Unit 3, Post 1 by Kennedy M. Petties

Hannah Arendt’s concept “Banality of Evil”

  • a Jew who fled from Germany during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power
  • reported on Adolf Eichmann’s trial for the New Yorker
  • “Her thesis is that Eichmann was actually not a fanatic or a sociopath, but instead an extremely average and mundane person who relied on cliché defenses rather than thinking for himself, and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology.”
  • published Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil in 1963
  • “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, September 5, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_in_Jerusalem.
  • October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975
  • a photo of Hannah Arendt
  • “The essence of totalitarian government, and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy, is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of men, and thus to dehumanize them.” (Arendt)
  • Popova, Maria. “The Banality of Evil: Hannah Arendt on the Normalization of Human Wickedness and Our Only Effective Antidote to It.” Brain Pickings, August 14, 2019. https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/02/07/hannah-arendt-the-banality-of-evil/.
  • My synthesized thoughts: Arendt’s concept of the Banality of Evil describes a similar point presented in the 1961 Milgram Experiment. Often, people can complete atrocities and see it as mundane and simply complying with authorities. This allows them to separate themselves from the pain they are causing others. They are able to rationalize their behaviors since all their decisions are essentially made for them. There is a pre-chosen path with options that only fit into the narrative decided upon by the authority present. It is effective because it makes people part of a machine and not individual thinkers.
  • “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, September 5, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_in_Jerusalem.
  • “Milgram Experiment.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, October 14, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment.

The Origins of Totalitarianism

  • published in 1951 by Hannah Arendt; describes and analyzes Nazism and Stalinism
  • Arendt’s first major work
  • structured in three essays: “Antisemitism”, “Imperialism” and “Totalitarianism”
  • “a “novel form of government,” that “differs essentially from other forms of political oppression known to us such as despotism, tyranny and dictatorship” in that it applied terror to subjugate mass populations rather than just political adversaries.”
  • The book begins by analyzing the rise of antisemitism in Europe. It then moves on to scientific racism and its applications and purpose in colonialist imperialism. It then ends with discussing the mechanics of totalitarian governments. It focuses on transforming the cognitive schemes of the population, propaganda, and the use of terror.
  • “totalitarian regimes seek to dominate every aspect of everyone’s life as a prelude to world domination”
  • “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, September 8, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism.
  • Totalitarian governments are based on mass movements and the inspiration of a certain kind of bordering on compulsive loyalty. These movements rely on the destruction of reality. It captures the minds of the neutral and politically inactive; those people who have minimal allegiances to anything are those who this targets. “The modern condition of rootlessness is a foundational experience of totalitarianism; totalitarian movements succeed when they offer rootless people what they most crave: an ideologically consistent world aiming at grand narratives that give meaning to their lives.”
  • Berkowitz, Roger. “Why Arendt Matters: Revisiting ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism.’” Los Angeles Review of Books, March 18, 2017. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/arendt-matters-revisiting-origins-totalitarianism/.

Adolf Eichmann

  • Full name: Otto Adolf Eichmann March 19, 1906-June 1, 1962
  • Execute by hanging
  • Alias: Ricardo Klement
  • Occupation: SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer (lieutenant colonel); major organizer of the Holocaust
  • captured Argentina on 11 May 1960 by the Mossad then found guilty of war crimes in a trial in Jerusalem and executed
  • Led the effort to the facilitation of logistics of the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi Europe during World War II.
  • Joined the Austrian branch of the NSDAP on April 1, 1932; seven months later his membership in the SS was confirmed
  • “Adolf Eichmann.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, October 14, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Eichmann#Early_career.
  • Riacrdo Klement Mercedes Bens ID Card
  • Eichmann was present at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, where the concrete and detailed plan was laid out to conduct the genocide of the Holocaust
  • Eichmann was captured by Americans but escaped and lived for roughly five years as Otto Heninger, a small-time farmer. While hiding out he contacted Bishop Hudal’s, a Nazi-sympathizer, operation. They provided him with a new identity as “Ricardo Klement” and Argentinian papers allowing him to leave Europe in June 1950 for Buenos Aires. He became the department head of Mercedes Benz.
  • A lead was given by a half Jewish-German woman who reported she had been dating a man with the last name Eichmann who liked to talk about his father’s importance in the Nazi regime. The Israeli government then dispatched a team from their intelligence agency, Mossad, to kidnap Eichmann. Agents seized him as he got off a bus. He was then sedated and slipped aboard an airplane to stand trial in Israel.
  • Christopher, Kurt. “Angels of Death: 5 Nazi Officials Who Escaped to South America to Avoid Justice.” HistoryCollection.co, July 6, 2017. https://historycollection.co/5-nazi-war-criminals-attempted-escape-justice-south-america/.

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