Sunday, October 05, 2014

Arguments over Arendt and Eichmann annoy me. Everyone I read who's upset by her -Germans, Zionists, liberals who make claims from optimism- has reasons to be defensive, to want to isolate themselves from the capacity for "evil". Optimists are optimists first about themselves; Corey Robin's moralizing narcissism mandates an opposition to psychological analysis so Arendt's focus on psychology (as he's argued before) must be a weakness. And for Zionists the holocaust has to be a crime not against humanity but against the Jews.

Comment 38 on Robin's recent post quotes Arendt
“and it was not the accusation of having sent millions of people to their death that ever caused him real agitation but only the accusation (dismissed by the court) of one witness that he had once beaten a Jewish boy to death.”
adding
This is important, because if he had “beaten a Jewish boy to death” that fact would have serious implications for her thesis.

Her treatment of it – implying that the court “dismissed” the accusation, as if it had found it to be false – is tendentious. The court stated that “the impression made on us by Mr. Gordon’s evidence is positive,” but concluded that given the burden of proof for the crime of murder, it was not “safe to find facts” that would amount to a conviction “without corroborative evidence.”
The inability to think, and the inability to read, on the part of commenter "Bloix". Robin, responding to Bloix, misses the point as well.
Even if the court had found him guilty of killing one soul, she thought that was quite beside the point. In other words, the reason she was so impatient with the Gordon testimony is not because she feared it would prove Eichmann was a bloodthirsty Jew-hating killer but because she thought it completely missed and was irrelevant to the real nature of his crime: that he had helped organize the disappearance of the Jewish people. She felt like it simply didn’t matter if he had killed one Jew or not, for he was so much guilty for so much more; focusing on the former seemed like an evasion of the true nature and magnitude of his crime.
Read the quote again. Eichmann was more upset by accusations that he'd lost control, like a common criminal, that he'd been vulgar and brutal in one case, than that he'd exercised due diligence in the extermination of millions. The quote doesn't undermine Arendt's point, it confirms it. Eichmann the killer on a massive scale was offended at being called a thug. Arendt isn't dismissing the death of one boy; she's noting with cold irony the pathetic small-mindedness and moral blankness behind the capacity for mass murder. It's sheer ideological blindness -again: without thought- to miss the obvious.
It was at this time that a “moderate wing” of the S.S. came into existence, consisting of those who were stupid enough to believe that a murderer who could prove he had not killed as many people as he could have killed would have a marvelous alibi, and those who were clever enough to foresee a return to “normal conditions,” when money and good connections would again be of paramount importance.
Eichmann never joined this “moderate wing,” and it is questionable whether he would have been admitted if he had tried to. Not only was he too deeply compromised and, because of his constant contact with Jewish functionaries, too well known; he was too primitive for these well-educated upper-middle-class “gentlemen,” against whom he harbored the most violent resentment up to the very end. He was quite capable of sending millions of people to their death, but he was not capable of talking about it in the appropriate manner without being given his “language rule.” In Jerusalem, without any rules, he spoke freely of “killing” and of “murder,” of “crimes legalized by the state”; he called a spade a spade, in contrast to counsel for the defense, whose feeling of social superiority to Eichmann was more than once in evidence. (Servatius’ assistant Dr. Dieter Wechtenbruch - a disciple of Carl Schmitt who attended the first few weeks of the trial, then was sent to Germany to question witnesses for the defense, and reappeared for the last week in August - was readily available to reporters out of court; he seemed to be shocked less by Eichmann’s crimes than by his lack of taste and education. “Small fry,” he said; “we must see how we get him over the hurdles” wie wir das Würstchen fiber die Runden bringen. Servatius himself had declared, even prior to the trial, that his client’s personality was that of “a common mailman.”)
When Himmler became “moderate,” Eichmann sabotaged his orders as much as he dared, to the extent at least that he felt he was “covered” by his immediate superiors. “How does Eichmann dare to sabotage Himmler’s orders?” - in this case, to stop the foot marches, in the fall of 1944 Kastner once asked Wisliceny. And the answer was: “He can probably show some telegram. Müller and Kaltenbrunner must have covered him.”  It is quite possible that Eichmann had some confused plan for liquidating Theresienstadt before the arrival of the Red Army, although we know this only through the dubious testimony of Dieter Wisliceny (who months, and perhaps years, before the end began carefully preparing an alibi for himself at the expense of Eichmann, to which he then treated the court at Nuremberg, where he was a witness for the prosecution; it did him no good, for he was extradited to Czechoslovakia, prosecuted and executed in Prague, where he had no connections and where money was of no help to him). Other witnesses claimed that it was Rolf Günther, one of Eichmann’s men, who planned this, and that there existed, on the contrary, a written order from Eichmann that the ghetto be left intact. In any event, there is no doubt that even in April, 1945, when practically everybody had become quite “moderate,” Eichmann took advantage of a visit that M. Paul Dunand, of the Swiss Red Cross, paid to Theresienstadt to put it on record that he himself did not approve of Himmler’s new line in regard to the Jews. 
see also. It amazes me how many people read without reading, and without thinking.
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Robin comes around: "To her mind the fixation on the murder of the Hungarian boy (and Eichmann’s agitation over that) is not problematic because it undermines her thesis: it proves her thesis..."

repeat. The sadism of the German petty bourgeois

Leo Steinberg
Our teacher, Herr Säger, was a portly man of short temper. Any boy misbehaving would be struck smartly across the face. It was a daily occurrence—and one day, he hit me. I told mother, whereupon my parents went to see the headmaster to protest. This, after all, was the liberal Weimar Republic, a new age of progressive education, which condemned the physical chastisement of children as barbarous.
Accordingly, the headmaster expressed disbelief. Herr Säger, he said, was one of our most respected teachers, who surely would never lay hands on his boys. So he summoned Herr Säger, who denied having ever done so.
I knew nothing of this—until the next morning, when I was made to stand in front of the class to answer Herr Säger’s questions:
“Did you tell your parents that I hit you?”
“Yes.”

“Is it true? Did I hit you?”

“Yes, you did.”

Herr Säger turned to the class and called out:

“Boys, did I ever hit any of you?”
Stunned silence. They didn’t know what to say, since most of them had been struck many times. Herr Säger, raising his voice, repeated in a more menacing tone:
“Did I ever lay hands on any of you?”
Silence again, for a few seconds, until a boy in the front row caught on and said—“No, never!” Herr Säger relaxed, and at once the whole class of forty understood what was expected of them and chimed in: “No, never!”
At this, my tears started. Seventy-two years have passed, and still I remember that spokesman in the front row, looking triumphant, because he had found the right answer. Herr Säger turned back to me:
“Well, did I hit you?”
I nodded: “Yes.”
He pulled out the class record book, and intoned as he wrote these words, trenched in my memory:
“Steinberg nimmt es mit der Wahrheit nicht genau”—“Steinberg is not particular about the truth.”
Since the suburb of Zehlendorf was spared the Allied bombing of World War II, that document may still exist. There—in Zehlendorf-West, as in many places since—you will find it stated black on white that I am not to be trusted.

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