Unit 3 Post 1-River Meng

Hannah Arendt’s concept “Banality of Evil”


  • Hannah Arendt was a German Jew who moved to the United States during WWII, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1950.
  • Arendt reported on Eichmann’s trial for the NewYorker magazine, and her investigations eventually led to an entire book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  
  • She discussed that the Nazis who committed atrocities during WWII were not maniacal sociopaths but rather, ordinary people who weren’t able to question their actions. 
  • Arendt was surprised to find out that the motivations behind Eichmann’s choices during the war were shockingly banal. 
  • Arendt believed that Eichmann was a product of a system that had somehow prevented him from thinking critically about his own actions and the results they produced for real people.
  • Eichmann’s evil was, she claimed, banal in the sense that it was the evil of a bureaucrat, of an office manager, rather than a devil. 

Adolf Eichmann


  • 1906-1962
  • Eichmann was a German Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer.
  • He was known as one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, referred to as the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” in Nazi theology.
  • He was tasked by Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics involved in the mass deportation of Jews and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during WWII.
  • Eichmann was captured by the Mossad(Israeli version of CIA) in Argentina in 1960 and was executed by hanging in 1962. 

The Origins of Totalitarianism

  • Hannah Arendt seeks to explain why European were amenable to totalitarianism in the 20th century and to identify what factors distinguish modern totalitarian regimes.
  • As a Jew who escaped Nazi Germany, this book is Arendt’s attempt to better understand the tragic events of her life. 
  •  Arendt argues that anti-semitism, race-thinking, and the age of new imperialism from 1884-1914 laid the foundation for totalitarianism in the twentieth century. 
  • Arendt argues that the origins of totalitarianism in the twentieth century have been too simplistically attributed to nationalism, and totalitarianism has been too easily defined as a government characterized by authoritative single-party rule. 
  • According to Arendt, the appeal of totalitarian ideologies is their ability to present a clear idea that promises protection from insecurity and danger. After World War I and the Great Depression, societies were more receptive to these ideas. 

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