This book is amazing. In it, Arendt struggles with three major issues: 1) the guilt and evil of the ordinary, bureaucratic, obedient German people (like Eichmann) who contributed to the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, 2) the complicity of some jews in the genocide (through organization, mobilization, passive obedience, and negotiations with the Nazis, 3) the logical absurdity the Eichmann and Nuremberg Trials, etc.
In this book (and the original 'New Yorker' essays it came from) Hannah Arendt isn't going for easy, cliché answers. She isn't asking rhetorical or weightless questions. While some of her positions might not be fully supportable, the very act of asking tough questions (that don't fall into easy boxes) is a gift to humanity. Arendt's tactic of giving no one an automatic free pass, while also not allowing people like Eichmann to become cartoonish characters of evil, allows her the room to push the idea that the potential for evil exists not just in dark, scary places, but in well-lit, and very efficient bureaucracies and we all (even Israel) might be asked to push or pull a lever if we aren't paying close attention.
33 of 36 people found this review helpful
Hannah Arendt, the author, was a courageous woman with an incisive mind. I have been weary of accounts of the Nazis but this book (and related film) provide a timeless, dispassionate accounting and analysis of the slaughter of millions of souls. Should we think we've left that gruesome history behind us, the author provides an inadvertent reminder that the very same evil lurks at the heart of every risk-averse yet ambitious network of bureaucrats. Alas, we've already forgotten.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Brilliant! With Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt not only cracks wide open the myths we perpetuate about the idea of how evil exists in the world, what form it takes and how it acts, but moreover she forces us to confront our own compliance in the horrific atrocities carried out through our ignorance of how systems of power perpetuate oppression and exploitation around the world. I would highly recommend this book.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Anyone except for a hard-core neo-nazi finds it incredible that educated men like Himmler, Heydrich, and Adolf Eichmann could be brainwashed by their paranoid delusional schizophrenic leader (who was not a normal married family man as they were) into murdering millions of innocent people simply because of their religion. Men in the SS were clearly not morally sound especially at the highest levels, yet Hannah Arendt somehow manages to explain how this horrific catastrophe transpired as seen through the prism of the over-ambitious, social-climbing, deeply insecure Eichmann. He shouldered so much of the responsibility for the Holocaust after the death of Heydrich that even the men who out-ranked him found it convenient to pass the buck on him when they were tried for war crimes
at Nuremberg. Once he evaded immediate capture in 1945, the fifteen-year manhunt only reinforced his legend as the one major butcher still alive in Latin America (other than Dr. Joseph Mengele), therefore his trial in Israel became a worldwide sensation. This is a classic work and the first book ever published that expertly examined the mind of a seemingly harmless figure who was nonetheless an unrepentant mass murderer. Wanda McCadden was the only obvious choice for the narration, thus making a classic work that much more of a classic piece of work.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Arendt was severely criticized over her opinions, as expressed in this book. Rather than demonize Eichmann or give him a pass as one who was following orders, she showed the banality of his crimes. Monstrous deeds carried out by a mid level bureaucrat sitting behind a desk,. With the passage of time readers, unlike those in the 1960s, can read this work and use a collective knowledge of the Shoah, which was not available when it was first published.. I suggest serious students of history read about all Eichmann's crimes before reading this narrative of how he was called to account by the Jewish people. Arendt gets full marks for courage to swim against the stream of the public opinion of her time.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Absolutely essential reading in these times. So applicable to today's political climate. A must read.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful