Adolf Eichmanns Hoffnung auf die Mohammedaner
Over Christmas I finally got around to reading Eichmann Before Jerusalem by Bettina Stangneth. I cannot recommend this book – newly translated from the German – highly enough. It challenges and indeed changes nearly all received wisdom about the leading figure behind the genocide of European Jews during World War II.
The title of course refers to Hannah Arendt’s omnipresent and over-praised account of Adolf Eichmann’s 1961 trial, Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil. I would say that Stangneth’s book not merely surpasses but actually buries Arendt’s account. Not least in showing how Arendt was fooled by Eichmann’s role-play in the dock in Jerusalem. For whereas Arendt famously portrayed the man in the glass booth as a type of bureaucrat, Stangneth shows not only that Eichmann was not the man Arendt took him to be, but that she fell for a very carefully curated and prepared performance. [...]
There then follows an extraordinary and important passage. For Eichmann goes on to say that if he himself were ever found guilty of any crime it would only be ‘for political reasons’. He tries to argue that a guilty verdict against him would be ‘an impossibility in international law’ but goes on to say that he could never obtain justice ‘in the so-called Western culture.’
The reason for this is obvious enough: because in the Christian Bible ‘to which a large part of Western thought clings, it is expressly established that everything sacred came from the Jews.’ Western culture has, for Eichmann, been irrevocably Judaised. And so Eichmann looks to a different group, to the ‘large circle of friends, many millions of people’ to whom this manuscript is aimed:
‘But you, you 360 million Mohammedans, to whom I have had a strong inner connection since the days of my association with your Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, you, who have a greater truth in the surahs of your Koran, I call upon you to pass judgment on me. You children of Allah have known the Jews longer and better than the West has. Your noble Muftis and scholars of law may sit in judgement upon me and, at least in a symbolic way, give me your verdict.’ [pp 227-8]
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