"Have you read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil?"
Just now finished it. Published 1963, eighteen years after the 1945 end of both WW2 and the Thousand Year Reich that lasted 1933-1945, throughout which the German people perpetrated the most horrendous, unspeakable documented crimes in recorded history, crimes theretofore so inconceivably evil that in judging Germany the civilized world established a new legal concept beyond war crimes, of crimes against humanity
Working through Eichmann’s trial, Arendt’s book is a taxonomy of German wholesale atrocities against primarily Jews, and of neighboring countries' participation, Croatia, Romania cruelest and most inhumane, not just Germany but nearly every European country entered by the Reich willing to cooperate in antiSemitic genocide.
Eichmann himself, a banal, self-important, conscienceless, perfect dutiful, zealously loyal evil German creature of medium intellect, career ambition, limited potential, an ordinary human being archetypical of the saying "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely".
How did supposedly so advanced a national society and culture sink so far into boundless corporate immorality of evil. And showing what any nation is capable of, perhaps even America as we settle into an era of religious hatred goaded on by fear and slogans.
I read but little interested in Arendt’s Epilogue extensively discussing legalities, international legal intricacies of Israel’s kidnapping Eichmann from postwar refuge in Argentina and bringing him to justice in Israel. Have not yet read her Postscript, which, thumbing through, I see theological discussion of guilt and forgiveness, which I'll read before passing the book along to someone else.
Fifteen chapters, some 280 pages, well organized trial-wise, geographically and historically.
I learned a lot. I did not realize the extent of antiSemitism across Europe, hatred of Jews, unforgivably exacerbated by Christianity; that for centuries the presence of Jewish populations had been officially called “the Jewish problem” not only in Germany but across Europe. I should have known but did not realize that Hitler personally ordered the Final Solution. That among his priorities was judenrein ridding all Europe of Jews, that his extermination pogrom was obsessively pursued employing crucial resources even to the detriment of German prosecution of the war right to the end, that with few exceptions the European nations he entered shared his aim; that also among Hitler’s priorities was not simply conquering but creating “empty space” by depopulating vanquished territory for lebensraum, which also involved export, liquidation of nonGerman, nonJewish nationals in occupied areas such as Poland. That the church in Europe was for the most part silent, little help against the evil. The book has left me feeling that God's Creation the Earth is too perfect, lovely and temporary to be fouled by human habitation, in particular white people of European extraction with our absurd sense of superiority. I know more than ever, mindful of religious hatred in our our country today, that silence in the face of evil is equally evil complicity in evil.
I know that instead of caving to Zionism, instead of robbing Palestinians of their land and heritage by rounding up and concentrating them, Palestine ought have been international, intercultural; but with Germany eliminated forever from the world map as a nation, rezoned to irreconcilable, unreunifiable independent nation states but with choicest regions of the former Reich depopulated, cleared to “empty space” and re-created as a Jewish nation of New Israel. This would have been justice against primary perpetrators of the German Holocaust, over against punishing innocent non-Jews of Palestine and creating the foreseeable but now unsolvable problems of the Middle East today.
I learned many things. I had no idea of Eichmann’s modus operandi of organizing, in the countries, cities, regions he went to “cleanse,” councils of the respected local Jewish elders who were enlisted to cooperate with Eichmann, provide censuses of Jews, inventories of Jewish property and assets, handling administrative work of having trusting Jews sign papers required by German authority, finally ordering Jews to report to railway stations for transport to resettlement; with the ultimate comedic irony that when their work for Eichmann was done, members of the Jewish councils were seized and shipped off for resettlement. In a very few places where locals and government absolutely refused to cooperate with Eichmann’s program, Germans were confounded because they hadn't organized to work without local cooperation, and backed down. What might be the implications of this sort of Nonviolent Resistance in an era of American sanctuary cities?
The level of inhuman German atrocity was massively incredible, but I was appalled at meek Jewish submission and marching to their own slaughter in obedience to Germans and to their local Jewish councils of elders. Like silence, submission becomes complicit, a lesson for the ages.
Arendt’s book was a revelation to me. When published, it was controversial, reviled around the world, especially by Jewish groups and by many others, academics and others who today might be called political liberals. The book was, in today's term, politically incorrect. I think this was because Arendt showed, again, the complicity of silence, cooperation, and submission by victims. Instead of eighteen years, we now are more than seventy years on, and I’ll not bother taking a side in that exhausted argument for or against Arendt, but accept her book as history, history fully as valid as that of any other fair historian. History is as seen, recorded, documented, reported by the writer, the author, and no historical record is totally objective fact, all writing is shaded by events, viewpoint, distance, agenda. Many people, especially Jews, were offended by Arendt's book, but I’ve no negative judgement of Arendt or the book, an extremely powerful historical account. Her report of Eichmann’s trial is thorough enough for her purposes of reporting and documentation.
I found out that while senior war criminals were tried “internationally” at Nuremberg by the victors and sentenced, junior operatives such as Eichmann were more likely sent to the nations where their crimes had been committed to face justice. Apparently in most countries, justice was harsh and execution was not uncommon; whereas war crime cases handled by German courts after the War were reluctantly, timidly prosecuted, unconscionably light, self-excusing, and "understanding." Horrified though not surprised by the German way and psyche of ducking behind the autocracy of the times, this ratifies my conviction that despite pious show then and to this day, German guilt and shame was, is, nonexistent behind the outrageous immorality of, Eichmanns all, having escaped relatively free, and after to put the past away and move happily on in the pretense of innocence. The disclaimer, "We didn't know" is the damnable lie, the disgusting escape that is the German national character. This is not some trivial notion of "collective guilt" per se, but the soul of a nation that should no longer exist and even where today shudders again to life the antiSemitic ghost of 666 נרון קסר NRON QSR.
As a result of reading the book, my antagonism toward the policies and ethnic, racist practices of Israel has shifted. After WW2 the Jews were settled in the midst of new enemies whose ancient goal is their annihilation. Driven by conscience for the Jews, the Allied powers perpetuated the old evil by following the German model of cleansing and concentration, punishing Arab and other Palestinian peoples who had no responsibility in the Shoah, when Germans and other Europeans should have been cleansed, deported, cleared and resettled by all means necessary to establish a New Israel in Northern Europe instead of bowing to white European political, economic, racial prejudice against a third party. Just my view. Israel scripturally claiming Palestine and the Holy Land lays false claim, backed up by piously ignorant foreign powers, whereas scripturally the God of Israel turned them out ages ago. Nevertheless, after reading Arendt, I know that Jewish real estate for the Jews is essential, and now what’s done is done; although Israeli politics and sociological policies are increasingly selfish, bullying, brutalizing, hateful, self-righteous, power corrupting as though they themselves had never been there. While faulting them, I cannot and do not blame them, but might have hoped that, contrary to human nature, they would have been an example for the rest of the world. They are not. And the world is full of fools who regard any criticism of Israeli government excesses as antiSemitic. But I am pro-Jewish and would have preferred to be born a Jew instead of abiding in shame as I try to come to terms with my own German ancestry.
Disorganized, repetitive in places, inappropriate blogpost for Sunday morning, but I just now finished the book and want to clear my mind and move on.