Unit 3, Assignment 1

Hannah Arendt’s concept: “Banality of Evil”

-In 1962 published “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” for The New Yorker


-Arendt asked, “can one do evil without being evil?” while reporting on the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann

-defined the “banality of evil” as “not inherently evil, but merely shallow and clueless”

-many fellow philosophers questioned her “banality of evil” theory, saying “she focused too much on who Eichmann was and not enough on what he did”


-questioned wether genocide must be intentional in order for conviction. 

-considered national socialism as having removed thought from policy

-believed the actions of the Nazis were unprecedented and explained them through an unprecedented idea: the banality of evil.

-believed the Israeli courts should have convicted Eichmann on the basis of his actions, not on his intentionality or beliefs.  

Adolf Eichmann:


-Nazi operative; organized the transport of millions of Jews to concentration camps

-Arendt argued that Eichmann acted without malicious intent, only to advance his career within the Nazis; he acted without thought or recognition of reality and was unable to put himself in the shoes of his victims. His circumstances, working for the Nazis, made it nearly impossible for him to see his wrongdoing.

-was accused of accepting the idea of racial purity and destroying evidence


-hanged by Israel for his work in the Holocaust.

-named chief executioner for the Nazi’s “Final Solution.”

-moved to Argentina following his escape from a prison camp in the Middle East; arrested by Israeli secret service in Buenos Aires


-born in Germany; grew up in Linz, Austria

-worked factory jobs during the 1920’s, losing his job during the Great Depression and then joining the Nazis

The Origins of Totalitarianism:


-argued that the Nazi agenda was absolutely evil and inhuman; used the metaphor of hell

-preceded her study of Eichmann 


-concentration/death camps were characteristics of Totalitarianism

-Arendt blamed the attitude of the Great Depression where people felt “disenfranchised and disconnected” for allowing “‘mob mentality.’” This was also a time of corruption where people did not feel represented and wanted a strong leader to follow. As a result, Nazism was formed, but this blend is characteristic of the formation of totalitarian regimes.

-Totalitarian propaganda turns fact into fiction for appeal to the masses

-Totalitarianism usually results in greater suffering and a refugee crisis

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