Remembering the Historian Who Helped Shatter the Eichmann Myth

Nov. 11 2015

David Cesarani, a recently deceased historian of the Holocaust and of British Jewry, was among the first to demonstrate, on the basis of the documentary record, the falsity of Hannah Arendt’s depiction of Adolf Eichmann as a “banal” and faceless bureaucrat without ideological investment in Nazism. Jeffrey Herf explains:

[In 2004,] Cesarani was [the] first of historians writing outside Israel to come up with a seemingly obvious yet previously neglected idea. It was to read Israel’s pre-trial interrogation of Eichmann as well as the transcript of the Eichmann trial itself. . . . The transcript includes the verdict written by the three Israeli judges, Benjamin Halevi, Yitzḥak Raveh, and Moshe Landau. Cesarani’s accomplishment lay in part in bringing the judges’ verdict to the attention of an English-speaking audience. For the 40 years from 1964 to 2004, [the analysis of those] who knew the most about the case and who had studied it most closely had played almost no role in the international discussion of Eichmann. Instead, it was Arendt, who had been absent for many weeks of the most important parts of the trial, who dominated the global view of a man driven by bureaucratic punctiliousness and mindless obedience to orders. . . .

By informing readers of the nuanced, balanced, deeply informed, and sophisticated legal and historical verdict reached by the judges in Jerusalem, Cesarani shattered decades of condescension and ignorant neglect that had for too long obscured [the verdict] from global view.

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More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust


Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics