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September 15, 2015

Hannah Arendt and her opinion about the role of the Jewish leaders in the Holocaust

The name Hannah Arendt came up in a comment today, so I am expanding on this subject on my blog.

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

The name Hannah Arendt used to be a household word, but today’s young people might not be familiar with her name, nor her writing. It used to be that, if you did not know who Hannah Arendt was, you were obviously not a college graduate. Her reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem was, at one time, world famous; her words were studied in colleges throughout America.

Wolf Murmelstein, who is a regular reader of my blog, mentioned Arendt in a comment.  He thinks that she got the story of Theresienstadt completely wrong.  Wolf was a child at Theresienstadt; he is the son of Benjamin Murmelstein, the last Jewish Elder of the camp.

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt which has the date 1941 on it

My photo of an old building at Theresienstadt which has the date 1941 on it

This quote from Wikipedia tells who Hannah Arendt was:

JohannaHannahArendt[3] (/ˈɛərənt/ or /ˈɑrənt/; German: [ˈaːʀənt];[4] 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German-born political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with “man in the singular” and instead described herself as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.”[5] An assimilated Jew, she escaped Europe during the Holocaust and became an American citizen. Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honor.


A few years ago, Dr. Murmelstein sent me a series of essays, including an essay in which he included information about Hannah Arendt.

The following quote is from his essay, which you can read in full on my website at

Begin quote:
The opinion of Hanna Arendt that the Jewish Leaders, by their “participation,” had helped the Nazis to hasten the deportations, hardly meets any test of consistency:

Hanna Arendt, in 1940, was able to go to New York and stay safe there, because there had been Jewish Leaders and volunteers who “participated” in order to help fellow Jews to leave Nazi-Fascist ruled Europe.

Jewish Leaders certainly were not stronger than the various army commanders and statesmen who surrendered to Nazi Germany. Jewish communities in those times of darkness stood in an often hostile or, at least, indifferent environment.

As a disciple of the Nazi Philosopher Heidegger, Hanna Arendt is hardly entitled to pass judgment on Jewish Leaders, who were almost all Martyrs. On the other hand, it should be discussed whether, or how, Hanna Arendt’s opinions had been influenced by Heidegger’s theories.

When reporting on the Eichmann trial, Hanna Arendt failed to note that Attorney General Hausner had not called a witness like Benjamin Murmelstein to give evidence.

But at a certain moment, the Nazis realized that the tale of “resettlement of Jews for work” could hardly justify deportation of aged or sick persons, war officers holding medals for merit, etc.

Furthermore, as explained by Heinrich Himmler: “Germans all agree on the idea of getting rid of the Jews. But then every German has his own Jews, stating that this is a righteous Jew; send away the others but let him stay here.” What Himmler did not explain was that some Germans could not be ignored at all. Besides, there were among the Jews highly qualified persons well known abroad, who could not simply disappear in the East.

The solution was THERESIENSTADT, a little town in Bohemia surrounded by walls and with many barracks, just on the Reich border, now better known under the Czech name TEREZIN. There Eichmann had the opportunity to set up a Ghetto under his own authority and to show the real meaning of his “great ideas.” Many Germans could then “be at peace with their conscience” having obtained for their “righteous Jew” – a relative, a divorced wife, etc. – a place in the “Model Ghetto.” Qualified Jews, known abroad, could for a while, send postcards.

From October 1941 until September 1942, Benjamin Murmelstein had to watch the deportations. At Yom Kippur 1942, he had a nervous crisis of desperation about things that happened in that year. He was in doubt about being ritually qualified to lead the prayer service for the very few believing Jews still in Vienna.

From the beginning to the end of the deportation waves, almost all Jews had been deported from Vienna. Besides the very few believing Jews – community staff members – there were many persons in mixed marriage and descendants of Jewish parents or grand-parents. In that year Benjamin Murmelstein had to face the Vienna Branch of the CENTRAL OFFICE FOR JEWISH EMIGRATION where the rule was “promises are valid only when served.” Amid harsh orders, he tried to save what was possible.

The number of the few believing Jews for the community staff had been the result of a difficult “bargaining” (requests had to be submitted in a suitable form) with SS Ltd Alois (Anton) Brunner. At end of August 1942, Benjamin Murmelstein, with his family, was about to be sent to Terezin. But Eichmann decided to delay the “re-organization” of Terezin “Jewish Self-Government.”



  1. For any legal purpose and effect. Refering to Schlageter comment and other here I make clear that Benjamin Murmelstein never worked out transport lists chosing persons for deportation. As to Theresienstadt this had made certain by Investigating Magistrate of the Litomerice People Court; State Attorney did not even submit request for trial. As to Vienna no accusation of this matter had ever been reasen. Other accusations resulted to have been submitted by persons who not even knew Benjamin Murmelstein and stated wrong date – September 25, 1942 – instad of the exact one – Jannuary 29, 1943 – of our deportation to Theresienstadt. So, Benjamin Murmelstein had been considered a reliable witness as fully rehabilated. Clear?

    Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 17, 2015 @ 1:38 am

    • I’m glad your father never had to make those choices. For those that had to draw up those lists, especially after the it became known what the Germans were doing in Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec and Chelmno, it must have been a hellish ordeal.

      Comment by HCW — September 17, 2015 @ 5:49 am

      • Whatever is told around the full truth had not been known unless it had been the moment of death or in the Death Camp or in a revolt. The Judenrat who had drawn the lists first thought the destination had been forced labor, then they became more and more desperate. In 1941 the famous Rabbi Leo Baeck in Berlin held the opinion that only the Judenrat could fulfill this task in human way.

        Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 17, 2015 @ 9:03 am

        • From what I’ve read there were some escapes from the Reinhard camps. Those that escaped went back to the ghettos and told the inhabitants what they saw. There were a lot of escapes from Treblinka in July/August of 1942 due to the chaotic conditions in the camp. Escapes became much less prevalent after security improved. I may have misspoke about Chelmno, thinking about it I think there were only seven survivors. This is also true about Belzec.

          Comment by HCW — September 17, 2015 @ 9:20 am

    • I am doing research (associate professor, Canadian university) on your father focussed on the interviews conducted with him by Claude Lanzmann which have become the documentary film The Last of the Unjust. The film certainly vindicates him in many ways. What your father has to say about the Judenaltesten seems to me to stand as the only important defense of what Primo Levi calls the “hybrid prisoner functionary” at the rank of your father. What do you think of this film?

      Comment by Janet MacArthur — July 6, 2017 @ 10:18 am

  2. Of course the Judenrats were in on the deportations. Why else then were original copies of train manifests found recently when workers were cleaning out the old Judenrat building in Vienna? That news never was examined very closely or featured prominently by the conformist “historians”. I wonder why not? Could it lead to inconvenient questions as to how the SS got the names of whom to deport (and who not to)?

    Eichmann even talks about this in his diaries–the roles the various Jewish leaders played in collaborating with the Germans. Again, perhaps the Wolfs of the world really don’t want to go there…

    Comment by schlageter — September 16, 2015 @ 3:01 am

    • The Germans forced the Judenrat to cooperate. Many members of the various Judenrat committed suicide in order not to cooperate. Others would not cooperate and were executed by Germans.

      Comment by HCW — September 16, 2015 @ 4:54 am

    • In Germany Austria and some other countries the religious affiliation had been registred in state.county-town archives. Before accusing tragic figure – allmost all dead as martyrs – think a monent over the facts.

      Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 16, 2015 @ 7:30 am

      • I’m not talking about archival registrations. The judenrat had the top copy of train manifests. Meaning: they helped identify and pick out lists of their fellow Chosenites for the SS to gather to board the trains. They had a say into who was sent and who wasn’t on each shipment. So, how did they decide? Money? Friendship? Influence? Petty feuds? Prominence? bottom line: they had a role. They collaborated/cooperated.

        Comment by Schlageter — September 16, 2015 @ 11:02 am

        • Apparently you don’t understand the position these men were put in.
          First, they and their communities were forced into the ghettos. They were not there by choice.
          Second, while the Judenrat had some limited control they were beholden to their German masters. I’m going to post a link below showing that some of these men did disobey and as a consequence were executed by their German overseers.
          Third, in the beginning these men did not know the fate of the deportees. The Germans did not tell the Judenrat what was going to happen for obvious reasons. After the word got out the various Judenrat tried to minimize the damage.
          It’s easy to sit back now in your comfortable chair and judge. I doubt you would have done as well.

          Comment by HCW — September 16, 2015 @ 11:48 am

        • SCHLAGETER! Would be very amusing trough a candid camera watch You staying in face of an SS oficer or, maybe, a gangster holding a revolver ready to shoot. Can send You my contribution to a meeting at Padoa University about the Judenrat question or e.mail the link in LEARNING FROM HISTORY site. Before slandering martyrs think over for a moment.

          Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 16, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

          • As a child at Theresienstadt, you may have assumed that an SS officer could commit any crime, but you are wrong. I wrote about this on this blog post:
            The following quote is from the blog post above:

            At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, SS Lt. General Ernst Kaltenbrunner testified that there were 13 Stammlager (main concentration camps) in the Nazi camp system. One of these camps was Matzgau, located near Danzig; it was a camp where SS guards were imprisoned for offenses such as physical mistreatment of concentration camp prisoners, embezzlement, or theft. Yet tour guides at the Holocaust memorial sites routinely tell visitors that the guards could do anything they wanted to with regard to abusing or killing the prisoners.

            Comment by furtherglory — September 16, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

            • Furtherglory! Mistreatments of Jews had been consistent with the Nazi hatred doctrine and never had been punished. What testified by Kaltenbrunner in that matter is unbelievable in the form expressed. Told plainly: For the SS the Jew had to be left in life as long he had been usefull as worker or as a prominent to be shown at visits or writing greeting cards. The total destruction of Jewish people, at least in Europe and Middle East, had been a main part of Nazi doctrine and policy, even when some actions – death marches or so – did not make sense at all, especially in the last months of WWII.
              In USA the KKK wants to keep Negroes – and other coloured people – in a form of slavery not to destruct them all. You ought to see the difference.

              Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 16, 2015 @ 10:53 pm

            • What you said is true, however, Jews were routinely abused. I don’t recommend Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners, it’s way out in left field, but Goldhagen’s book is filled with German accounts of abusive behavior towards Jews. Not only in Goldhagen’s book but other sources I’ve read reiterate that Germans routinely abused Jews….and thought it fun to do so.

              Comment by HCW — September 17, 2015 @ 5:55 am

    • schlageter! At Vienna the selection and iussing of the list of person to make ready for deportation had been worked out by the ZENTRALSTELLE – Eichmann Vienna Office. It had been duty of the KULTUSGEMEINDE to grant the possible assistance to that unfortunate persons. And once and for all at every legal purpose and effect I inform You and any other reader and commentator that Benjamin Murmelstein never performed selections of person for deportations. Clear?

      Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 24, 2015 @ 7:47 am

  3. 1. As to Hanna Arendt: Being the son of the LAST OF THE UNJUST I feel to have the duty to rebuke all the absurd accusation that paperwasting philosopher launched against decent persons who, while she stood safe, had to face fanatical criminals. Almost all of those persons – certainly not ready to deal with criminals – died as martyrs.
    2. As to the Eichmann trial: Attorney General Hausner in his speeches – on Perry Mason trial style – show a great ignorance of Holocaust history. Just to mention that he did not rightly consider the Wannsee Conference minutes – available since 1947 – where results that Eichmann had authority on Central, West and South Europe comunities and their deportations but not on Poland (domaine of Hans Frank and Odilo Globocnik) and the East Territories – Baltic area, Ucraina, Belarus – domaine of Alfred Rosenberg (the terrible Nazi ideologist) and some other Nazi criminals. So we can understand that such a prosecutor did not call a witness like Benjamin Murmelstein to give evidence, So Eichmann could play the part of a low level burocrat who only executed orders received from higher ranking figures.

    Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 15, 2015 @ 11:58 pm

  4. I once saw Hannah Arrendt referred to as “The World’s Worst Court Reporter.” I found that to be extremely amusing. I think I saw that in “Eichman Before Jerusalem”.
    I read Deborah Lipstadt’s book, “The Eichman Trial.” One of the things that struck me was the tension between incoming European Jewish survivors and the Isreali Jews. The Isrealis seemed to believe that the Europeans meekly submitted to the Germans and allowed themselves to be murdered. This is ridiculous, the Europeans did fight back where they could (the revolts in Sobibor and Treblinka, the Warsaw Uprising, the Sondercommando Revolt at Birkenau, etc.). The Isrealis also quickly pointed the finger at the Judenrat, claiming collaboration. My belief is that the Judenrat was placed in a terrible position and for the most part did what they could to keep their communities alive.
    It’s my opinion too that the European Jews were placed in a terrible position due to the lack of weapons, living in communities that did not support them, having defenseless woman and children to take care of, etc.

    Comment by HCW — September 15, 2015 @ 2:33 pm

  5. Holocaust survivors, as a group, are like war veterans: they consist of the cowardly and the lucky. You may read “cowardly” as “cunning,” if you like. Either will do, if done skillfully.

    Comment by Jett Rucker — September 15, 2015 @ 11:06 am

    • Rucker! What do You mean?

      Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 15, 2015 @ 11:26 am

      • Jett Rucker is a wordsmith. When someone writes a word, such as wordsmith, which you don’t understand, you can look it up on one of several online dictionaries.

        For example, here is the definition of wordsmith from an online dictionary: The word wordsmith means a “skillful writer.”

        Just do an online search when you don’t understand a word.

        Comment by furtherglory — September 15, 2015 @ 4:00 pm

      • I wrote about Adolf Eichmann on this blog post:

        On that blog post, I wrote that Eichmann was “small potatoes.” I put a link to the definition of “small potatoes” because some native English speakers might not know what I meant. My point is that you can always look up words and phrases that are not common knowledge. A regular dictionary, in the form of a book, is useless because dictionaries do not contain slang and these books are not updated frequently enough.

        Comment by furtherglory — September 15, 2015 @ 4:28 pm

  6. The Eichmann kidnapping by the Mossad in Argentina was was hoax. The subsequent trial in Jerusalem was another hoax. Hannah Arendt’s reporting on that trial for The New Yorker was just part of the propaganda machine, a smart part for the “smart set.” Some of the eye witness testimony was so preposterous and melodramatic that it’s a wonder Hannah Arendt kept a straight face through it. I suppose she had to to fulfil her task. Here are two short snippets of film from the trial to show the sort of vaudville that went on at the Eichman trial. 1. Nazis put mice in Jews’ trousers: 2. Ka-tzetnik 135633 (aka Yehiel Feiner, aka Yehiel Dinur, a notorious pornographer) gets a case of the “vapors” in the witness box: As if these “lie witness” performances aren’t ridiculous enough, learn about the Eichmann affair and the full extent of trick Israel played on the whole world (with the help of Hannah Arendt) here: If reading the “Eichmann/Mossad” PDF is too hard a task, you can watch a 1.5hr made for German TV documentary movie entitled “DISINFORMATION: the Wanted Historical Lie of Mossad” based on investigative journalist Gaby Weber’s exhaustively researched report: Claude Lanzmann is a highly paid Zionist propagandist. I’m not going to watch a new eight hour version of his boring cinematic sob story SHOAH. No siree Bob, I’ll be off rewriting Dante’s Inferno to include a new Ring of Hell where sinners are sent to listen to clammy handed Jewish “geniuses” like Claude Lanzmann and Hannah Arendt kvetch and whimper about their holy Holocaust forever.

    Comment by who dares wings — September 15, 2015 @ 10:00 am

    • Some of the eye witness testimony was so preposterous and melodramatic…

      I certainly agree with that — I am not one to use the word, but parts of that “trial” certainly deserve the term ‘Holohoax’ — when you look at the proceedings, eg a transcript, it is hard to see how anyone could take some of what was said seriously — yet it was taken seriously as “proof” of Eichmann’s guilt.

      Re a “hoax”, that’s new to me — thanks for the links.

      Comment by eah — September 15, 2015 @ 1:43 pm

    • Yehiel Dinur

      BTW, the Wikipedia page on him is notably short on detail re exactly what he experienced/how he survived the ‘Holocaust’ — which is a bit unusual — maybe the particulars were a little too absurd, even for Wikipedia, which, where the ‘Holocaust’ is concerned, has a high threshold for absurdity — who knows, maybe he also survived a trip to the gas chamber.

      Comment by eah — September 15, 2015 @ 1:54 pm

      • Thanks a million for introducing his name to us. I had never heard of him.

        Comment by furtherglory — September 16, 2015 @ 7:17 am

      • eah! Auschwitz seemed absurd,but it existed. I read the WIKIPEDIA page and let You note how that person at Eichmann trial from a certain moment on could not go on giving evidence and the reason he, a real survivor, stated. Then consider that he needed psicoteraphy. Before expressing irony try to think of Yourself in such a condition. Best.

        Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 16, 2015 @ 10:00 am

        • Auschwitz seemed absurd

          Actually it was an internment camp where — among others — people who were forced to work at the nearby Monowitz facility lived. In that way it made perfect sense.

          I guess you mean it was “absurd” in the sense that it was a heretofore unimaginable horror — a “death camp”. But as you know, I have problems with that story…

          Comment by eah — September 16, 2015 @ 11:59 am

        • I wonder what he was interested in; the psicoteraphist or the LSD?

          Comment by a reader — September 16, 2015 @ 12:42 pm

          • reader! In the USA you shoiuld know that any one who passed a traumatic experience in time comes to need psycoteraphy or other form of psycological help. But when speaking about a Holocaust survivor you all forget this.
            What no other commentator notes: That person should not have been called to testify at the Eichmann trial. Indeed, Eichmann had not had authority over Auschwitz and Poland from where that person had been deported.

            Comment by Wolf MURNELSTEIN — September 16, 2015 @ 11:02 pm

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