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Lack of originality of Eichmann

Eichmann and Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt was a pretty emotional and interesting book to read. Ardent’s views on the trial and her coined phrase “banality of evil.” which according to, the definition of banality is “the condition or quality of being banal, or devoid of freshness or originality” made you feel like you were almost in the courtroom. The book talks about how Eichmann shut down his conscience and stayed loyal to Hitler even though he technically knew what he was doing was wrong. When discussing this book in class my group talked about how he was just being loyal and thoughtless, but no one was talking about how weird that was. Being loyal to your workplace or “peer pressure” in your workplace is normal, but killing innocent people knowing that they’re innocent is beyond moral capacity. When I first read the story I thought to myself there must be something psychologically wrong with Eichmann, but the psychiatrist granted him normal, more than normal even. This is where it became weird for me because I was always under the impression that your conscience is something that could not be turned on and off, like a light switch.  

I can completely understand wanting to feel wanted and maybe even feel pressured into things sometimes, but the want to feel loyal towards someone knowing what they do is terrible is mind-boggling. It’s just very hard for me to believe that Eichmann didn’t have a guilty bone in his body and that he put himself above everything else in his life. For me to believe that Eichmann lacked a conscience and that’s the reason he committed these crimes means that I have to believe half of everyone evil lacked a conscience. The reader will never know if Eichmann is being truthful, but whether he was or not, it’s no argument that Eichmann should pay for his crimes. 

One thought on “Lack of originality of Eichmann”

  1. Great reflections on what is weird – and also disconcerting and morally troubling – about Eichmann’s “banality.” I’d encourage you to think about why it was so important to Arendt to stress that, to ask her readers to dwell on the fact that he was not psychologically abnormal. What ways of thinking about the Holocaust does that upturn? What does that mean for the world going forward, for how we prevent something like that from happening again?


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