Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
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Arendt sparked controversy with Eichmann in Jerusalem upon its publishing and the years since. Arendt has long been accused of "blaming the victim" in the book.
In his 2006 book, Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes and Trial of a "Desk Murderer", Holocaust researcher David Cesarani questioned Arendt's portrait of Eichmann on several grounds. According to his findings, Arendt attended only part of the trial, witnessing Eichmann's testimony for "at most four days" and basing her writings mostly on recordings and the trial transcript. Cesarani feels that this may have skewed her opinion of him, since it was in the parts of the trial that she missed that the more forceful aspects of his character appeared.
Cesarani also presents evidence suggesting that Eichmann was in fact highly anti-Semitic and that these feelings were important motivators of his actions. Thus, he alleges that Arendt’s claims that his motives were "banal" and non-ideological and that he had abdicated his autonomy of choice by obeying Hitler's orders without question may stand on weak foundations. Most controversially, Cesarani suggests that Arendt's own prejudices influenced the opinions she expressed during the trial. He claims that like many Jews of German origin, she held Ostjuden (Jews from Eastern Europe) in great disdain. This, according to Cesarani, led her to attack the conduct and efficacy of the chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, who was of Polish origin. In a letter to the noted German philosopher Karl Jaspers she stated that Hausner was "a typical Galician Jew... constantly making mistakes. Probably one of those people who doesn't know any language." Her dislike of Zionism also influenced her view of the trial. Cesarani claims that some of her opinions of Jews of Middle Eastern origin verged on racism. She described the Israeli crowds as an "Oriental mob, as if one were in Istanbul or some other half-Asiatic country."
Ceserani has been criticized for his criticism of Arendt. One reviewer argued that his "slur reveals a writer in control neither of his material nor of himself."