- Ardent posed this central question: Is it possible to DO evil without BEING evil? (This is the banality) (A)
- Eichmann was a traveling salesman for an oil company but lost this job during the Great Depression. (E)
- He joined the Nazi Party in 1932, and became a member of the SS in that same year.(E)
- In 1942, it was decided by Nazi high officials that Eichmann would coordinate Hitler’s “final solution,” the attempted execution of all remaining Jews in Europe. (E)
- Eichmann oversaw the transportation of millions of Jews to death camps. (E)
- He was captured by U.S. troops, but escaped prison in 1946. (E)
- Eichmann was finally caught in Argentina in 1960, and sent to Israel for a trial.
- During his trial, Eichmann claimed not to be an anti-semite and said that he was only performing his orders during the war. (E)
- The Israeli court sentenced him to death later that year. (E)
- Ardent saw Eichmann as “neither peverted nor sadistic, but terrifying normal.” (A)
- He showed characteristics of the banality of evil: he was not intrinsically evil, but rather more of a “joiner.” This stemmed from his “inability to think from the standpoint of anyone else.” (A)
- Philosopher Alan Wolfe was critical of this argument; he thought Eichmann was evil not because of who he was, but simply because of what he did. (A)
- In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Ardent wrote “It is inherent in our entire [Western] philosophical tradition that we cannot conceive of a ‘radical evil.’” (A)
A = Thomas White, “What Did Hannah Arendt Really Mean by the Banality of Evil?,” Aeon.
E = Michael Berenbaum, “Adolf Eichmann,” Encyclopedia Britannica.