The trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann and whether you agree with Hannah Ardent’s ‘Banality of Evil’ as an explanation for what he did (and possibly why the holocaust
reading Hannah Ardent’s “Eichmann is Jerusalem”.
Arendt concludes that the whole trial (and maybe the whole horrible history of the events that
made the trial necessary) was a long course in the word and thought defying banality of evil.
What do you think she meant by this? In what way or ways might evil be banal? Does “banality of
evil” seem to you to be a plausible explanation of how crimes against humanity are perpetrated?
Are you drawn toward Arendt’s point of view or do you have problems with it?
SOME THINGS YOU MIGHT THINK ABOUT AS YOU PREPARE TO ANSWER THE QUESTION (These are not
questions you are expected to answer. Think of the items below as a sort of study guide to help you think about your answer):
To what extent (if any) does Arendt’s “banality of evil” thesis explain Eichmann’s role in the Holocaust or how he came to be a perpetrator of mass murder and crimes against humanity?
To what extent (if any) does Arendt’s “banality of evil” thesis explain the complicity and cooperation of ordinary people not only in Germany but also in occupied countries with Nazi mass murder and crimes against humanity?
To what extent (if any) does Arendt’s “banality of evil” thesis explain the behavior of victims and especially the leaders of victim communities?
There are also examples in Arendt’s book of times, places and people whose behavior broke with the general pattern of complicity with Nazi crimes. To what extent (if any) might Arendt’s “banality of evil” thesis be contradicted or supported by acts of resistance?
In what way or ways is Arendt critical of the Eichmann trial and/or policies of the Israeli government? To what extent (if any) does she seem to suggest that banal (everyday, ordinary, bureaucratic, political) evil can appear among any people, even those who have been victims?
To what extent (if any) does Arendt think the “banality of evil” thesis relates to the current moral position of the Germans?
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