Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Man in the Glass Booth

A front-page Times article, written on the 50th anniversary of Adolf Eichmann’s trial, cites German historian Ulrich Herbert’s comments on the famous phrase, “the banality of evil,” which Hannah Arendt coined in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem (“50 Year After Trial, Eichmann Secrets Live On,” NYT, 5/9/11). Herbert says that it wasn’t so much a correct statement about Eichmann as a statement of  “disappointment in the lack of magnitude, even if diabolical, which one would somehow expect from one of the most important organizers of mass murders.” The Times piece delves even further into the human capacity for evil, pointing to the fact that uncovered files from the post-war era indicated that Germans were hardly chastened or contrite about the Holocaust. “Bild, the German tabloid, having recently forced the BND through the courts to release a few files, uncovered an index card from 1952 that made clear that West German intelligence officials already knew Eichmann was living in Argentina,” comments Times writer Michael Kimmelman in pointing to the fact that Germany’s intelligence service had information that could have led to Eichmann’s apprehension long before the Mossad nabbed him in 1960. It’s an argument the historian Jonah Goldhagen made in his controversial tome, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which paints the evil less as banal than as intentional, if somehow lacking in the kind of grandeur Coleridge attributed to Iago’s evil when he described it as “motiveless malignity.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.