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on 7 June 2012
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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on 24 April 2017
Despite the controversy over Arendt's account of Eichmann and the trial, this is a valuable historical and philosophical source.
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on 29 August 2017
Essential reading for the serious historian.
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on 27 April 2017
I clear and concise analysis
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on 19 July 2017
Sombre but enlightening and thought-provoking
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on 18 February 2005
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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on 19 March 2017
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.
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VINE VOICEon 26 September 2005
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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on 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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on 8 January 2005
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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