Unit 3 Assignment 1 Harrison Diggs

Hannah Arendt’s “Banality of Evil”

  • Arendt was a German born philosopher and political theorist
  • She grew up in a Jewish culture under politically progressive parents who were supporters of the Social Democrats in Germany.
  • In 1933, Arendt was imprisoned for researching anti-semitic propaganda for the Zionist Federation of Germany. Following her release, Arendt fled Germany and settled in Paris.
  • She later immigrated to the United States where she would publish multiple books and work as a professor
  • Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt
  • Arendt’s concept of “banality of evil” came about when being assigned by The New Yorker to report on the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann.
  • The “banality of evil” describes the collective characteristics exhibited by Eichmann. He performed evil deeds but did not necessarily have evil intentions.
  • Her concept was widely refuted as people did not believe that Eichmann could commit such atrocities without having evil intentions
  • “Can one do evil without being evil” is the question discussed by the concept of the “banality of evil”.
  • Source: https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil

The Origins of Totalitarianism

  • The Origins of Totalitarianism was first published in England in 1951.
  • It was structured into three essays “AntiSemitism”, “Imperialism” and “Totalitarianism”
  • Discusses totalitarian governments in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia
  • Arendt argued that totalitarianism was a “novel form of government” as it used terror to “subjugate mass amounts of people rather than just political adversaries”.
  • Totalitarianism in Germany according to Arendt was about “terror and consistency” not just the targeting of Jews.
  • Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism
  • Key Characteristics of Totalitarianism in power from Arendt: mobilized terror, concentration camps, arbitrary arrests, a secret police, and a party apparatus that rises above the state
  • Totalitarian movements are different from regular movements according to Arendt as totalitarian movements go beyond propaganda and embrace violence
  • Movements can be central elements of totalitarianism as they provide the psychological conditions for “true loyalty”.
  • Source: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/arendt-matters-revisiting-origins-totalitarianism/

Adolph Eichmann

  • Born in Solingen, Germany
  • Worked as a traveling salesman in Austria for an Oil Company before losing his job during the Great Depression
  • Joined the Nazi Party in 1932 and quickly rose through the ranks primarily dealing with Jewish affairs.
  • Eichmann became essentially the chief executioner in the Nazi’s plan for Jews and organized the identification, assembly and transportation to German extermination camps.
  • Following the conclusion of the war, Eichmann was captured by US troops, but escaped in 1946 fleeing to the Middle East.
  • He was eventually captured in Buenos Aires, Argentina on May 11, 1960 by Israeli Secret Service and smuggled back to Israel shortly after.
  • At his trial Eichmann argued that he was not anti-semitic and was just carrying out the orders he was given.
  • Eichmann was sentenced to death and hanged on May 31, 1962.
    • It was the only death sentence ever handed down by an Israeli court
  • Source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Eichmann

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