“The Banality of Evil”

Hannah Arendt was a German Jew, a  political theorist, and one of the most admired thinkers in the world then and still well respected today.  This review is about her film of the same name, “Hannah Arendt.”   She coined the phrase “Banality of Evil”  when she covered and wrote for “The New Yorker” from  the trial of the former Nazi, Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961.

Adolf Eichmann was the hated head of the Gestapo, and a self-proclaimed Jewish  specialist.  He was responsible for keeping the trains rolling from all over Europe, filled with Jews to the death camps.(www.historyplace.com)

Eichmann followed what is now called, “the Nuremberg defense,”  arguing he was just following orders and couldn’t be charged with war crimes, because there there other people who drove the train, and acted as guards. He asked, “Why are you trying me?  Everyone killed Jews?”

Hannah had fled the Nazis’ and come to the United States. Her friends feared she would be thrown into depression reliving her own journey. But surprisingly ,she was intrigued that she came to see Eichmann not as a monster but as a man who was a pen-pushing bureaucrat, doing his job while  intent on furthering  his career.  This was not the opinion the Jews and many of Hannah’s friends were furious and shocked to say the least.

Hannah in her personal conflict in this situation, reached this conclusion:

“As such, the atrocities committed against European Jews during the war took on a more horrific, and universal meaning.  When  appropriately motivated, all humans are capable of  inhuman acts.”

And now today with all the disquieting news. . . . Israel/Hamas and the  conflicting news reports.   What is truth, what we  see and it appears  or maybe something we have not seen and all together differently  perceived?   (I recommend the play or  film “Doubt” as a wonderful  thoughtful eye opener in this re-guard.)

Are we obligated to ourselves and the world to research important  challenges in life in our best possible search for truth? Are we capable of “inhuman acts?” Do we blindly follow?

I would sincerely appreciate  any comments, pro or con. We are all pilgrims along the way of life and can learn from each other. . . 

Text from : http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews


Adolf Eichmann was found guilty on all counts and  put to death by hanging  on May 31, 1962.

Banality :  noun ; synonyms:  triteness, staleness, lack of originality, platitudes, cliche’, truism






About annetbell

I am a retired elementary teacher, well seasoned world traveler,new blogger, grandmother, and a new enthusiastic discoverer of the wonderfully complex country of India. Anne
This entry was posted in film, Uncategorized, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to “The Banality of Evil”

  1. Jennwith2ns says:

    I agree that we’re all capable of inhumanity. Also that evil is ultimately boring.


  2. shaunynews says:

    Yeah, as a species, under the right circumstances, I truly believe every one of us are capable of unspeakable evil. I was evil Anne, I did unspeakable things. I was that “Circumstance” and it was “Right” Talking about the Holocaust, every person along the chain of command was doing their job. I ask, if you or anyone were at Work and your Boss said “Kill that ethnic whatever person or you are fired” Would you? I wouldn’t. So I guess we all have choice right? These are just my thoughts and opinion, may be right, may be wrong, in reality, just opinions the same as any..In Israel right now Evil has taken over as it did in Nazi Germany.

    Sometimes it is better to hear a reason than to read one..

    Good blog, a lot to think about..


    • annetbell says:

      Listen, you sent that last night, I listened and, then replied. . . . but probably in the wrong place! So who knows., , , , ,I am a tad startled at the strength of your words about the US. I have no doubt that it is based on your research but, I am not ready to go there.

      I had a great time watching this film and writing the post. Sometimes I just do some silly thing cause I am lazy. This was work but felt worthwhile. I am not very intellectual and never spent much time delving into things….just the journalist’s who, what , when, where and then off to the next thing. These last few weeks I have read more, thought, more and today, I wrote more. deeply.

      I wanted to tell you reading your response about work ethics. . . . I remembered when I stood up to the nun who was the financial person for the school when she changed the pay schedule and it was a huge problem for the young teachers who had to pay car bills, rent etc. They were too nervous to speak up so I did…with fear and trepidation. I didn’t kill her but I was quite clear and got things done. I spoke truth to power and it was good. I am not very brave generally but I can step up. I don’t think I would ever kill anyone either and your life is very different from mine. I hope I would have the power of my convictions in a terrible situation and not capitulate

      We saw I Origins this afternoon. . . very well done and I will write about it soon. It is Science Fiction but very good story. . No time travel though. . . . .


      • shaunynews says:

        No time travel? Awwwwww lol..

        It was a good read, I have seen the nicest of people do the most unthinkable things when they had to, when there was no other way. My life was different in I was born into crime. And I knew no better. But Dawn came and showed me things I didn’t know..

        I am not saying we are all killers, just that, it is in our DNA to self preserve. The movie “The Happening” The opposite happens, the preservation switch is turned off and people do the opposite..

        I am sorry if my reply came across wrong..
        Keep in mind, different cultures..

        x x


  3. inavukic says:

    The shame on Humanity when it comes to world war II is that it chose to reveal and prosecute only one crime – the Holocaust – and allowed the same (if not worse) crimes to be covered up and considered crimes of “necessity” – i.e. communist crimes. I take particular offence at the fact that Stalin’s judges sat at Nuremberg judging crimes against Jews and yet Stalin’s purges murdered over 30 million innocent civilians…Humanity of today should be less political and more objective for if it judges less some crimes than others we will never see peace. Double standards are a breeding ground for genocidal ideas. I am so sad with what is happening in Gaza that I do not see any other way out except condemnation of both sides.


  4. rheapatel22 says:

    Your blog is great and really interesting! I was hoping you could kindly visit my blog and like or comment on anything you found interesting?


    • annetbell says:

      Rhea, how sweet of you. I enjoyed my visit to your blog and was very impressed with it. I felt right at home because of your positive presentation of difficult topics, the Palestinian /Israeli situation, and that you did research going back at least a short bit into the past. I encourage you to research the history of Israel back to 1947 as well as WWII. It in no way excuses slaughter of women and children but the past does shine light on a complicated present. I think I will go back and comment on individual posts. Hope that is helpful.


      • rheapatel22 says:

        Thanks so much Annet for taking the time to read my blog! I appreciate all your kind advice 🙂 have a good day!


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