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Important Ideas But in a Somewhat Rambling Style
on 17 March 2015
This is one of a number of small volumes published by Penguin under the theme, ‘Great Ideas’. This volume contains extracts from five articles published by Hannah Arendt in 1963 in ‘The New Yorker’. The articles at the time were titled, ‘A Report on the Banality of Evil’ and reviewed the progress of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. The phrase ‘Banality of Evil’ and accompanying viewpoint has since achieved wide circulation and attracted much debate.
I do not wish to debate the views expressed by Arendt but readers should know that her articles also discuss, whilst acknowledging the essential justice of the execution of Eichmann, whether or not in strictly legal terms he received a fair trial. Arendt thinks not. She also spends some time discussing whether or not influential Jews who negotiated and struck bargains with Eichmann, often exploiting poorer Jews in the process, carry any guilt themselves. Arendt also weighs the arguments for and against whether the trail should have been held in an international court rather than the local Israeli court in Jerusalem.
These are interesting and important articles although written in a somewhat rambling and not altogether satisfactory style. They are also quite dated in the light of the many atrocities that have since occurred. However, these small volumes do allow the reader to access important ideas in a very convenient format.