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Visualizing AtrocityArendt, Evil, and the Optics of Thoughtlessness$
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Valerie Hartouni

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814738498

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814738498.001.0001

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Arendt and the Trial of Adolf Eichmann

Arendt and the Trial of Adolf Eichmann

Contextualizing the Debate

(p.23) 1 Arendt and the Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Visualizing Atrocity

Valerie Hartouni

NYU Press

This chapter examines Hannah Arendt's assessment of the proceedings of the Eichmann trial, particularly her assertion that she encountered “the banality of evil” in the figure of Adolf Eichmann. Initially, Eichmann was one of only a handful of officials in the Nazi SS whose sole job was to implement the regime's various political and physical solutions for what it identified as its Jewish problem. However, Eichmann stressed repeatedly that he harbored no ill-will towards the Jews and acted out of a sense of responsibility and duty, with an eye towards personal advancement. He had served the regime only as a midlevel bureaucrat on the margins of power, someone who sat at his desk and did his work—evacuating and deporting rather than killing. As such, Arendt saw in Eichmann the embodiment of evil in its total banality.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, Eichmann trial, Nazi SS, Jewish problem, evil

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