Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 236
Eichmann in Jerusalem is Hannah Arendt's account of the 1960 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Arendt, who had already published several insightful works, including The Origins of Totalitarianism, covered the trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem for The New Yorker. Part of the book is an in-depth account of the trial, in which Arendt details the crimes that Eichmann, the Nazi bureaucrat responsible for engineering the mass slaughter of millions of European Jews, committed. She describes his testimony, as well as the evidence used to convict him.
The most important aspect of the book is her analysis of Eichmann as a Nazi criminal. Far from being a bloodthirsty, fanatical murderer, he is really a bureaucrat, a "pencil pusher" whose primary skill is advancing through the Nazi bureaucracy. Arendt is struck by what she describes as the "banality of evil," the most memorable phrase in the work. He was not insane or psychotic. He was, in Arendt's view, a career-minded man who saw his work as simply doing what he needed to do in order to get ahead. The fact that ordinary, unremarkable men can be mobilized through an impersonal bureaucracy to carry out the most horrific acts imaginable is, to Arendt, one of the most terrifying aspects of totalitarianism and indeed modern life itself. Arendt also argues that European Jews, through local leaders, exacerbated the horrors of the Holocaust by collaborating with Nazi leaders like Eichmann.
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