Monday, May 31, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Execution of Adolf Eichmann


On this day in 1962
Adolf Eichmann was hanged at a prison in the Israeli city of Ramla for crimes against humanity he committed during the Second World War, specifically in regards to his role in establishing the concentration camps; his was the only civil execution ever carried out in the beleaguered country, which does not generally use the death penalty.  Eichmann's capture - in Buenos Aires in May 1960 - set off a political firestorm both around the world and in Argentina, where the far-right extremist group Tacuara Nationalist Movement took to the streets with an organized campaign of terrorism in reaction.  Following his execution Eichmann was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean beyond Israel's territorial limit, in order to ensure that the place of his burial would not become a shrine to neo-Nazis.

Journalist Hannah Arendt wrote dispatches to The New Yorker about Eichmann's trial and execution, which she later compiled into a book, entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem (and which she pointedly subtitled A Report on the Banality of Evil).  Arendt's research revealed no particular anti-Semitism or zeal in Eichmann's personality*, other than a willingness to follow orders; needless to say, her theory regarding the banality of evil remains a controversial one...

*A point disputed by Eichmann scholar David Cesarani.

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