Unit 3 Assignment 1 Jack Lyons

Arendt’s “Banality of Evil” and The Origins of Totalitarianism

The phrase “Banality of Evil”, is featured as the final phrase in The Origins of Totalitarianism. The phrase is a product of the philosophical question, can one do evil acts without being evil themself? The phrase refers to the banal, almost quotidian, nature of evil and the actions of evil in the mundane world around us: in our institutions, culture, and everyday life. It expresses itself in the unquestioning, superficial, and thoughtless evil acts an individual shallowly performs when a part of an evil and authoritarian institution. It refers to Adolf Eichmann, in how startlingly normal or ‘banal’ he was despite performing the key actions in enacting the Holocaust.


Adolf Eichmann

  • Initially a socially awkward outcast, he soon drifted into the Nazi party out of aimlessness then joining the SS.
  • “if they had told me that my own father was a traitor and I had to kill him, I'”d have done it!”
  • Study some Jewish culture as to become an expert for the Nazi state’s endeavor to eradicate the Jews.
  • In charge of the expulsion of all Jews from Austria and the confiscation of their property, and later the same in Poland, and then all of Germany.
  • Followed the orders to execute all Jews in the German Reich.
  • Eventually captured and executed after fleeing and entering hiding after the war
  • claimed he was merely following orders.

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