Review: Eichmann Before Jerusalem – Bettina Stangenth

My version: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction, Naziz, Post WWII
Publisher:
Vintage
First published: 2014
ISBN: 978-1-784-70001
Pages: 422 (Not including acknowlegements, notes, sources, bibliography and Index)
Bought


From the cover:
“Smuggled out of Europe after the collapse of Germany, Eichmann managed to live a peaceful exile in Argentina for years before his capture by Mossad.
Though once widely known by nicknames such as ‘Manager of the Holocaust,’ he was able to portray himself, from the defendant’s box in Jerusalem in 1960, as an overworked bureaucrat following orders – no more, he said, than ‘just a small cog in Adolf Hitler’s extermination machine.’
How was Eichmann able to adopt this mask? How did a principle architect of the Final Solution manage to disappear? How had he occupied himself in hiding?
Drawing upon an astounding trove of newly discovered documentation, Stangneth gives us a chilling portrait of a highly skilled social manipulator with an inexhaustible ability to reinvent himself, and maps out as never before the post-war lives of innumerable Nazis in exile.”


You’ve got to be in it for the long haul to get through this one. It really goes deeper than warts and all. Luckily, I’ve got nothing better to do with my evenings, so here we are.

Written in a clear, matter-of-fact way for the most part, but with full-blooded passion for the story and a desire obviously to set the record straight shining through, there is a lot of material to cover, and it needs to be gone into the minutest detail, there’s no getting away from that.

I think, and as I remember, she (Bettina) more than hints at it, it is written in effect, as a response to the incredibly crass and lazily wayward, as it turns out, Hannah Arendt phrase “the banality of evil,” from her articles and book, Eichmann in Jerusalem. That Arendt was able to conclude that Eichmann was just a non-thinking small cog in the big Nazi machine, and as a glorified book-keeper, personified the banality of evil, just shows just how much she was hoodwinked (despite having been in the courtroom hearing the evidence against Eichmann), by Eichmann’s self-constructed defence.

A lot of the really damning evidence here, turns on some tape recodings that were made of Eichmann and others in Eichmann’s house in Argentina, discussing what they did and why they did it, and would do it again, that were made pretty much to form the basis of a book justifying their actions. The tapes got hawked around and eventually ended up in the ‘right’ hands, but were largely ruled impermissible as evidence in the 1960 trial. They, the surviving, non-destroyed, accidentally taped over, tapes and transcripts, show the real Eichmann thinking. Bettina Stangenth shows before the tapes were made, how Eichmann thought and acted as a child, a career Nazi and as a fugitive.

It’s an absolutely fascinating read, no doubts about that and there was enough eye-opening material for even someone like me who wants to consider themself something of an amateur expert of such things. Well, I’ve read a lot of books in the same ball-park. It is quite possibly the last word on the Eichmann case and if you read a book about Eichmann in the future which doesn’t mention this one, you’re reading the wrong book. This is the source. Oh, yeah, have a go at Eichmann In My Hands as well.

Eichmann on trial at the District Court of Jerusalem, 1961. The first trial in history to be videotaped. Israel Government Press Office (Photo #65289)

You can buy Eichmann Before Jerusalem from The Book Depository

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