by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
If Eichmann was a perverted monster, then the trial would have been no big deal.” Instead, Eichmann was “terribly and terrifyingly normal.”
I finishing up reading philosopher Hannah Arendt’s 1961 Jerusalem trial coverage and analysis of Adolph Eichmann’s Nazi crimes against Jews. At the time Jews were outraged at Arendt, a German Jew, because she said Eichmann was a career-climbing clown. Jews wanted Eichmann to be a vile monster, on whom they could pin as much genocide guilt as possible. Arendt thought that if Eichmann was an actual monster then everyone would have thought, “Well, that’s what we all thought. Hang ’em and let’s get on with it.”
Arendt said, “The problem with Eichmann was that so many were like him, that they were neither perverted or sadistic… that they were and still are terribly and terrifyingly normal. This normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”
I am sure Holocaust survivors did not like Arendt casually discounting the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. We have the advantage (or disadvantage) of being removed not 15 years from the Holocaust – like Arendt and her fellow Jews, but nearly 75 years from it. To me, I fear the same thing Arendt feared: “all of us, any of us, you or me – we normal people are capable of tremendously terrifying evil.” Anyone who says different is quite naive about human beings, especially when we gather together into a collective consciousness.
The Jews have experienced anti-Semitism forever. Arendt says hatred and marginalizing was exacerbated because the Jews id not have nation or government ever since 70AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (more historically accurate would be 135AD, the second sacking of Jerusalem and the entire people). Jews could be “deported” to Auschwitz because they were not true citizens of any nation, nor had their own nation (now they do of course).
Ironic isn’t it that today’s Syrian refugees and Sudanese refugees, and immigrants to America experience the same marginalization and hatred? To be homeless is to be a cast out, or worse hated.
A Word about persecuted Christians…
Though cultured elitists do not like this fact, but the same is true of Christians around the world. According to statistics quoted by Miroslav Volf, at any given moment worldwide 250 million Christians are being persecuted. This is the largest persecuted group in human history. In cultured circles in America, there is distain for Christians in part because of their own fault, or more accurately because a few have notoriously scandalized the overwhelming vast majority of loving Christians. We Christians can deal with that – I hope. But if Christians eventually lose their hegemony (power/influence) in America, will they be persecuted? You can count on it. And this will be even more so for the most Christ-like followers because they understand martyrdom.
And if Arendt has anything to say about it, normal everyday good Americans will do horrible things to Christians, Jews, gays, mentally challenged, people of color, gun owners, etc – and believe they are doing the best thing – just like Eichmann did… a normal everyday husband and father who just happened to orchestrate the genocide of six million people.
“What’s for dinner?”