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“The Banality of Evil”

“The ideal subject of totalitarian regimes is ordinary people who ‘cannot distinguish the difference between reality and fiction’” Hannah Arendt

Hamas launched an unprecedented attack against Israel on October 7. Within a week, the total number of dead and injured on both sides exceeded thousands. At such a time, it would be suitable. For us to rethink the theory of “The Banality of Evil” by Hannah Arendt, one of the influential political theorists of the twentieth century.

In her book “The Banality of Evil”, Arendt points out that evil becomes ordinary with the loss of the ability to think and judge…

Adolf Eichmann is a high-ranking Nazi officer working under Hitler’s authority. He is responsible for organising the transfer of Jews to concentration and extermination camps. After the end of the war, he changed his name and fled to Argentina. It is located in the San Fernando district of the capital, Buenos Aires.

However, he was captured by MOSSAD in 1960 and brought to Israel. Eichman, one of those responsible for the deaths of millions of people, will be tried here.

Many people, journalists and the court panel who come to follow the hearings from almost all over the world expect to see a ruthless, raving murderer. Among the journalists watching the hearing is Jewish Hannah Arent…

Jews were stacked on trains and transported to the camps as if taken to a production line. The smoke from the gas chambers smoked like factory chimneys until late at night. Jews were treated like objects on a mass production line. Serial murders were committed systematically, with a fabricated approach… Someone who was a part of this system could not be normal!

However, the journalists, the court panel and the audience, including Hannah Arendt, see a calm, easy-going ordinary person and bureaucrat!

Half a dozen psychiatrists gave regular reports about Eichmann after he was brought to Israel. When the Israeli Minister visited him in prison, he called him “a person with very positive thoughts.” In his private life, Eichmann had the profile of an exemplary father, a devoted husband, and a wonderful friend. He had no particular hatred towards Jews. He even got his first job thanks to Jewish family friends. According to Arendt, he neither joined the party because he believed in the Nazi cause nor did he start to believe in it after joining. He mentioned issues such as the Treaty of Versailles and unemployment whenever asked why he joined the party. Eichmann was already thinking and speaking in clichés. He didn’t even know the party program; he had never read Mein Kampf. A friend asked, “Why don’t you join the SS?” he said, “Why not!” He said that was all. But he was an ambitious young man and wanted to rise. He rose from corporal to lieutenant colonel in a year and a half.

Those who knew Eichmann said that he was a friendly, cheerful and famous person. At his trial, the court asked Eichmann why he did all this. Eichmann makes his defence as follows:

“I am a very good, loved person in my private life. My wife, children and friends love me very much. I just followed the orders given as a soldier. I pledged allegiance to the Führer as a soldier. As a soldier, my loyalty to him is my military responsibility. We had a well-functioning system involving many people, and I was a part of that system. I was doing everything the way it was supposed to be done. “I was just following orders.”

Eichmann countered the accusations, arguing that he was following orders and doing his duty as a law-abiding citizen. He obeyed not only orders but also the law. Eichmann said, “What we did in the past is considered a crime when we look at it from the position we are in today; “At that time, it was a state duty; every order of Hitler was law.” He had an endless and extreme admiration for Hitler; according to him, his crime stemmed from his obedience. “However, obedience was praised as a virtue.” he accuses. Nazi leaders had exploited his obedience. He claimed that he was not one of the rulers, that he was a victim, and that the rulers deserved the death penalty.

In her book, Arendt points out that Adolf Eichmann, who is presented as one of the influential figures of the Holocaust, was an extremely average person rather than a cruel monster…

He defines Eichmann as “a bureaucratic, shallow and incapable person who cannot go beyond making a cliché sentence.” After all, it is evident that Eichmann was a person who had no ideas of his own, did not think, only obeyed, and therefore did what he was told without questioning…

Eichmann is rational, just like other people. Only he surrendered his mind to someone else’s will. However, the most crucial feature distinguishing humans from other living creatures is their intelligence…

These days, when violence and images close to genocide are spreading worldwide, it is time to ask the following questions that concern all humanity: Who is the engine of the death machine? Who are the submissive gears? Who or what is under the mind’s command that distinguishes humans from other creatures?

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