Adolf Eichmann's Participation In The Holocaust

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The Holocaust, in which 11 million Jews, Gypsies, blacks, and gays died at the hands of German Nazis, was not perpetrated by a single, hateful person. It was an act of evil perpetrated by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. Participation in the Holocaust by such a large body of people leads historians and those studying the Holocaust to ask whether man is inherently evil: did each person who participated in the Holocaust have a deep-seated and passionate hatred for the victims? Some of the scholarship on the Holocausts suggests that man is neither inherently good nor inherently evil, but a tabula rasa—a clean slate— influenced and shaped by his or her physical and emotional environment and susceptible to mass psychology. The concept…show more content…
Hannah Arendt, a Jewish German-born philosopher, writing for The New Yorker magazine, reported on the trial in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. In the trial, Arendt expected Eichmann, a man largely responsible for six million deaths, to be a monster -- she expected to meet a man lacking basic human feelings. She found that Eichmann claimed that he was just obeying orders -- he was cog in the greater Nazi machine. He was not driven by a passion for murder, a hatred for Jews, or a particular ideology; he was driven by a desire to advance professionally. Arendt believed Eichmann was “... a textbook case of bad faith, of lying self-deception combined with outrageous stupidity” (Arendt, 51). She came to consider his type of evil “banal.” The implications of these findings are significant in that they reveal that while the perpetrators of the Holocaust committed horrible acts, they, themselves, were not monsters. This view suggests that, perhaps, ordinary people under the right circumstances can behave like monsters. Arendt coined the term “the banality of evil” from her observation that Eichmann was so normal and ordinary. She concluded that Eichmann was motivated by professional promotion rather than political

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