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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