Now Online, Recordings of the Nuremberg Trials Make Evil Sound Dull

Thanks to a cooperative effort by several institutions, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has made the audio recordings of the trials of 24 of the highest-ranking members of the Third Reich available online in their entirety. Held in Nuremberg from November 1945 to October 1946, the hearings themselves lasted for a total of 775 hours—documented on 1,942 gramophone discs that have now been digitized. Edward Rothstein writes:

[W]hat is heard, even now, seems remarkable: a rough first draft of judgment, beginning just five months after the war with Germany ended and unfolding over nearly a year as its arbiters strained to fit minimal forms of existing law to maximal forms of moral degradation.

Stalin expected Nuremberg to be a show trial, like those he staged to deadly effect between 1936 and 1938; he propelled their veterans into important Nuremberg roles. So the Soviet participants can seem disoriented by cross-examination and defense. And when they try to prevent the defendants from bringing up the Hitler-Stalin pact or Soviet atrocities, disputes can verge on farce (and then perhaps, given Stalin’s displeasure, become tragedy: one of the Soviet prosecutors was almost certainly murdered midtrial). The other Allies try to get it right, but often get bogged down in procedure, multilingual delays, and repetition.

It is only in listening to large swaths of this trial that I became able to finally give some credit to Hannah Arendt’s notion, developed after watching Adolf Eichmann’s Israeli trial, that he and his fellow Nazis embodied the “banality of evil.” She saw the banality as a reflection of Nazi evil itself, as if it were a kind of bourgeois malfeasance—dull men doing devilish work without thinking. But after being immersed in sections of these 775 hours of hearings, I think banality was more a reflection of what she was witnessing. A trial can make evil seem dull because it makes it ordinary, showing how it becomes fact, disclosing details, memories, documents (Nuremberg’s produced 269,093 pages). The judging of evil is often banal, but . . . evil in itself is not.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Hannah Arendt, Holocaust, Nazi Germany, Nuremberg Trials


Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem