Unit Three, Assignment One – Emily Ezell

Adolf Eichmann:

  • Britannica
    • Worked for the SS on Jewish affairs – gained authority 
    • Held more and more power in the SS → tasked with coordinating the Final Solution (Chief Executioner) 
      • Final solution – the mass killing of European Jews 
    • Escaped post-war imprisonment, fled to Argentina, arrested by Israeli authorities 
    • Put on trial in Israel – claimed he wasn’t anti-semitic, denied responsibility for the Final Solution, said he just followed instructions
    • Sentenced to death – only Israeli court issued death sentence
  • Wilson Quarterly   
    • An important official of the SS
    • Hid in Argentina post-war; captured by Israeli agents in 1960
    • Speach before his execution – said he stands behind Hitler’s organization and rule of the Third Reich; claimed Hitler’s Germany was better, more ideal

The Banality of Evil – Hannah Arendt 

  • Britannica
    • Eichmann’s trial already controversial, Arendt made it more controversial
    • Banal
    • Argued he simply followed orders, no concept of the consequences/scale of his actions – he wasn’t evil, just thoughtless/unaware  
  • Brain Pickings 
    • Arendt wrote the article for the New Yorker – response to the trial of Adolf Eichmann
    • Writes that malicious acts create tragedy, but people who carry out these acts don’t intend to create evil – they’re just mundane/normal/thoughtless  
    • Controversial – labeling Eichmann as banal implied the Holocaust was commonplace 
      • Banal v. commonplace 
  • Wilson Quarterly  
    • The banality of Evil – report on Eichmann’s trial
      • Claimed he wasn’t a villain, he mindlessly followed commands of his superiors
    • Banal
      • Not usually associated with evil
      • Commonplace, trivial, unoriginal
      • Describes shared land/property 
      • Refers to ideas rather than action
      • Not conventionally a moral term
  • AEON
    • New Yorker article describes Eichmann as normal – he only carried out the Final Solution to advance his career/bureaucratic status
      • He was not a monster
      • Carried out malicious acts without evil intentions 
    • “Banality of Evil” – instead of evil, he was shallow/clueless, blindly followed instructions, and showed no emotions  
    • Criticism of article – Arendt focused too much on who Eichmann was rather than what he did; she downplayed his actions 

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