Posts Tagged ‘fooled’

Don’t be fooled – Eichmann was a monster

January 19th, 2015

But the idea that Eichmann was a normal, banal bureaucrat who was just doing his job like any one of us is junk history. It is high time that we dismissed the televised image of the halting figure in the bulletproof box as being representative of Eichmann the man, and the system of which he was a part.

Eichmann was not just some cog in an industrialised and depersonalised killing machine, he was a keen instigator of genocide, a zealous bigot who eagerly forged a career out of anti?Semitism and extermination. We only have to read the words he uttered well before his abduction and trial to realise that he loved the job that involved marshalling an entire people to its destruction. He remarked that when he died, he would “jump into my grave laughing, because the fact that I have the death of five million Jews on my conscience gives me extraordinary satisfaction”.

Eichmann did not just enjoy his work, he really believed in it. When he was hiding in Argentina after the war, he confided in a Dutch former SS man and journalist called Willem Sassen. “If we would have killed 10.3 million Jews, then I would be satisfied and would say, good, we annihilated an enemy,” he said. “I wasn’t only issued orders, otherwise I’d have been a moron, but rather I anticipated – I was an idealist.”

Eichmann on trial in 1961

Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, was an admirer. “Eichmann is 34 or 35 years old, a very active, adventurous man,” Höss said in April 1946, while he was imprisoned. “He felt that this act against Jews was necessary and was fully convinced of its necessity and correctness, as I was.” And no less a figure than the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Müller, was also a fan. “If we had 50 Eichmanns,” observed Müller, “we would have won the war.”

So how did this come about, this contrast between the perception of Eichmann and the reality of the man? The answer is that when he was on trial, Eichmann was playing a part. He knew that acting the role of the anonymous, dutiful bureaucrat would do him more favours than presenting his true self. Unfortunately, observers such as Arendt were taken in by this performance.

There are many reasons why this error took hold. Perhaps the most important is that there was a strong need for people to believe that the enormity of genocide and anti?Semitism was rooted in something systemic, rather than being the product of a relatively small handful of crazed, but influential, individuals. When the Mossad found Eichmann living in a shack in a crummy part of Buenos Aires, the agents were appalled and even insulted that a man who had eradicated millions was not living in a huge, diabolical lair in the middle of the jungle. Somehow the size of the crime did not match up to the size of the man.

We can see this desire even today, when we look at what lies behind the recent murders of Jews in cities such as Paris and Marseille. Again, it is more palatable to suppose that the enemy is something large and systemic – in this instance, Islamism – rather than an increasing number of violent cranks who have perverted an ideology in an attempt to give their murderousness a sort of respectability.

Ultimately, we should realise that some people are not normal, and that they do not think like us. For want of a better word, the Eichmanns of this world are indeed monsters.

Guy Walters is the author of ‘Hunting Evil: The Nazi War Criminals Who Escaped and the Hunt to Bring Them to Justice’


World War Two

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