This article was last updated on May 27, 2022
Reassessment of the life of Adolf Eichmann reveals his activities and notoriety among a global network of National Socialists after the collapse of the Third Reich
By Stephen Pate – I have read a fair number of books on the Nazi’s from “Commandant of Auschwitz : The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess” which my father recommended when I was pre-teen and onward.
Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer looked promising but I sent it back – thank you Amazon.com – after 50 pages.
“Eichmann Before Jerusalem” is described by the publisher as “A total and groundbreaking reassessment of the life of Adolf Eichmann—a superb work of scholarship that reveals his activities and notoriety among a global network of National Socialists after the collapse of the Third Reich and that permanently challenges Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil.””
I should have wondered why this book was even necessary. Except for neo-Nazis, Hezbollah and the government of Iran, no rational person believes that Adolf Eichmann was an innocent civil servant doing his job for Adolf Hitler. While the Israeli government did kidnap Eichmann from Argentina and put him on trial before executing him, it was clear from the evidence he did actively pursue Jews and order their extermination during World War II.
The published goes on “Smuggled out of Europe after the collapse of Germany, Eichmann managed to live a peaceful and active exile in Argentina for years before his capture by the Mossad. Though once widely known by nicknames such as “Manager of the Holocaust,” in 1961 he was able to portray himself, from the defendant’s box in Jerusalem, as an overworked bureaucrat following orders—no more, he said, than “just a small cog in Adolf Hitler’s extermination machine.” How was this carefully crafted obfuscation possible? How did a central architect of the Final Solution manage to disappear? And what had he done with his time while in hiding?”
“Bettina Stangneth, the first to comprehensively analyze more than 1,300 pages of Eichmann’s own recently discovered written notes— as well as seventy-three extensive audio reel recordings of a crowded Nazi salon held weekly during the 1950s in a popular district of Buenos Aires—draws a chilling portrait, not of a reclusive, taciturn war criminal on the run, but of a highly skilled social manipulator with an inexhaustible ability to reinvent himself, an unrepentant murderer eager for acolytes with whom to discuss past glories while vigorously planning future goals with other like-minded fugitives.”
While the promise to set the record straight is a good one, the author is so emotionally bound up in the conclusions that they don’t give the reader the benefit of the doubt in forming their own conclusions. The publisher should have set an editor to put this book in a better format before publishing.
“Eichmann Before Jerusalem” comes across as a pamphlet, a diatribe not a well-reasoned dissertation on the topic of Mr. Evil. I have no doubt Eichmann was a self-aggrandizing, Jew-hating bigot and mass murderer. I would prefer the facts to be presented in a more orderly and less polemical way. That’s my style.
After 50 pages I felt lost in time. Where is the beginning and how is the story being developed? That normal organization is lost in “Eichmann Before Jerusalem”
At the very least the book is a good lesson in how not to nail your enemy. Give the reader a chance to think about the facts. Let them form their own conclusions. Writers have to allow the reader to think. Too much vitriol in the writing shows bias and casts doubt on the statements being made.
PS – Amazon has the best customer service on the planet. No one that I know allows the return of digital goods but Amazon did. I simply clicked on a button in customer service and my credit card was refunded for the $20. Both Apple and Microsoft offer no refunds on digital books and music. Apple will refund a purchase despite the written policy. Microsoft will not.
NYT Book Review
“Adolf Eichmann may be dead, but the philosophical and psychological stakes surrounding him remain urgently charged and contested. As Stangneth notes, too often Eichmann himself has dissolved into the background while abstract notions of ultimate evil and everyday banality, the mechanics of genocidal bureaucracy and the imperatives of murderous ideology are debated. Her comprehensive research brings the man and his circumstances firmly back into focus.
To be sure, there are moments when the work reads more like a prosecutorial brief than a dispassionate historical analysis. Still, no future discussion will be able to confront the Eichmann phenomenon and its wider political implications without reference to this book. To what degree the man’s biography is unique or exemplary of mass murderers in general remains, of course, an open question.” NYT
Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer is available from Amazon.com as Kindle and print editions.
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2 / 5 stars
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network