Adolf Eichmann: The Existential Failure

1596 Words Jun 21st, 2018 7 Pages
In her report of Nazi SS member Adolph Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem, first published as a series of articles in The New Yorker, Hannah Arendt managed to spark great controversy, both in the academy and among the general public. The primary attack on Arendt was that she seemed to “blame the victim”, in this case the Jews, for their role in their own extermination during the Holocaust. While by no means the focus of her book, this perceived accusation in combination with her portrayal of Eichmann as an apparently sane, ordinary man made readers uncomfortable at best and at worst vindictive and unforgiving in their critique. In assuming the objective, detached role she did, she risked ostracizing herself from both friends and colleagues as …show more content…
(106) Eichmann makes such claims of being victimized, stating he stopped being the “master of his own deeds” (136), and became the “victim of a fallacy.” (248) In this way, he also denies that he is free. The greatest human freedom is the ability to choose one's attitude and one's actions, which Eichmann relinquished by asserting that he lacked a choice, and therefore carried no burden of responsibility. Bound to the notions of responsibility and freedom is that of individuality, or the ability to think for oneself. Accepting responsibility relies on acknowledgement that one is an individual. Inability to think for oneself allows for the incorrect belief, which Eichmann possessed, that responsibility can be thrust onto others. In passing the responsibility of one's actions to another, one gives up the power to create one's essence and define who one is. This is the cowardly way out and the result is a failure to realize one's humanity, as there is no real way to run from responsibility and no real scapegoat. Our actions allow us to define who we are, or what our essence will be. It follows, then, that by obeying orders and acting out another's will we are allowing them to tell us who we are, and impose meaning onto our lives that ought to be created subjectively. Eichmann lived his life always as a “joiner” of some group or another, with the distressing idea of doing otherwise largely influencing his continued
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