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Masterfull interpretation of evil
am 19. September 2000
Hannah Arendt is probable one of the most astute political and moral thinkers of the previous century.
The book approaches Eichmann as a competent but morally vacant burueacrat who sinks into the 'banality of evil' not out of a malicious hatred of the Jews but rather out of a perverted sense of duty and respect for authority. He perverts the Kantian categorical imperative to read - you have the duty to do what society instructs of you - instead of - you have the duty to act in yourself as you would expect society to act towards you. Some reviewers have misread this moral emphasis of Arendt as a defence of Eichmann This is completely false and a basic misunderstanding of her moral argument.
Her brave mentioning of the fact that the Eichmann Trial was probable not in truth a trial but a show to justify retribution as well as the illegality of his kidnapping deserves praise. The fact that Eichmanns council never used this in his defence as well as the fact that technically Eichmann contravened no law in Germany whilst exercising his duties ,gave me the idea that if there was someone in Israel that could saved him from the gallows it would have been Hannah Arendt. Ironic as I have not read a better condemnation of the man from any other author.Then again she also paints the picture of a man making no real effort to avoid his fate but being without the moral fibre to actively seek it out made no effort to hide his identity from anyone. Eichmann wanted to get caught and seeked in his trial and sentence final recognition for his contorted sense of remorse Although the sincerity of his remorse is not doubted it is the nature of his remorse that remains highly questionable. And that is Hannah Arendts exclamation mark behind the banality of this mans' evil.
Her synopsis of the fate of the Jews in various countries during the holocaust is also very valuable to casual students of the Shoah.