moreover, they were not necessarily the same for the various branches of the Party hierarchy or the people at large. But the practice of self-deception had become so common, almost a moral prerequisite for survival, that even now, eighteen years after the collapse of the Nazi regime, when most of the specific content of its lies has been forgotten, it is sometimes difficult not to believe that mendacity has become an integral part of the German national character.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“But this was a moral question, and the answer to it may not have been legally relevant.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“For, obviously, things were not as simple as the framers of laws had imagined them to be, and if it was of small legal relevance, it was of great political interest to know how long it takes an average person to overcome his innate repugnance toward crime, and what exactly happens to him once he had reached that point. To this question, the case of Adolf Eichmann supplied an answer that could not have been clearer and more precise.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“The frightening coincidence of the modern population explosion with the discovery of technical devices that, through automation, will make large sections of the population 'superfluous' even in terms of labor, and that, through nuclear energy, make it possible to deal with this twofold threat by the use of instruments beside which Hitler's gassing installations look like an evil child's fumbling toys, should be enough to make us tremble.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“This, to be sure, is not the entire truth. For there were individuals in Germany who from the very beginning of the regime and without ever wavering were opposed to Hitler; no one knows how many there were of them—perhaps a hundred thousand, perhaps many more, perhaps many fewer—for their voices were never heard. They could be found everywhere, in all strata of society, among the simple people as well as among the educated, in all parties, perhaps even in the ranks of the N.S.D.A.P. Very few of them were known publicly, as were the aforementioned Reck-Malleczewen or the philosopher Karl Jaspers. Some of them were truly and deeply pious, like an artisan of whom I know, who preferred having his independent existence destroyed and becoming a simple worker in a factory to taking upon himself the “little formality” of entering the Nazi Party. A few still took an oath seriously and preferred, for example, to renounce an academic career rather than swear by Hitler’s name. A more numerous group were the workers, especially in Berlin, and Socialist intellectuals who tried to aid the Jews they knew. There were finally, the two peasant boys whose story is related in Günther Weisenborn’s Der lautlose Aufstand (1953), who were drafted into the S.S. at the end of the war and refused to sign; they were sentenced to death, and on the day of their execution they wrote in their last letter to their families: “We two would rather die than burden our conscience with such terrible things. We know what the S.S. must carry out.” The position of these people, who, practically speaking, did nothing, was altogether different from that of the conspirators. Their ability to tell right from wrong had remained intact, and they never suffered a “crisis of conscience.” There may also have been such persons among the members of the resistance, but they were hardly more numerous in the ranks of the conspirators than among the people at large. They were neither heroes nor saints, and they remained completely silent. Only on one occasion, in a single desperate gesture, did this wholly isolated and mute element manifest itself publicly: this was when the Scholls, two students at Munich University, brother and sister, under the influence of their teacher Kurt Huber distributed the famous leaflets in which Hitler was finally called what he was—a “mass murderer.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil
“And the judges did not believe him, because they were too good, and perhaps also too conscious of the very foundations of their profession, to admit that an average, “normal” person, neither feeble-minded nor indoctrinated nor cynical, could be perfectly incapable of telling right from wrong.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil
“When, a year later, the Madagascar project was declared to have become “obsolete,” everybody was psychologically, or rather, logically, prepared for the next step: since there existed no territory to which one could “evacuate,” the only “solution” was extermination. Not that Eichmann, the truth-revealer for generations to come, ever suspected the existence of such sinister plans.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Правосъдието трябва да бъде отличавано от загрижеността за спазването на дадени процедури, които, макар и важни сами за себе си, не могат никога да отхвърлят правото, т.е. най-дълбоката грижа на правосъдието.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“The story of the Danish Jews is sui generis, and the behavior of the Danish people and their government was unique among all the countries of Europe--whether occupied, or a partner of the Axis, or neutral and truly independent. One is tempted to recommend the story as required reading in political science for all students who wish to learn something about the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action and in resistance to an opponent possessing vastly superior means of violence... It is the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, and the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. They themselves apparently no longer looked upon the extermination of a whole people as a matter of course. They had met resistance based on principle, and their 'toughness' had melted like butter in the sun; they had even been able to show a few timid beginnings of genuine courage.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“Savaş sırasında, Alman halkının tamamı üstünde en çok etkili olan yalan, 'Alman halkının kader savaşı' sloganıydı. Hitlerin veya Goebbels'in bulduğu bu slogan, insanın kendini aldatmasını üç açıdan kolaylaştırıyordu: Birincisi, bu savaş aslında savaş değil, demeye getiriyordu; ikincisi, savaşı başlatan Almanya değil, kader olmuştu; üçüncüsü, bu savaş Almanlar için bir ölüm kalım meselesiydi - ya düşmanlarını yok edeceklerdi ya da kendileri yok olacaktı.”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
“What are we going to say if tomorrow it occurs to some African state to send its agents into Mississippi and to kidnap one of the leaders of the segregationist movement there? And what are we going to reply if a court in Ghana or the Congo quotes the Eichmann case as precedent?”
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

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