Hannah Arendt’s thesis about the banality of evil is widely misunderstood. I’m not sure I fully grasp it, but here’s my take.
It isn’t that what Eichmann did wasn’t evil; it was. But it was a new form of evil that didn’t quite fit our traditional moral and legal concepts.
And it isn’t that Eichmann wasn’t driven by ideology; he was. He was deeply invested in the Nazi movement, from which he derived the very meaning of his life. Contributing to the movement, carrying out his assigned tasks, playing an important role in something larger than himself, something that demanded great personal sacrifice – all of that was the basis of Eichmann’s identity. He was as fanatical as they come. Continue reading