Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
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Arendt sparked controversy with Eichmann in Jerusalem upon publishing.
More recently, in his 2006 book, Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes and Trial of a "Desk Murderer", noted[according to whom?] Holocaust researcher David Cesarani has 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, something Arendt had to deny since the release of the book. 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."