In 1961, the noted German-American philosopher of Jewish origin, Hannah Arendt, gets to report on the trial of the notorious Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann. While observing the legal proceedings, Arendt concludes that Eichmann was not a monster, but an ordinary man who had thoughtlessly buried his conscience through his obedience to the Nazi regime and its ideology. Arendt's expansion of this idea, presented in her articles for 'The New Yorker', would create her concept of 'the banality of evil' that she thought even sucked in some Jewish leaders of the era into unwittingly participating in the Holocaust. The result is a bitter public controversy in which Arendt is accused of blaming the Holocaust's victims. Now that strong willed intellectual is forced to defend her ideas in a struggle that will exact a heavy personal cost.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For a deeper understanding of this story, one might care to watch Operation Finale, which depicts the undercover mission to find and extract Adolph Eichman from Argentina and bring him to trial in Israel. Showing the backgroung of an operation sanctioned by PM Ben Gurion, the film gives us a glimpse of the complexity of Eichman's character, his futile attemps to justify his actions and tell his side of the story. See more »
When Arendt stands on the terrace of her hotel in Jerusalem at looks across the Valley of Hinnom at the Old City, there are Israel flags flying from the Tower of David complex. However, the Old City of Jerusalem was still under Jordanian control in 1961. See more »
But Hannah, how can you defend him?
But I'm not defending him. You can hardly forget that your husband is only my friend because of you. And I don't throw away my friends so quickly.
See more »
Folks, this is what Philosophy is all about: taking a stand which is not always popular and being able to justify it for the ages. Hannah Arendt is only in this century beginning to receive her due as the most perspicuous political philosopher of the 20th century. After all, it was Ms Arendt who first observed that post-Hiroshima, a conventional war could never again be fought and won. But rather, all pre-emptive invasions who devolve into occupations - that rather than full-scale war or revolutions - the world would sink increasingly into a mire of entropic violence. Her controversial thesis in Eichmann In Jerusalem - yet another masterpiece of at least five in her canon, is that mass atrocities are not committed by idiosyncratic madmen who erect vast engines of evil in which the followers (citizens of the state) serve as the 'cogs' – but rather the architectonic of evil consists in the actions of rather ordinary people who for various reasons and rationalizations refuse to think about the ramifications of what they're doing. I mention this point because I've studied Ms Arendt's work for over three decades, lived in Greenwich Village when she was teaching at the New School, and when I saw the film premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this past January – I felt that most of the scant audience did not get the point any more than her contemporaries. The film-making is excellent. To dramatize philosophic ideas is challenge in itself. Von Trotta, in the old European style, makes her films with a regular group of actors, and, while the performances were effective throughout, in real life, Hannah Arendt was not nearly so physically engaging and Mary McCarthy quite a bit more – which, I believe had something to do with the development their respective moral characters. All in all, a great, not merely a good, film – and one of the few worth seeing thus far this year – unless, of course, the attributes of fast and furious 6 or iron man 3 overwhelm.
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