- Hannah Arendt, born in Germany in 1906, worked in Nazi-occupied France to rescue jewish youth with the organization Youth Aliyah.
- As an advocate for the jewish cause, she was the Executive Director of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction organization
- Arendt was imprisoned in a detention camp in France, but escaped to New York in 1941 where she went on to engage in literary discourse on the rampant anti-semitism of the period.
- Her seminal works include The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, and On Revolution.
- Published in 1951, The Origins of Totalitarianism aimed to find the origin of the evil within dictatorship. She notes that it is not the causes which are important, but the way elements such as anti-semitism became ingrained into the culture and government. Larger evils may be composed of smaller factors we ignore, but once piled up, problems arise.
- Adolph Eichmann, born in 1906 Germany, became a member of the Austrian National Socialist Party.
- As Sergeant of this organization, he headed forced migrations which evicted 110,000 Austrian Jews between August 1938 and June 1939.
- As Lieutenant Colonel of the Gestapo, he played a role in the transportation of over 1.5 million jews to “killing centers,” or extermination camps.
- Eichmann escaped from American detention, but was later kidnapped by Mossad agents and put on trial in Jerusalem in 1961 based on the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators’ Punishment Law.
- The Eichmann trial used survivor testimony as a key factor, which enabled conversation and an escape from the taboo.
- He was sentenced to death in 1961.
Banality of Evil:
- Arendt was commissioned to write a piece on the trial of Eichmann for The New Yorker where she uses the phrase “banality of evil.”
- By this she means to call attention to the difference between the terrible acts committed by Eichmann and the fact that he is just one man. Evil is not rooted in individuals, but rather preys on those who lack guidance. Eichmann feared to live with his own leadership, so he chose to blindly follow a bureaucracy that encouraged these acts. Eichmann was not evil, but weak. He lacked the strength to find his own path, and thus this led him to serve as a small piece in a larger evil.