Eichmann : A Man of Order?

Hannah Arendt makes it a point to explain how different Eichmann’s history of causing chaos compares to that of other high ranking Nazi Party members.  To begin with, Eichmann made a great effort to prove during his defense that he had no ill will towards the Jewish population.  He feels this way because he states he had a “Jewish mistress” from back in his time in Vienna. This marks a difference from other Nazi members whose history of anti-semitism was a key part in their role during the Final Solution.  Eichmann put a lot of emphasis on the fact that he harbored no hatred towards the Jewish people but was only following orders.  He also points out that he asked to be transferred to the front lines in order to get out of his murderous duty.  Eichmann even goes as far as to say that he would have murdered his own father had he been given the orders.

Now as we all know, Eichmann was prosecuted and found guilty on all charges presented and executed in Israel on June 1st, 1962.  Eichmann always felt he was being prosecuted for the wrong charges.  He stated he acted within the Nazi laws at the time and did not feel guilty before the law but did feel “guilty before God”.  Arendt later stresses how bragging was one of Eichmann’s vices.  During the last days of the war, Eichmann was reported to have said how accomplished he felt if he was headed to the grave.  “I will jump into my grave laughing, because the of the fact that I have the death of five million Jews on my conscience.”  That quote alone negates all of Eichmann’s defenses.  Arendt also brings up the issue with the charges brought against Eichmann.  Eichmann’s attitude during the case was that he alone never committed any murders.  This follows his feelings that he was only following orders, as he claimed he never hands on killed a single person.  The prosecution did point out that Eichmann at least once killed “a Jewish boy in Hungary.”  Eichmann always felt that he should have been charged with aiding “the annihilation of the Jews” and not genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.  Even after listening to Eichmann’s defenses, “the banality of evil”, will continue to be a heavy quote related to the colonels history.

One thought on “Eichmann : A Man of Order?”

  1. You point to some really interesting details about Eichmann, including his citing of his Jewish mistress as evidence that he isn’t anti-semitic. What does Arendt suggest about how we should read this detail? There’s the question of whether we should take Eichmann at face value, and you indicate that we’ve got plenty of reasons not to, but it strikes me that Arendt is more interested in the assumptions and conceptual issues that lead Eichmann to believe this piece of “evidence” will help vindicate him somehow. What is theory of racism – what it is, how it works – that emerges from Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann and his trial? How do the details you’re discussing here play into (or have nothing to do with, perhaps) Arendt’s concept of the banality of evil?

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