Otto Adolf Eichmann: Machine, Ideologist or Man

Otto Adolf Eichmann: Machine, Ideologist or Man

Few would have guessed that the little boy born in the small German city of Solingen would be the topic of many nightmares, heated discussions and eventually, the topic of a world famous trial. Now that we know that Otto Adolf Eichmann, or SS number 45326, was responsible for the death of millions, this becomes more understandable. However, no matter how many nightmares, discussion or trials are experienced, it does not become more understandable why Eichmann did this. This is not from lack of trying; many articles and books have been published on the subject of the motives of the German people, the Nazis and their leaders, and on Eichmann specifically. In 1960 and 1961, when Eichmann’s trial was reaching its peak of media attention, books and articles with Eichmann as their main character even became a hype. Many of those books depicted Eichmann as a monster, with titles such as Minister of Death and Eichmann, Man of Slaughter. They all tried to explain the reasons for Eichmann to commit his atrocities; some said Eichmann was often called a Jew himself (Mulisch, 1988), others that he was bullied as a child. However, many of these books were either misinformed or very little informed. A good example of this is an article from the London newspaper The Guardian, saying; “In the post-war years there have been several reports of Eichmann having been seen in several places - including Egypt, and more recently, in Kuwait. (…) Only last October the Israeli Radio reported that Eichmann was living as an oil company employee in Kuwait” (par. 6-7). It is now close to certain that Eichmann spent most of his years after the war in Argentina, and he probably never even set foot in Kuwait.

One of the books published in the early sixties has long contained the leading opinion in literature on Eichmann; Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. In 2004 however, David Cesarani published Eichmann: His Life and Crimes; this book takes a very different stand on the reasons why Eichmann committed his crimes. Both the German Hannah Arendt and the Dutchmen Harry Mulisch published articles on Eichmann during and after his trial in 1961. Both of them described the SS-Obersturmbannführer as a machine, a thing only capable of following orders without a normal conscience. David Cesarani has a different view to the motives of Eichmann. According to him, the roots of Eichmann’s crimes can be found in his childhood and gradually develop through mere coincidence and through the circumstances of his time. This last point is essential to Cesarani’s explanation; according to him, it was the specific conditions of Eichmann’s time that made it possible for the monster to develop in the so ordinary man. To get a better understanding of the differences between first, the opinion of Cesarani and second, the opinion of Arendt, it is necessary to examine them in more depth. After that, it is possible to draw conclusions from these differences; firstly, who is right, and secondly, why that particular view is more right, or likely to be more right than the other.

Both Hannah Arendt’s and David Cesarani’s explanations of Eichmann’s behaviour can be best examined when divided into four different factors of causation. First, there is the factor of Eichmann’s childhood. The second factor that might have caused Eichmann’s behaviour is Eichmann’s urge for a good career. Thirdly, both Arendt and Cesarani obviously examine the factor of Eichmann’s fanaticism. Lastly, both writers investigate the psychological reports published on Adolf Eichmann and on the obeying of orders in general. Cesarani’s view to these four factors will be discussed first, next Arendt’s.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Childhood
Otto Adolf Eichmann was born on 19 March 1906. According to Cesarani, some early biographies have suggested that when Eichmann was six years old his family moved to Austria to escape the unhappy memories of their old home where Eichmann’s mother died two years earlier. In Linz, his father was said to be remarried to a harsh and unfriendly woman, Eichmann was said to be bullied at school because he was mistaken for a Jew, and his family was supposed to be so poor they could barely pay for their food. Eichmann grew up to be a problem child; uneducated, unsuccessful and friendless (18-21, 360). Cesarani contradicts this firmly, describing the previous as “nonsense” (19). Eichmann’s mother died when he was nine, after moving to Austria. His father could not manage a family of eight children and therefore remarried a woman that Eichmann described as “very friendly” (21), although he never mentioned her name in any of his memorials. Cesarani describes Eichmann’s family as middleclass and certainly not poor. Furthermore, Eichmann was not at all a victim of anti-Jewish violence, nor did he take part in it himself; Eichmann had a Jewish friend with whom he regularly met, and they even stayed in touch when Eichmann joined the Nazi Party (21). Young Adolf did have an authoritarian father, and according to Cesarani “showed an incipient susceptibility to authority figures” (261). True is that Eichmann never finished an education; his father however arranged for young Eichmann to get work experience in his business. On one of his jobs he gained the valuable skill of locating and assessing transport intersections and learned to schedule deliveries (22-23). Cesarani depicts Eichmann as a normal young man; he quotes Eichmann describing his childhood as “Motor sports, mountain sports, work, coffee-houses, friends and girlfriends – and why not – filled the days and years” (24). Cesarani concludes that Eichmann did not show any signs of extreme nationalism, at least not stronger than any other Austrian: “Eichmann grew up in a Protestant, German-Austrian nationalist milieu in which social relationships, business dealings, and right-wing politics were happily intermingled” (27).

The Factor of Eichmann’s Fanaticism
It could be that Eichmann’s main reason to join the Nazi party was his fanatical anti-Semitic convictions. Cesarani does not agree with this. An argument for this is that the combination of anti-Semitism and anti-bolshevism offered by the Nazis was also available in other organisations. Eichmann joined the Nazis because he happened to know people that were members; his father was friends with an important veteran National Socialist fighter called Andreas Bolek, and Eichmann himself was close with a business colleague with strong Nazi sympathies with the name of Hugo Kaltenbrunner, and with his son Ernst. As Cesarani puts it; “Ernst Kaltenbrunner was instrumental in bringing Adolf Eichmann into the Party, but the road was paved by common social and cultural background” (26). By this background Cesarani means the right-wing environment Eichmann grew up in. These contacts with right-wing men of importance also gave Eichmann, according to Cesarani, the feeling of lifting his social status. In short, “he joined the Nazis because he liked the look of them, admired what he read in the Nazi Party newspapers about their activities, and fancied them as an up-and-coming political movement. Crucially, he believed that they complemented his own social standing” (362).
However, Cesarani argues that Eichmann’s attitude changed from the moment he entered the Nazi party. As a member of the SD in Berlin, Eichmann experienced a continuing political education and indoctrination on the Jewish questions; in 1937, Eichmann lectured on a Jewish world conspiracy (362). Moreover, as a member of the SS and the SD, Eichmann was “taught the qualities of ruthless efficiency and decisiveness. The only ‘ethical’ criteria that were to influence conduct pertained to the welfare of the Aryan people, the good of the Nazi Party and the interests of the German state” (363). Cesarani does therefore not argue that Eichmann was not acting from fanaticism when deporting Jews to their death. It is only Eichmann’s fanaticism that can explain Eichmann’s insubordination in Hungary; against the orders of his direct superior Himmler, Eichmann kept transporting Jews to the death camps.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Urge for a Career
It would be an obvious statement to conclude from Eichmann’s later deeds that he joined the Nazi party for purely ideological reasons. However, since Eichmann is so often described as a bureaucrat and extremely ordened (Mulisch, Arendt, Herzberg), it could be Eichmann simply joined the Nazis as start of a good career. After the previous paragraph it comes as no surprise that Cesarani does not agree with this. According to Cesarani Eichmann joined the SS for ideological and social reasons. However, Cesarani does say that Eichmann liked the idea of power and control: “There are clear signs that he found executive power intoxicating: he bragged to Hagen that he held the Jews ‘completely in my hands’” (363).

The Factor of Eichmann’s Personality
According to Cesarani, “psychologists who examined Eichmann provided little assistance for reaching a verdict on his personality”(257). These psychologists were mainly appointed to prove that Eichmann was not insane and therefore capable of standing trial. Cesarani describes two psychologists who did further research on Eichmann. The first one was Szondi, to whom the test results showed “in all phases a man obsessed with an urge for power and an insatiable tendency to kill”(358) without knowing the identity of his subject. The second one is Gilbert, who thought Eichmann was “a fairly well discernible personality type – the murderous robot of the SS” (358). Cesarani also states that another psychiatrist agreed with Arendt when he concluded that in normal circumstances Eichmann and other Nazi criminals would be the same as any other ordinary person (358). Cesarani points out that it is very hard to value these researches since none of them was made public. An important name in the psycho analysis of Nazis is Milgram; in a world-famous experiment he showed that anybody can become a murderer when ordered to. Many biographers of Eichmann, including Arendt, use Milgram to explain Eichmann’s behaviour. However, Cesarani thinks differently; he points at the initiative Eichmann showed by deporting the Hungarian Jews and at Eichmann fanaticism.

In conclusion, Cesarani emphasises the role Eichmann’s specific circumstances played. These specific circumstances are not an unhappy childhood, but rather the general atmosphere of anti-Semitism and nationalism in Austria together with Eichmann’s social contacts. These circumstances brought him to the SS and later to the SD, where Eichmann was taught to hate the Jews and how to be ruthlessly efficient, only acting on behalf of the Nazi Party or the Aryans, no longer caring about the rest of the world or ethics other than those of the Party. According to Cesarani “anyone subject to these processes might have behaved in the same way, be it in a totalitarian state or a democracy”. Eichmann was made into who he was by the twentieth century, not just by the totalitarian state (367-368).
Next, the view of Hannah Arendt on Eichmann’s motivations will be set forth.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Childhood
Again, it is important to see whether Eichmann’s childhood was a factor in causing Eichmann to commit his later atrocities. Hannah Arendt starts her description of Eichmann’s early life with “the misfortune started soon enough” (24), before she continues to portray Eichmann’s failed career as a student. However, she describes these misfortunes as simply “ordinary” (25); Arendt does not mention any excesses against Jews by young Eichmann, or Eichmann being bullied because he was mistaken for a Jew. Nor does Arendt claim that Eichmann had a very poor childhood; she describes Eichmann’s father as an entrepreneur enjoying and suffering every now and then a success and a loss (24-27). She describes Eichmann as “the déclassé son of a solid middleclass family” (28). Arendt states that Eichmann’s parents were uninterested in politics, but still they enrolled him into the Young Men’s Christian Organisation, from which he later went into the German youth movement (28). All together, Arendt describes Eichmann’s childhood as rather normal; she does not mention any signs of anti-Semitism or strong nationalism.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Fanaticism
As stated in the previous, Hannah Arendt does not consider Eichmann a strong anti-Semitist or nationalist from his early childhood onwards. She quotes Eichmann in telling that he had had a Jewish friend, states that Eichmann got one of his jobs through Jewish family members, and that Eichmann might have had a Jewish mistress when living in Vienna (26-27). However, Arendt argues that after attending the German youth movement, Eichmann joined the Jungfrontkämfeverband, the youth section of the German-Austrian organisation of war veterans, which was violently pro-German and anti-republican (28). However, Arendt states right after this that the Jungfrontkämfeverband was tolerated by the Austrian government, and then adds that Eichmann never really had the intention or wish to join the SS. This suggests that Arendt did not consider Eichmann’s membership of the Jungfrontkämfeverband as very important; according to Arendt it did not show that Eichmann was a convinced nationalist or anti-Semitist from the early start (28).
Arendt agrees with Cesarani that it was Kaltenbrunner who suggested Eichmann to join the SS. However, Arendt adds that Eichmann was at that time also considering joining the Freemasons’ Lodge Schlaraffia (28-29). His choice for the SS is described by Arendt as “A leaf in the whirlwind of time, he was blown from Schlaraffia (…) into the marching colums of the Thousand Year Reich” (29). This illustrates how accidental Eichmann’s choice was; according to Arendt, Eichmann did not even know the Party program, nor did he read Mein Kampf (29), suggesting that Eichmann did not join the SS out of ideological reasons, let alone of fanaticism.
This leaves us with the question whether fanaticism was a motive for Eichmann to commit the atrocities when he was a member of the Nazi party. Although Arendt does definitely not mean that Eichmann is not guilty because he acted on orders, she does not deny that he indeed acted just on orders, as any other bureaucrat. Arendt said that Eichmann remembered that he would only have had a bad conscience if he had not done what he had been ordered to do (22). Arendt argues that even in the peak of the Second World War, Eichmann never acted on his own initiative; according to her, Eichmann did not even have enough power to give orders to the generals of the Army (21).

The Factor of Eichmann’s Urge for a Career
As can be concluded from the previous, according to Arendt, Eichmann did not join the SS out of fanatical or ideological reasons. The direct occasion giving Eichmann the final push to the SS was, as said before, the proposal to join made by Kaltenbrunner (28-29). However, the deeper lying reason was the ambition of Eichmann. According to Arendt, Eichmann was fed up with his job for the Vacuum Oil Company; by moving to the SS Eichmann thought he had joint a movement in which “he could start from scratch and still make a career” (29). It was to his greatest “grief and sorrow” (30) that Eichmann never promoted to a higher rank than SS Obersturmbannführer – however, he never forgot what the alternative would have been; a life as travelling salesman. Arendt states hat Eichmann would rather have been hanged as Obersturmbannführer than living his life that quietly and normal (30).
According to Arendt Eichmann also joined because he was a follower and needed orders. She quotes Eichmann when he said about the official defeat of Germany in 1945; “I sensed I would have to live a leaderless and difficult individual life, I would receive no directives from anybody, no orders and commands would any longer be issued to me, no pertinent ordinances would be there to consult – in brief, a life never known before lay before me” (28).

The Factor of Eichmann’s Personality
Eichmann himself tried to argue that he was no innerer Schweinehund, a bad person in the depths of his heart; he only followed orders (22), even though those orders were to send millions to their death. Arendt argues that many psychiatrists have found evidence supporting Eichmann’s self-image; “half a dozen psychiatrists had certified him as ‘normal’ – ‘more normal, at any rate, than I am after having examined him,’ one of them was said to have exclaimed, while another had found that his whole psychological outlook, his attitude toward his wife and children, mother and father, brothers, sisters, and friends, was ‘not only normal but most desirable’” (22).
Throughout her entire book, Arendt is depicting an Eichmann who fits this image of ordinary man. The text is interlarded with small remarks by or about Eichmann, remarks one would never expect from a mass murderer, only from a most normal person, or maybe not even a normal person, but an extremely normal person; Eichmann seems shy, even boring; he seems a typical bureaucrat. For example, when describing Eichmann’s efforts to join the Freemasons, she quotes Eichmann when he describes why he was not admitted; “he had committed a sin that even now, as he told the story in the Israeli prison, made him blush with shame: ‘contrary to my upbringing, I had tried, though I was the youngest, to invite my companions to a glass of wine’” (29).

In conclusion, Hannah Arendt argues that Eichmann’s main motives cannot be found in his childhood or in his fanaticism. This was exactly the reason why Eichmann committed his crimes; he had had no disturbed upbringing or an extreme fanaticism, he was absolutely normal and did not think he did anything wrong by doing what he was told. She further describes Eichmann’s longing for orders, but also his ambition to become more than a travelling salesman as he had been in his twenties. This combined created a man that hoped to get promotion by working very hard and doing what he was told; something most people do, or as Arendt puts it: “Behind the comedy of the soul experts lay the hard fact that his was obviously no case of moral let alone legal insanity. (…) Worse, his was obviously also no case of insane hatred of Jews, of fanatical anti-Semitism or indoctrination of any kind. He personally never had anything whatever against Jews, he had plenty of “private reasons” for not being a Jew hater” (22-23). This is what Hannah Arendt meant with her subtitle the Banality of Evil; the Great Evil and Monster of Eichmann was just a normal man doing his job, as anyone would have done.

Now that the views of both Cesarani and Arendt are explored in greater depth, it is possible to compare the two theories. From the similarities and differences conclusions can be drawn that will lead to a final or most likely theory of why Eichmann has committed his crimes. To keep the considerable amount of facts and theories comprehensible, the same structure of the four factors is once more applied. Per factor the views of the two writers are discussed and conclusions are drawn, followed by a general conclusion. However, first there will be some short remarks on the general reliability of the sources.

General reliability
The books of both Cesarani and Arendt show signs of factors that can have influenced their liability. These factors are linked to their attendance at the actual trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem to which both of them refer, and to the time frame in which the authors were writing.
The first factor of attendance at the trial is especially important for Hannah Arendt, who refers the most to Eichmann’s appearance in court. Although Arendt gives the impression she witnessed the entire trial, according to Cesarani: “Perhaps even more pertinent to her analysis of Eichmann is the fact that she was only in Jerusalem for a fraction of the trial and could only have seen him testify for a few hours. (…) So, at most she only saw Eichmann in action for four days. During this spell he was answering friendly questions and was at his most bureaucratic, drily explaining for the benefit of the court the course of his career and how his office operated” (346). She missed the cross-examination and never experienced one of Eichmann’s trenchant defends. This puts Arendt’s book in an entirely new light; Arendt indeed strongly emphasis Eichmann’s ‘bureaucraticness’, and it could now be the case that that is only due to a distorted image she had of Eichmann. Cesarani does not seem to have attended the Eichmann trial himself, but as becomes apparent from the above quote, must have done plenty of research to make up for that. In fact, it could even be seen as positive; as a spectator from later times, he can be more objective and judge the trial in its context.
The second important general factor is that of the time frame. Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem originally appeared as a series of articles in The New Yorker; only in 1963 the book was published, with its contents in only “slightly abbreviated and otherwise slightly different form” as the publisher added on the first pages. This shows that Arendt has written the book in the hurry for a deadline and in the spur of the moment, which could imply that she was biased by her time. “Her time” can be described as one of a real Eichmann hype and as a time influenced by new psychological insights as gained by for example the Milgram experiment. Furthermore, Arendt’s contemporaries were in the spell of the totalitarian threat. The benefit of Arendt being closer to the events could have been that she had access to more primary sources such as eyewitnesses. However, nothing shows that she has indeed taken this advantage. Furthermore, according to Cesarani, little sources were available at the time, making the Eichmann hype even less reliable. Cesarani’s book on the other hand, was published first in 2004, and while Arendt’s bibliography takes three pages, Cesarani needs eighteen. Cesarani has the benefit of writing forty years after the trial, and can therefore, as said before, see his sources in their context. Another benefit was that Cesarani did not have as much pressure to finish his book has Arendt had writing for a newspaper. This would allow for a more extensive and balanced research.

In short, it is likely that Arendt’s book was heavily influenced by her distorted views from the Jerusalem trial and by the convictions of her time; both are undermining her reliability. Cesarani on the other hand, wrote his book forty years after the trial, which allows him to be judge his sources in their context. Cesarani also appears to have done a lot more, and a lot more extensive research.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Childhood
Hannah Arendt and Cesarani give approximately the same impression of Eichmann as a child; “normal” is the keyword in both of the books. Both Arendt and Cesarani state that Eichmann never really suffered any catastrophes in his childhood, and came from a middleclass family that was certainly not poor, but not extremely rich either. Young Eichmann never showed signs of strong anti-Semitism or extraordinarily strong nationalism. However, Cesarani adds to the keyword ‘normal’ the words in his time. Eichmann lived in a period of strong nationalism; it was at that time normal to be an anti-Semitic nationalist; however, although very many people could be categorised as such, this makes Eichmann not less an anti-Semite or nationalist. Both writers do agree that Eichmann had Jewish friends when he was young, so he cannot have been a very convinced or fanatical anti-Semite. Both Cesarani and Arendt also state that Eichmann showed a susceptibility of authority figures; according to Arendt this was one of Eichmann’s reasons to join the SS. However, a great difference between the two descriptions is the overall image of Eichmann the writers provide their readers. After reading Cesarani, one can conclude that Eichmann was quite a popular young man, with a string of girlfriends and an exciting job as travelling salesman on top of that, whereas Arendt depicts Eichmann as a grey and dull figure, a joiner who later tried to make his past sound more interesting.

In conclusion, Cesarani’s and Arendt’s view on the factor of Eichmann’s childhood are quite similar. However, the differences should not be underestimated; although Arendt emphasises Eichmann’s normality, Cesarani emphasises more correctly Eichmann’s normality in his time frame. This interpretation opens the door to the more likely view on the reasons for Eichmann to join the SS, as described in the following. The last conclusion that can be drawn is the different overall images the two writers provide, characterising for their different point of views; Arendt has her normal man, Cesarani chooses for the relatively normal man.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Fanaticism
This factor is the main point of disagreement between Arendt and Cesarani. The discussion about Eichmann’s fanaticism can be divided into three different stages; Eichmann’s fanaticism in his childhood, the role his fanaticism played as a reason for entering the SS and finally, the discussion about how important Eichmann’s fanaticism was for committing his crimes as a Nazi officer.

The first discussion point has been settled in the previous; Arendt does not really mention Eichmann’s nationalistic or anti-Semitic views, she emphasises his normalness. Cesarani however, considers Eichmann also as normal, but then normal in his own time, so indeed a right-wing anti-Semite; a more likely interpretation of the facts considering the widespread right wing convictions of the Austrians in those days, and Eichmann’s own connections with right-wing colleagues.

Neither Arendt nor Cesarani believes that Eichmann joined the SS simply out of ideological reasons. Eichmann joined because the people he admired were right-wing, and he felled that joining the Nazis would lift his social status. Although Arendt argues Eichmann did not even know the program of the party, it is not likely that he did not know that the party was anti-Semitic and nationalistic, after all he had friends who were already in the party. This strengthens Cesarani’s view that it was not a big step to join such a right wing organisation in those days.
The most important question now to answer is whether Eichmann acted out of fanatical reasons when he send millions to their death. According to Arendt the answer is no; Eichmann, as an extremely normal bureaucrat, simply did what he was told and thought executing the orders was more important than answering the moral question whether it was the right thing to do. This is very unlikely; Arendt is clearly mislead by Eichmann’s performance in the trial and missed out on some important facts. Arendt forgets that Eichmann wanted to appear as normal as possible in the trial; saying that he acted on orders was the only strong defence he could make, he knew his life depended on it. It was probably from a lack of information or gross misinterpretation that Arendt did not include Eichmann’s actions in Hungary, where he transported thousands of Jews after he was given the strict order to stop; clearly Eichmann was now acting on his own initiative. Taking the initiative, killing thousands of Jews while not ordered to, so voluntarily, can only be explained from a strong personal conviction or fanaticism. Cesarani, who first argued Eichmann did not join the SS because of fanaticism, explains Eichmann’s change to the Nazi ideology through the indoctrination that took place within the Nazi party. Reports of Eichmann, made by his superiors, show that they thought Eichmann was a convinced and good national-socialist. That Eichmann was not just pretending can be deduced from the interview the Dutch SS man Sassen had with him after the Second World War in Argentina, in which Eichmann clearly said he was proud of what he had done.

In short, although Hannah Arendt does not agree with it, it is likely that Eichmann did commit his crimes out of fanaticism, rather than that he was simply following orders. Although not extremely nationalistic or anti-Semitic from upbringing, Eichmann became a true national-socialist after joining the Nazi party through continuous indoctrination and Nazi propaganda. The deportation of Hungarian Jews organised by Eichmann against specific orders proofs this point.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Urge for a Career
As said before, Eichmann did not join the SS for pure ideological reasons. The question is whether it then can be concluded that Eichmann joined the Nazis because he was very ambitious, since this ambition could have lead to him executing even the most morally despicable orders.
Cesarani does not agree with this; Eichmann joined the SS because of the social status he hoped it would give him and because of his colleague’s suggestion, although Cesarani does say that Eichmann liked the idea of power and control. This is of course a very different interpretation of the influence Eichmann’s ambition had; apparently he did not have the ambition just to follow orders, but to give them as well. Arendt, who does not agree, provides that Eichmann would rather have died as a SS Obersturmbannführer than live a quiet life as a travelling salesman. Although she is trying to argue that Eichmann was a very normal man, just a man with ambition, this seems contradicting her normality theory. How normal is it to prefer being hanged as a Nazi officer to a quiet life as a salesman? Furthermore, it is not likely that someone trying so hard to be promoted and so desperate not to have an ordinary life would be a simple, grey bureaucrat who loved following orders. In short, Eichmann indeed was an ambitious man, liking the power and control a high function would give him, fearing the normality and quietness of simple jobs such as his previous.

The Factor of Eichmann’s Personality
This factor is the basis of Arendt’s book; the fascinating and terrifying fact that Eichmann was not the traditional fanatical and scaring mass murderer, but a normal person. She supports this theory with evidence from several psychiatrists, who stated that Eichmann was normal, and that his attitude towards relatives and friends was most desirable. She continuously emphasises his normalness, quoting from time to time remarks that show Eichmann was a shy, grey, perhaps even boring bureaucrat. Cesarani, who does not believe in this image, brings up two psychiatrists who characterise Eichmann as someone with a strong urge for power and having a well discernible personality.

After having examined both Cesarani and Arendt, it is now possible to draw a final conclusion about the motives of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann had a relatively normal upbringing; that is relative to his time. Eichmann lived in a time in which it was normal to be right-wing and nationalistic, and although he was neither an extreme anti-Semitist nor an extreme nationalist, the roots were there. He proceeded to enter the SS, a choice made out of hunger for status and power and influenced by his right-winged colleagues, but also because he simply just lost his job. Through continuing indoctrination and propaganda, Eichmann turned into a true national-socialist, actively undertaking action to realise the Nazi goals; a Judenrein Europe. Although Arendt, among others, has argued that Eichmann was indeed a simple bureaucrat taking orders, this is not true. Careful research, viewing Eichmann in his context – both in charge in Germany and imprisoned in Jerusalem - in combination with the general comments that can be made about Arendt’s reliability is enough to say that Hannah Arendt was wrong with her thesis that Eichmann was just an ordinary man doing his job. Eichmann was normal in the sense that many people would have done the same; at least after having the same indoctrination Eichmann had all his life, and having the same ambition has he had. This is by no means an excuse for what Eichmann or other Nazis have done, because guilty they are; it is rather a lesson never to loose morals out of sight.


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