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AI38 Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem”

Arendt’s 1963 text was the beginning of some very tough discussions. It was not only criticized and attacked for having accused the so-called “Judenräte” of collaborating with the SS. Her interpretation of Eichmann’s character as a basically harmless fool was the subject of violent debates; so violent that Arendt lost old friends over it like Gershom Scholem. Is there really such a thing as a banality of evil, as the book’s subtitle claims? And did it show itself in the organisation of the Shoah? What would be a non-banal evil? Would it be the “radical evil” of Kant? The seminar is organized around the key events of organisation by Eichmann and the so-called “Eichmann-Kommando” of the deportation of Hungarian Jews in Budapest, mostly to Auschwitz-Birkenau, after March 1944. By July of the same year, 437,402 Jews had been deported. Thus the course will not only be about Arendt’s text in the narrow sense, but also about the entire context it opened. To this end, Eyal Sivan’s film “Un spécialiste, portrait d’un criminel moderne” (1999) will also be screened and discussed.

Course Specifications
Type: Elective
Lesson type: Lecture
Hours: 28 (5 credits)
Requirement: essay.
Instructor: Prof. PETER TRAWNY
Course Readings1
Arendt Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Viking, 1963)