What were the limits of the legal system in the Eichmann trial in Eichmann in Jerusalem?

The limits in the legal system in the Eichmann trial in Eichmann in Jerusalem are that they cannot capture the sheer magnitude of the defendant’s crimes. As Arendt argues, the judgment that Eichmann must die should be an extraordinary judgment, one not grounded in law.

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According to Hannah Arendt, the limits of the Israeli legal system in the trial of the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann are by no means specific. Any legal system in the world would be unable to do justice to the sheer magnitude of the crimes in which Eichmann and countless other functionaries of the Third Reich were implicated.

For Arendt, the decision to put Eichmann to death should be seen as explicitly political, not legal. She therefore finds fault with what she regards as the excessively legalistic approach of the Israeli courts in dealing with the matter. Indeed, Arendt doesn’t regard the crimes committed by Eichmann and other Nazis as having anything to do with law at all; they are moral and political matters.

And the most significant political and moral issue for Arendt is that of reconciliation versus non-reconciliation. But not surprisingly, the judges of the District Court and the Supreme Court in Jerusalem didn’t see it this way; they regarded themselves as there to mete out punishment on the basis of clearly identified legal standards. Eichmann must die, not on purely legal grounds, but because the crimes he committed are such that we as humans can never fully be reconciled to them.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 14, 2020
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