Exploring Adolf Eichmann and the Nature of Genocide

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 7, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Exploring Adolf Eichmann and the Nature of Genocide


Byline: Roger K. Miller,, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It is scarcely possible to think of Adolf Eichmann without immediately thinking of Hannah Arendt's term, "the banality of evil." Perhaps, then, the subtitle of David Cesarani's book, "Becoming Eichmann," should be "Deconstructing Arendt," for the central thrust of it is to explain how and why "her depiction of Eichmann was self-serving, prejudiced and ultimately wrong."

Mr. Cesarani, a British historian specializing in Anglo-Jewish and Zionist subjects, has produced a work that is both a biography of Eichmann - the first in four decades - and an examination of the Holocaust. Both aspects of the book are well presented and exhaustively documented, and both serve primarily to support his argument against Arendt. Mr. Cesarani writes that her notion of the "banality of evil," combined with Stanley Milgram's (now discredited) theses on people's predilection for obedience to authority, "straitjacketed research into Nazi Germany and the persecution of the Jews" well into the 1980s.

Arendt's image of Eichmann was of a faceless, colorless bureaucrat, a cog in the Nazi machinery of genocide. It arose, Mr. Cesarani believes, more from her highly influential 1963 book, "Eichmann in Jerusalem," than from the 1962 trial on which it was based.

There are two problems here, in his view. One is that because Arendt attended only a very small part of a very long trial, she based her assessment on a phase in which Eichmann "was deliberately passive so as not to give the prosecution ammunition for the claim that he was a fanatic."

The other is more complicated, but equally well argued. Mr. Cesarani shows that Arendt's own prejudices against some of the Israelis who brought the trial skewed her vision, particularly her extreme dislike (as a Jew with German heritage) of the prosecutor, Gideon Hausner - a Polish Jew, an Ostjude.

On the other hand, neither was Eichmann a crazy man or fanatic. Mr. Cesarani leans toward the conclusions of recent researchers, notably Christopher Browning ("Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland"), and Daniel Goldhagen ("Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust").

"As much as we may want Eichmann to be a psychotic individual and thus unlike us, he was not," Mr. Cesarani writes. Eichmann was conventionally bourgeois. Early on he was a successful businessman, not the embittered failure of previous accounts.

He joined the Nazi party, then the SS, because he saw they offered opportunities. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, he developed the "conveyor belt" for Jewish emigration, staffed and run by Jews themselves.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Exploring Adolf Eichmann and the Nature of Genocide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.