Lessons from Eichmann

My picture of this evil motherfucker has long been of a diligent bureaucrat, a clerk, a banal, unremarkable man, a fanatical assistant fanatically doing his infernal job.  I got the banality idea from Hannah Arendt who covered the 1961 trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem and wrote about the stupid ordinariness of Eichmann.  I read one of the long New Yorker essays that later was incorporated into the book, it may have been the essay that gave the book its famous subtitle: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  The real danger, she wrote, was not from “monsters” or evil outliers but from ordinary people doing horrible things in the name of some insane idea they slavishly, even moronically, believe in. [1]   Fucking happens all the time.  It was only recently that I understood that Adolf Eichmann was also this guy, with the death’s head on his fucking hat:


Eichmann never completed high school, and wasn’t one of the major architects or engineers of the Final Solution, Mr. Hitler’s ultimate idea of what to do with people he imagined were inferior, terminally toxic and devoted to the destruction of the great Aryan “master race”.   Eichmann was simply the hardworking Nazi who kept the trains to the death camps packed, running on a tight schedule, made sure the killing machine was up and running full bore at all times.  Mr. Hitler, we note, was a famously insane monster, as ragingly mad as he was mediocre.   Just look at these two pictures, I think it’s enough said:


baby Hitler with adult Hitler.jpg

Israeli agents tracked and captured Eichmann, who was living incognito in Argentina. Thankfully, they didn’t find his location and drop a Hellfire missile on his fastidious Nazi ass from a Predator drone.  The technology didn’t exist in 1961, but the Israeli agents who caught him could have just as easily gagged him, hung him upside down, made a few deep cuts and let him die a long, slow, painful death.    Instead they kidnapped the mass murdering bureaucrat and brought him back to face justice in Jerusalem.

To face justice, let us think for a moment about what this means.   Setting out the crimes charged, publicly, in a way a jury can understand.  Making the case by presenting witnesses, victims, other documentary evidence.  Letting the accused defend himself against the charges.  Arriving at a just outcome after a fair and open trial.

Justice requires this careful process, making sure the State is only punishing someone who has been shown to be guilty of the specific crimes charged, beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt.  Justice isn’t taking Saddam Hussein out of his cell in the middle of the night, after a summary secret trial, and hanging him in secret, the only record a blurry cellphone video.  That’s called Texas Justice, which is another euphemism for lynching.   Texas, the state that leads the world in executions, and before that led the world in necktie parties.   Not always after a fair and impartial trial, heh, no, not always, pardner.  Not the way justice, also known as fairness, is arrived at, needless to say.

Eichmann’s trial made must-see TV in 1961, it was filmed live by a camera crew, directed by an American filmmaker who’d been blacklisted during the dark days of McCarthyism, and broadcast daily.  It was broadcast worldwide (in over thirty countries)  by an American television network.   The BBC made an excellent film about the televised trial, The Eichmann Show, that incorporates Eichmann himself maintaining his grim composure in that glass cube and includes some of the horrific footage shown to the world for the first time during that trial.  You can see the movie on Netflix, I recommend it.  Eichmann sat in the specially constructed bulletproof glass  booth, two armed guards behind him.  He sits there listening, usually impassively, sometimes looking like this:


Eichman 1960.jpg 

The banal bureaucrat, who made sure millions were shipped out to be murdered with maximum efficiency, showed little emotion as a hundred and twelve survivors described the living hell Eichmann had done his best to make possible.   Then he was forced, along with the people packed into the gigantic courtroom in Jerusalem and the rest of the worldwide viewing audience, to watch clip after clip from movies taken by the Nazis, showing life and death in the death camps.  

These clips were shown on TV, the monstrous images broadcast everywhere to be seen by the world for the first time.  Walking skeletons, a bulldozer pushing a hundred jiggling skin-covered skeletons into a burial pit, hopeless, emaciated faces, expressionless, dragging dead comrades.   The kind of visceral, moving images that, in a much smaller dose, made me projectile vomit when I first saw them as a kid.  [2]

In 1961, for the first time, the world saw the visual proof of what the Nazis actually did to fulfill their murderous Fuhrer’s wildest dreams during their Thousand Year Reich.  What doomed Eichmann was not merely the stories told by the one hundred and twelve traumatized survivors who testified, it was also the documentary footage shot by the Nazis themselves.  The Nazis considered what they were doing God’s work, as their type always does.  God wanted them to kill all Jews, Gypsies, Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Homosexuals, Intellectuals, non-fascist leadership, genetic defectives and enemies of every kind.  Hitler told them so, and clearly, Hitler, chosen by God Himself as Germany’s savior, knew best what God wanted.   Eichmann appeared to have no regrets, he was only doing his job and he did it at a very high level, a level he seemed to be proud of.  Not everybody can handle overseeing the killing of several million people!   He bragged about being ready to leap laughing into his grave, so satisfied at the millions he’d killed.


Eichman quizzical.jpg

The young state of Israel did not have the death penalty.  When Eichmann was found guilty, apparently still convinced he’d committed no crime, the Israeli judge said that although they did not have the death penalty in Israel they’d make an exception in Mr. Eichmann’s case.

Shortly before he was executed, after his appeal failed in the Israeli Supreme Court, Eichmann wrote a request for clemency.

EICHMANN-simian fear grin and handwriting.jpg

That’s part of his clemency request, I love the photo, his great expression, and the way someone has composited it next to his meticulously neat handwriting. Here is the last paragraph of his request for clemency [3], written in a slightly more harried hand:

Eichmann request for clemency.jpg

The request was denied.

My thoughts went from Eichmann in Jerusalem to Jerusalem today, the divided, bitterly contested holy city that now is home to the new U.S. Consulate General in Israel.   A former lunatic fringe right-wing extremist member of Israeli Parliament, Avigdor Lieberman, a Jew from the Soviet Union, is now Defense Minister of Israel under Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Lieberman’s party is called “Israel is our home”, meaning, for their purposes, “not your fucking home, Arab scum”.   He has had many radical, often ugly, proposals for how to deal with Arabs in Israel and the occupied territories he believes God gave to Israel.  Under his orders Israel now shoots to kill anyone who opposes Israel or its eternal, aggressive, often brutal occupation of land captured in the 1967 war.   God, apparently, told Mr. Lieberman it was fine.  

Instead of rubber bullets or water cannons to break up demonstrations, assuming a government has a right to use those brutal, but non-lethal forms of violence against unarmed civilian demonstrators, just shoot these fucks with live ammunition.  It’s fine.  Shoot them in the thigh, in the chest, shoot them without worrying about it, because, as Lieberman says, there are no innocent people in Gaza.   Call them all terrorists and kill as many as you want, let the world’s anti-Semites criticize, they always do, they irrationally hate us, no matter what we do.  Gaza is sometimes called the world’s largest, most densely packed, open air concentration camp.  Only by anti-Semites, according to the Avigdor Liebermans of the world.

It is generally a bad idea to compare people to Nazis, it’s incendiary and tends to end rational conversation.  You wind up arguing the fairness or unfairness of comparing the person or policy to fucking Nazis instead of talking about what you were trying to address before the other N-word came into it.  The Nazis, to a Jewish person, a Gypsy, any perceived enemy of the Nazi state, those who believe in anything but Nazism, were just plain inhuman.  Sure, Eichmann played with his kids after a hard day at the office, a hard day visiting Auschwitz or Treblinka, hearing about the latest poison gas used to exterminate these vermin, but the man was also irredeemably evil, or less emotionally, a war criminal, I think most people would agree.  

Unless, I guess, you like the idea of killing Jews, and the more the merrier.  There are, I do not doubt, people like that.   Very fine people, the finest people, no doubt. Who love their kids, and tell jokes, and strive to help their neighbors, as long as they’re not Jews, Blacks, Immigrants, Muslims, terrorists, union members, intellectuals with their fucking nuance, homosexuals, insatiable parasites on the government tit, people who hate our freedom and don’t want to see our country made great again.

What lessons does the Israeli right wing government take from history, from our own Jewish history?   It is worth thinking about.  You dehumanize an enemy and then it is no problem to have snipers kill as many as necessary to make them shut the fuck up.  In fact, shoot special bullets that explode on contact, causing the most grievous possible injury.  Nothing says somebody wearing a medic’s tunic, or a press vest, is any less subject to being shot in their smug face than the people they are trying to help, the ones throwing rocks, molotov cocktails, trying to cut the wires on the border fence, the ones screaming Death To Israel, the ones demanding, most intolerably, the right to return to their former homes.  Nothing to fucking see here.  One more reason to shoot the press.  No pictures, no problem.  

Ask Eichmann how he felt about those fucking Nazi documentaries of the death camps.  He’d probably have a regret about that. After all, he was a devoted servant only following his master’s orders, trying always to do his very best in the Nazi hierarchy.  Why would his master not destroy those incriminating films? Damn. Everybody now knows, the first thing you do, you burn that shit that could make you face justice.  Shit…

I wonder if Eichmann was thinking about that as several stoic Jews led him to the gallows that long ago night in Jerusalem.  Eichmann apparently conducted himself with dignity at the end, spouting a few final idiotic cliches before he was hanged.


[1]   From Amos Elon’s introduction to the republished Eichmann in Jerusalem, a book that apparently met with harsh criticism in some quarters  

Screen shot 2018-06-05 at 6.13.59 PM.png(c) Penguin Books 2006

[2]  The kind of visceral moving images Holocaust Deniers claim is propaganda made by the infernally manipulative Jews themselves. (And truthfully, who among us has not faked his own atrocity films, just to viciously exploit others?)  These historical revisionists also deny any malicious motive for rewriting the historical record, you know, some of their own lawyers and accountants are fucking Jews.  At most, these dodgy history revisers insist, a couple of hundred thousand Jews may have died, maybe, and certainly not as a result of any German policy, if anything those policies were designed to protect the Jews, died not by the Nazis’ hand but of contagious diseases contracted and spread because of their filthy ways.   So much for those never-rinsed asshole ‘historians’.  Don’t even know why I mentioned the little shit stains.   


One more from Amos Elon’s intro, to cleanse the palette:

Screen shot 2018-06-05 at 6.44.37 PM.png

and this little gem, from the same intro:

The Israeli psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him.”

[3]  Eichmann’s handwritten clemency request, not released to the public until almost fifty years after his execution, reads in pertinent part:

  • “[The judges] made a fundamental mistake in that they are not able to empathize with the time and situation in which I found myself during the war years.
  • There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders.
  • Had I been, as the judges assume, the fanatical driving force in the persecution of the Jews, this should have been reflected in a promotion and other rewards, but I was never granted any benefit.
  • I am not able to recognize the court’s ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honor Mr. President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out.”


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