Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stangneth. I'd read something by her earlier, before the book was translated; it left a bad taste in my mouth and still does.
Eichmann Before Jerusalem is also a dialogue with Hannah Arendt, and not simply because I first came to this topic many years ago through Eichmann in Jerusalem. Our understanding of history is so dependent on our own time and circumstances that we cannot ignore a perspec­tive like Arendt’s. She had the courage to form a clear judgment, even at the risk of knowing too little in spite of all her meticulous work. And one of the most significant insights to be gained from studying Adolf Eichmann is reflected in Arendt: even someone of average intelligence can induce a highly intelligent person to defeat herself with her own weapon: her desire to see her expectations fulfilled. We will be able to recognize this mechanism only if thinkers deal bravely enough with their expectations and judgments to see their own failure.
Roger Berkowitz
It is important to recognize that much of what Stangneth writes accords with Arendt’s own account of Eichmann, so much so that Stangneth lauds Arendt for seeing with an insight what others had not. It is worth rehearsing the similarities in their accounts before considering the differences.

First, both Stangneth and Arendt insist that Eichmann is evil. This simple fact is too often forgotten. Arendt not only defends the Israeli Court’s decision to hang Eichmann, she also writes in her imagined judgment of Eichmann that he was so evil, “no one, that is no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with [him].”

Second, Stangneth illuminates Arendt’s account of Eichmann’s enormous pride, that “bragging had always been one of [Eichmann’] cardinal vices.” Stangneth’s account of Eichmann’s early Nazi career argues that he “claimed a place in world history for himself” and that he cultivated the image of a “young god…. His pride is obvious.” Eichmann imagined himself the “Czar of the Jews” and the “Jewish Pope,” and he called himself a “bloodhound.” Both Arendt and Stangneth emphasize Eichmann’s fantasy of his own importance.

Third, both Arendt and Stangneth insist that Eichmann is an inveterate liar. To take but one example that is frequently misrepresented, Arendt disbelieves Eichmann’s claims that he had not been an anti-Semite and that he had begun his career by seeking to help the Jews. She never says he wasn’t an anti-Semite (although such words are put in her mouth in the recent movie “Hannah Arendt.”) At the same time, it is true that Arendt does not emphasize Eichmann’s anti-Semitism to the extent Stangneth does and that Arendt does not have as much evidence of his anti-Semitism. One virtue of Stangneth’s account is that she supplies important details that help understand Eichmann’s anti-Semitism, which, as was typical of many Nazis, was based neither on religious hatred nor a conspiratorial belief in Jewish world domination. Stangneth shows that Eichmann denied the “blood libel” (the false accusation that Jews had killed Christian children and used their blood in rituals) and rejected as a forgery the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious anti-Semitic tract (and a czarist forgery). Rather, Eichmann justified genocide and the extermination of the Jews by appealing to the “fatherland morality that beat within him.” He spoke of the “necessity of a total war” and relied on his oath to Hitler and the Nazi flag, a bond he calls “the highest duty.” Eichmann was an anti-Semite because he was a committed Nazi and Nazism was incomprehensible without anti-Semitism.
Stangneth, interviewed by Frum.
"The Lies of Adolf Eichmann: German philosopher Bettina Stangneth reexamines the Nazi commander—and the true nature of evil." 
Is she aware how this is being played?
I’m a philosopher, and philosophers can’t write about anything without exploring the deeper meaning. I’m not a prophet, though, and I don’t think any writer could answer these questions. You would have to ask the readers.

I think we miss the point, though, when we talk only about anti-Semitism and Europe. I believe modern anti-Semitism is a symptom of a much bigger problem today, because we have forgotten its origins: The anti-Semitism of the Nazis was, above all, a disbelief in human equality! The Nazis were convinced that our world is too small for us, that we don’t have enough resources, that some humans are superior to others, and that only those humans have the right to survive—and the obligation to kill those who don’t. For them, the Jews symbolized internationalism, rationalism, globalism, and universal moral standards.
German philo-semitism,  Zionism and moral realism. Perverse from every angle.

No comments: