Eichmann in Jerusalem (the Holocaust)

Otto Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi lieutanent colonel and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. He was responsible for facilitating and managing the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps during World War II. In May of 1960, he was captured in Argentina by Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. There was a widely publicized trial in Israel, where Eichmann was found guilty of war crimes and and hanged in 1962. From Eichmann’s trial in Israel, Hannah Arendt, a political theorist, published a book called “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” that observed and theorized Eichmann’s behavior during the trial. Eichmann did not show any guilt or hatred for those who were trying him, claiming he bore no responsibility because he not only did obey the orders but also the laws. Arendt observed that Eichmann did not seem to have an ability to think for himself and he most likely thought that mass murder was okay after seeing the “respectable” members endorsing it. Her phrase “banality of evil” refers to Eichmann not as a sociopath or fanatic, but an extremely average person who did not have the ability to think for himself or his actions and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideologies and morality. Even though Arendt’s book caused controversies and criticism that she is blaming the victim instead of Eichmann, her observations of Eichmann is somewhat similar to differential association theory in criminology which states that criminal behavior is learned within contexts of social interaction and when definitions favorable to crime exceed those unfavorable to crime, crime behavior results.

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