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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.

Eichmann, a Tragic Hero?

Within Eichmann in Jerusalem, written by Hannah Arendt, we learn about the historic trial of war criminal, Adolf Eichmann. This novel is especially important because of the author’s depiction and narrative of Eichmann throughout his criminal trial. Within the epilogue in this prose we get to see very different illustrations of what kind of man Adolf was. Although one of a major organizers of the Holocaust, Eichmann is “terribly and terrifyingly normal” (276). Arendt continues through the entire book that although this man has made terrible decisions, she believes that he is not necessarily guilty of all of the crimes he is being charged with.

As a man whose job was to follow orders, Eichmann did that well. Although many of those orders was to contribute to the eradication of an entire race, Eichmann claims he is not AntiSemitic. Not racist or discriminatory, Eichmann was just a man doing his job. This understanding explains why the trials of this man could be covered in a novel over 290 pages long.

Although Arendt didn’t fully believe this man was the villain, she knew that “it would have been very comforting indeed to believe that Eichmann was a monster” (276). It seemed as if her heart wanted to believe this man and his story but her conscious stopped her. This can be seen in her final pages of the epilogue as she creates a fictional court ruling of why this man deserves to die. Although never directly stating Eichmann as guilty of helping the genocide, she talks about why this man is still guilty of supporting and standing by a cause that commenced the massacre of millions of Jewish people.

This depiction of Adolf is uncommon as almost everyone in the world can agree the architects of the Holocaust are some of the biggest monsters in the world. Personally, I don’t think the author put enough guilt on this man but I can see her point of discussion when she doesn’t think he is as bad as people see him as. this book and debate will flourish on through generations and hopefully even begin to spark new conversations in the future.