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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A trial report
Arendt is at pains to explain that this book was just a trial report and she is further at pains to dispel the idea of controversy that seems to surround it. There are certain points continually broached by the author and they are that 1) the trial was a foregone conclusion and the manner in which it was conducted never addressed the principal charges 2) Eichmann was at...
Published on 26 Sep 2005 by marty mcfly

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
This is an interesting and thought provoking book. It's a little heavy going at times and a lot to try and get your head around.
Published 7 months ago by Gemma Jolly


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A trial report, 26 Sep 2005
By 
marty mcfly - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
Arendt is at pains to explain that this book was just a trial report and she is further at pains to dispel the idea of controversy that seems to surround it. There are certain points continually broached by the author and they are that 1) the trial was a foregone conclusion and the manner in which it was conducted never addressed the principal charges 2) Eichmann was at no time much more than a glorified clerk (nowhere more evident than in his role at the wanasee conference) 3) Eichmann never killed anyone 4) the trial raised questions of humanity, not just of Eichmann or Germany or the SS or the Holocaust 5) was Israel the apropriate place for this trial?

What seems to have created the controversy was mostly the study of Eichmann that Arendt made (point 2). Eichmann continually stressed that he was not a 'Jew-hater', in fact he reports repeatedly of his contact with and respect for the Zionists. In fact, Eichmann also stresses that he never killed anyone nor was he ever capable of it.

So what is Arendt saying? well, she is actually just making a report, not really a judgement. She never suggests for a moment that Eichmann is not guilty of some definition of crimes against humanity - he shipped hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths. But what of the machine of government? Actually, she is not telling us that we might have been Eichmann under the same circumstances and she is not justifying his behaviour thus. There is no contention that his defence of 'i followed orders' is in anyway suitable to explain his crimes. But, Eichmann is no monster and that's not what people want to hear about the so-called 'architect of the Final Solution'.

The wider question of whether or not the court of an individual country can, or should, judge crimes against humanity in general is not one she particularly cares to answer, but i think history has done that for her.

An excellent, disturbing and utterly stimulating read for any student of WWII and/or the Holocaust.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and informative, 18 Feb 2005
This review is from: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
This book is a key contribution to the debate about the nature of evil and a must-read for anyone making a serious study of responses to the holocaust.
Arendt writes fluidly and you can polish the text off at quite a pace. It is not directly a work of philosophy, even in the sense that the rest of Arendt's work is, but a commentary on the key players in Eichmann's trial and the pertinent historical events, and mostly an analysis of the psychology of Eichmann. It is this psychological study which provokes the most important moral questions, as Eichmann is comes across as a rather stupid, ambitious individual who is sometimes comical in his failure but too complex to be a monster - in fact, too normal for comfort. This is the challenge posed by "the banality of evil": given the right environment and social factors, might there be an Eichmann in all of us?
Be aware that Arendt has her own social and political axes to grind,and this comes through in her commentary on the trial.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book, 29 July 2009
'Eichmann in Jerusalem' is the perfect antidote to the all-too-common cartoonish story of the Holocaust being told today, the one in which all the leading Nazi's were demons with glowing eyes, horns and cloven hooves. Arendt makes clear - reinforcing the 'message' of another of her excellent books 'The Origins of Totalitarianism' - that leading Nazis, of whom Eichmann was one, were disturbingly 'normal', and that the potential for totalitarianism can lurk beneath the surface of almost any nation, and that people can participate in the most monstrous evil without it being merely a product of their own individual psychology (a much-needed kick in the teeth for our therapy-obsessed times) or of their personal prejudices and hates.

The overwhelming conclusion I drew from this book was that threats to our liberty (or even our lives) will not necessarily arrive goosestepping in a black shirt mouthing racial propaganda, but will instead insinuate themselves into our system in ways, and from a direction, we won't expect - and most disturbingly of all, that we might initially welcome those threats. I strongly recommend 'The Origins of Totalitarianism' as well; there are profound insights on every page, and I was amazed (given how long ago it was written) how prophetic it was.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Astounding book, bizarre Kindle typos, 7 Jun 2012
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Arendt's perceptive take on the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem is not the definitive study of the Holocaust, but it is an essential text for anyone studying or interested in this period of history. In seeking to blur the distinction insisted upon by the Israeli court between good and evil you can see why Arendt's perspective was, and still is, so controversial: the portrayal of Eichmann as a dull and at times ludicrous administrator turns the finger of blame back towards his accusers, with the questions of complicity in the actions of the Nazi state astounding and thought-provoking. Moreover, Arendt tackles even the most contentious issues with an engaging style and a wry humour which highlights the absurdity of so many facets of human nature.

Given the importance of this book, it is a shame that Penguin seem to have entrusted the transcription of the Kindle version to a 16 year-old exchange student on a work-experience placement. The typos are frequent, glaring, at times jarring, and on several occasions involve the omission of whole lines of text or quotation marks, altering the meanings of sentences. You can tell no one has bothered to check the text through because Hitler's title is written as "Fiirher" more or less throughout. I would therefore advise any prospective customers to definitely buy this book, but to get it in paperback unless these issues are resolved.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars such a complete work, 8 Jan 2005
By 
Paul C. (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
This book not only picks up major philosophical questions described by other more lerned reviewers but contains well researched facts and information about the second world war, the "jewish question" and how the "final solution" evolved. This book is readable by anyone and re-readable to find more depth, more questions and provoke more thought. It would work for anyone who wanted a better understanding of what the second world war was all about and who starts from a position of relative ignorance like I did.
If you have only seen movies of fighting and heroism, read this book, read this contextual history with chronology. This is both history and the human condition, with "evil" being such a well used word now this will help anyone question is nature.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking story told with an objective voice, 9 Nov 2003
By 
Anders Rasmussen (Lund, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
What is perhaps most striking about the way that the story of Eichman is told is the insensitivity with which he is treated by Arendt. One would expect a more emotional account but Arendt keeps her feelings apart from the facts and her analytical thoughts in a way that seems to ensure the user that the account of this criminal man is not biased. Although the book is not the kind that motivates the reader to continue reading all the time it does reward the person who is persistent enough to get through it. Many interesting and seemingly important facts that are not so well known are included in the story.
It is very shocking to realise that Eichman was not a sadistic psychopath, and that he even for a while tried to follow Kant's categorical imperative, in other words that he probably was to a high extent just a normal man who became a monster because of the context.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proves the ordinary banality of evil, 27 April 2002
By 
J. E. Parry "Jeff Parry" (Pontypool, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
This book helps to show how an ordinary man becomes a functionary of evil. The book follows the life of Eichmann through the evidence and events of his trial.
The image the that comes over is that of a Soviet style political show trial. It describes the pressures put onto the courts by the Israeli government. The aim was to show that Eichmann was the person solely responsible for the destruction of European Jewry, from beginning to end.
The book actually highlights that Eichmann was but a cog in the wheel. A very important cog but not the sole controller of genocide. There is no doubt that he had the primary responsibility for organising the transportation of the vicitms from their origin to the camp. However he was not responsible for the creation of the camps and machinery of execution.
It also shows that genocide was not the original goal of the Nazi policy. It follows the process from expulsion and emigration, to settlement in the ghettos, to the idea of a homeland in the East or Madagascar and onto the Final Solution.
We follow Eichmann's evolution as he made the transition from functionary to "expert" on Jewish affairs. What helps to prove his functionary status is his lack of advancement in the SS. He was always a middle level servant and never a higher authority.
The prosecution wanted Eichmann to confess to his role as sole developer of genocide. Never did the prosecution provide incontrivertible proof to support this image. The trial lost much of its impact because of the prosecution seeming to put the entire holocaust on trial, not just one man.
Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and Heydrich, the architects, were dead. Eichmann was the only available option to the new Jewish state. It was the only chance for the Jewish people to have their opportunity for vengeance previously denied.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chillingly Believable study, 30 Aug 2002
By 
MR ROBERT P FOOT (Hayes, Middlesex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
Hannah Arendt's interpretation of the Eichmann trial is a chilling investigation of what she calls 'the banality of evil.' Arendt writes contrary to popoular historical belief, portraying Eichmann as a normal man caught up in the Nazi machine and impelled to do evil, not as the monster he has been prominently painted as in the past.
Arendt argues that Eichmann believed that he was doing the right thing because by disobeying Hitler's commands he would have been breaking the law. Arendt is one of the twentieth century's leading thinkers and her work displays clarity, insight and controversy.
Ultimately, Arendt's controversial yet convincing book is not a comfortable read, forcing the reader to question the nature of humanity as a whole. However this can not be seen as a negative thing and 'Eichmann in Jerusalem' is therefore a book that everyone must read in an attempt to try to come to terms with the Holocaust and other examples of the worst of human nature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Model Bureaucrat, 28 Aug 2012
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
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A great description of an autistic personality but misses a star because there are no roots for it. Arendt misses out on the formation of the personality and how someone who was accustomed to obeying orders to the form of a fetish built this preconception.

As Eichmann says, after the war he was at a loss, no longer being asked to obey edicts and no longer issuing them. As a perfect bureaucrat who went out of his way to amerliorate his conscience with small acts of perceived mercy, such as visiting a Jewish dignitary at Auschwitz after receiving a letter of complaint. Eichmann enquires whether the man can be freed and is told by Hoss this is not appropriate, Eichmann works to ensure the man is switched from heavy labour to tending the gravel paths.

On another occasion he diverts a transport destined for the Einsatzgruppen to the ghetto of Lodz so they can survive a while longer. Yet he is a man who becomes immersed in the killing machine, not as a tub thumping nasty, but as the man who aspires to dwell within an ideal, a man who obeys a cause. Even if its concepts and ideologies appear as murk to him.

It is here that Arendt excels in pulling apart the man, someone who suffers from amnesia about major events but details each of his own ascendancies and descents with cliched provision. Eichmann was a man trapped within himself, who sought to build himself operating the levers of power, someone who had obvious distaste unlike Globocnic who lusted to kill.

A consumate bureaucrat forged in a German family, a former lifes failure who drifted into a cause and was swept by a torrent of fervour into massacring units. The book is revelatory for it pursuit of a man, who exhibits similar detachment and disassociation as Speer in Sereny's dissection of the personality.

Looking at the childhoods of these men, their pedagogies, the institutions they went to, the impact of WW1, mass bereavement, starvation, violence all had an impact on their social autism. The Nasty regime appeared to be a collective for men who were emotionally shattered, an issue Cannetti, Theweleit, Reich and Miller have all analysed.

This leads you by the hand gently through the unthinkable until the latter becomes normal. The power of the regime was in sweeping people like torrents into shutting off and shutting down, pretending the social word did not exist, the Jews were being resettled along with all the other undesireables. The lessons for the modern world are endemic, as the bureaucratic type she pictures still exists and inhabits the world.

The second part of the book is where she pulls apart how the Holocaust happened and it is gruesome reading involving both collaboration from "Jewish Elders" who sold out their people, albeit under extreme duress and the Nasties who placed the cage upon them to make the choices.

Then there are the gleaming lights within the darkness as Denmark arises as the state where the people pulled together to stop the Nasty Death Machine, along with Bulgaria, Italy, and some of the French who hid the Jews. Belgium put in an effort but it was the Nasty parties in the low countries who put on the pressure for Judenrein, the eradication of the Jews. It appears, and here is the salutary lesson, if you stood up the SS, they backed down- revelatory in her uncovering of this excerpt.

Italy, Germany's ally comes out of the book with its integrity intact despite its fascist stance, allowing numerous Jews to escape in its French occupied zone around Nice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The human conscience threadbare and on trial in Jerusalem in 1961, 27 Sep 2014
Having recently watched the film on Hannah Arendt, I was moved to re-read her her 1963-64 book. It was worthwhile doing so as the film left me thinking maybe she got it so wrong. But it is more sobering. Her detailed analysis of the Eichmann trial is considered, deep and forces you to face aspects which even today have not been part of the public discussion about this era of human history. Ms Arendt's looks face on at evil as is not deflected by demonising it. She presents Eichmann as a bit player but notes he was a representation of many who did not see anything inherently evil in their actions in this time in Nazi Germany and other countries. Ms Arendt demands we consider the complicity we all have in allowing ordinary actions to be used to destroy and humiliate others. The complex web of murder and de-humanisation of Jewish people and many others that Eichmann was part off defies logic for the numbers involved in making this machine work its way to the end result of the death camps. More philosopher than journalist Ms Arendt is able to stand back and look dispassionately at the human condition but as a reporter she spares no details in telling her story. I could not look on with dispassion, for me this remains the single most damning stain on humankind of recent times. The details are the reminders of so many anonymous lives removed without care that they lived, who they were, the promise they held and the future still has a void they have left.
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