Quotes by Hannah Arendt (Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil)

hch-14-prioritaires HCH 14 / January 2017

Quotes by Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil. USA. Penguin Group, 2006 (1963)

“[Eichmann] left no doubt that he would have killed his own father if he had received an order to that effect”, p. 22

“The extermination program that was started in the autumn of 1941 ran, as it were, on two altogether different tracks. One track led to the gas factories, and the other to the Einsatzgruppen“, p. 106

“Those mobile killing units, of which there existed just four, each of battalion size, with a total of no more than three thousand men, needed and got the close cooperation of the Armed Forces; indeed, relations between them were usually ‘excellent’ and in some instances ‘affectionate’ (herzlich). The generals showed a ‘surprisingly good attitude towards the Jews’; not only did they hand their Jews to the Einsatzgruppen, they often lent their own men, ordinary soldiers, to assist in the massacres. The total number of their Jewish victims is estimated by Hilberg to have reached almost a million and a half”, p. 107

“The extent to which even the Jewish victims has accepted the standards of the Final Solution is perhaps nowhere more glaringly evident than in the so-called Kastner Report (available in German, Der Kastner-Berich über Eichmanns Menschenhandel in Ungarn, 1961). Even after the end of the war, Kastner was proud of his success in saving ‘prominent Jews’, a category officially introduced by the Nazis in 1942, as though in his view, too, it went without saying that a famous Jew had more right to stay alive than an ordinary one”, p. 132

“Eichmann’s last crisis of conscience began with his missions to Hungary in March 1944 (…) Eichmann’s assignment was clear. His whole office was moved to Budapest (…) Eichmann’s ‘dream’ was an incredible nightmare for the Jews: nowhere else were so many people deported and exterminated in such a brief span of time. In less than two months, 147 trains, carrying 434,351 people in sealed freight cars, a hundred persons a car, left the country, and the gas chambers of Auschwitz were hardly able to cope  with this multitude”, p. 140

“All deportations from West to East were organized and coordinated by Eichmann and his associates in Section IV-B-4 of the R.S.H.A. … But to put the Jews on the trains he needed the help of ordinary police units (…) The Jerusalem court followed the definitions of ‘criminal organizations’ established at Nuremberg; this meant that neither the Order Police nor the Security Police were ever mentioned, although their active involvement in the implementation of the Final Solution had by this time been amply substantiated. But even if all the police units had been added to the four organizations recognized as ‘criminal’ –the leadership corps of the Nazi Party, the Gestapo, the S.D., and the S.S.– the Nuremberg distinctions would have remained inadequate and inapplicable to the reality of the Third Reich. For the truth of the matter is that there existed not a single organization or public institution in Germany, at least during the war years, that did not become involved in criminal actions and transactions”, p. 159

“… the behavior of the Danish people and their government was unique among all the countries of Europe (…) One is tempted to recommend the story as required reading in political science for all students who wish to learn something about the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action (…) Like Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and Bulgaria proved to be nearly immune to anti-Semitism, but… only the Danes dared speak out (…) When the Germans approached them rather cautiously about introducing the yellow badge, they were simply told that the King would be the first to wear it, and the Danish government officials were careful to point out that anti-Jewish measures of any sort would cause their own immediate resignation (…) Thus, none of the preparatory moves, so important for the bureaucracy of murder, could be carrier out, and operations were postponed until the fall of 1943. What happened then was truly amazing (…) the German officials who had been in living in [Denmark] for years were no longer the same (…) Best went to Berlin and obtained a promise that all Jews from Denmark would be sent to Theresienstadt … The night of October 1 [1943] was set for their seizure and immediate departure –ships were ready in the harbor– and since the Danes nor the Jews nor the German troops stationed in Denmark could be relied on to help, police units arrived from Germany for a door-to-door search … Best told them that they were not permitted to break into apartments,because the Danish police might then interfere, and they were not supposed to fight it out with the Danes. Hence they could seize only those Jews who voluntarily opened their doors. They found exactly 477 people, out of a total of more than 7,800 at home and willing to let them in. A few days before the date of doom, … Duckwitz … had revealed the whole plan to Danish government officials, who, in turn, had hurriedly informed the heads of the Jewish community. They, in marked contrast to Jewish leaders in other countries, had then communicated the news openly in the synagogues on the occasion of the New Year services. The Jews had just time enough to leave their apartments and go into hiding, which was very easy in Denmark, because … ‘all sections of the Danish people, from the King down to simple citizens’, stood ready to receive them”, pp. 171-174

“Schäfer had to stand trial in a German criminal court after the war. For the gassing of 6,280 women and children, he was sentenced to six years and six months in prison … General Franz Böhme committed suicide, but Staatsrat Turner was handed over the Yugoslav government and condemned to death. It is the same story repeated over and over again: those who escaped the Nuremberg Trials and were not extradited to the countries where they had committed their crimes either were never brought to justice, or found in the German courts the greatest possible ‘understanding'”, p. 185

“Martin Buber called the execution a ‘mistake of historical dimensions’, as it might ‘serve to expiate the guilt felt by many young persons in Germany'”, p. 251

“… in those last minutes [Eichmann] was summing up the lessons that this long course in human wickedness has taught us –the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil“, p. 252


Eichmann & Auschwitz. Photo by Antonia Tejeda Barros, Madrid, 2017. Book on the right: Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Yisrael Gutman & Michael Berenbaum (eds.), USA, Indiana University Press, 1998 (1994)