Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eichmann, the takeaway

Some memorable moments from Eichmann in Jerusalem:

For the lesson of such stories is simple and within everyone's grasp. Politically speaking, it is that under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not, just as the lesson of the countries to which the Final Solution was proposed is that "it could happen" in most places but it did not happen everywhere. (p. 233)

It is quite gratifying to feel guilty if you haven't done anything wrong: how noble! Whereas it is rather hard and certainly depressing to admit guilt and repent. (p. 251)

For the truth of the matter was that by the end of the Second World War everybody knew that technical developments in the instruments of violence had made the adoption of "criminal" warfare inevitable.... Hence, it was felt that under these new conditions war crimes were only those outside all military necessities, where a deliberate inhuman purpose could be demonstrated. (p. 256)

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied ... that this new type of criminal ... commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong. (p. 276)
Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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