Scrapbookpages Blog

January 17, 2016

Hannah Arendt is the subject of a new book

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt is famous for coining the expression “Banality of Evil.”

I previously blogged about Hannah Arendt at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/hannah-arendt-and-her-opinion-about-the-role-of-the-jewish-leaders-in-the-holocaust/

and on this previous blog post:  https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/anton-schmidt-two-minutes-of-silence-in-his-honor-at-eichmanns-trial/

Hannah Arendt is back in the news in a news article headlined:

Hannah Arendt’s angst was born in the US, says author

Don’t ever tell anyone that you have never heard of Hannah Arendt or that you don’t know the meaning of the expression that she invented: “Banality of Evil.” This will immediately mark you as a person who has never been to college, at least not in America, where the writing of Hannah Arendt is taught in many different classrooms.

The German word “angst” has a different meaning in America.  In Germany, one might say “Ich habe Angst gegen der Hundt.” In America, the word “angst” is used to show that you are sophisticated and educated, not that you are afraid. It is hard to define the word, as it is used in America.

The following quote is from the article, cited above:

Begin quote
In his latest book, “Arendt And America,” King argues that living in the United States allowed the German philosopher [Hanna Arendt] to think far beyond the simple dichotomies of political divisions — such as left and right — that led to the endless slaughter and complete break down of the European social order, before and during World War II.

In Arendt’s interpretation of Nazi history, Adolf Eichmann did not display any original thoughts of his own. It was this sheer banality of existence, she claimed, that allowed him to become the chief orchestrator and faceless bureaucrat of the Final Solution, one of the most horrific systematic mass murders ever known to mankind.

But what perhaps caused the most controversy among Jews was Arendt’s criticism of the Nazi-appointed “Jewish Councils” (Judenräte ). She contended that they became a sinister Nazi method to eliminate a maximum number of Jews with a minimum amount of administrative effort and cost. Or, to put it more bluntly: a system that ensured certain Jews would be made responsible for the organization of transport to their fellow Jews, as they made their way to the gas chambers.

End quote

At his trial Eichmann was put into a cage with bullet proof glass

At his trial Eichmann was put into a cage made with bullet proof glass

Why was Eichmann put into a glass cage at his trial? Supposedly, it was because he was so evil that someone might shoot him before his trial was over.

I wrote the following about Eichmann on my scrapbookpages.com website:  http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/HungarianJews2.html

The following information is from the book “Auschwitz, a New History” by Laurence Reese:

On April 25, 1944, in his office at the Hotel Majestic in Budapest, Eichmann met with Joel Brand, another leading member of the Jewish Relief and Rescue Committee. Brand had already attended previous meetings with Eichmann and other SS officers in an attempt to bribe them to allow a number of Jews out of Hungary. Now Eichmann said to Brand, “I am prepared to sell one million Jews to you.”

Eichmann proposed an exchange of “Blood for Goods,” in which the British and the Americans would give the Nazis one new truck for every one hundred Jews. Eichmann promised that the trucks would only be used on the Eastern front where the Germans were fighting against the Communist Soviet Union. Brand was asked to go to Istanbul in Turkey to negotiate the deal. Eichmann hoped to obtain 10,000 trucks in exchange for one million Jews. But even before Brand reached Turkey on May 19, 1944, Eichmann had already ordered the deportation of the Hungarian Jews, which began on April 29, 1944.

According to Laurence Rees, SS officer Kurt Becher, who was a Lt. Col., equal in rank to Eichmann, was trying to blackmail the Weiss family, owners of the biggest industrial conglomerate in Hungary, into giving its shares to the SS in return for safe passage out of the country.

Rees wrote:

By the time of his meeting with Brand, Eichmann knew that his rival Becher had successfully arranged for shares of the Manfred-Weiss works to be transferred to the Nazis; in return, about fifty members of the Weiss family were allowed to leave and head for neutral countries.

Brand was accompanied to Istanbul by another man named Bandi Grosz, a former agent of the Abwehr, the German intelligence agency, whose operations in Hungary had been taken over by an SS officer, Lt. Col. Gerhard Clages. At the last meeting with Brand, SS officers Clages, Becher and several other Nazis had been present.

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.

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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 http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Contributions/Murmelstein/JudenratQuestion.html

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.”

Read more at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Contributions/Murmelstein/JudenratQuestion.html

June 1, 2015

The Oskar Gröning trial exposes the banality of evil that was the Holocaust

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 8:21 am

A news article in The Daily Beast, which you can read in full here, starts off with this quote:

The trial of the SS bookkeeper from Auschwitz exposes not only the banality but the bean-counting that was integral to the Holocaust.

The term “banality of evil” was a term made famous by Hannah Arendt, who reported on the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Now the term is being used to describe the crime committed by Oscar Gröning, who counted the money taken from the Jews at Auschwitz.

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau where Oskar Groening  was collecting  the luggage

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau where Oskar Groening was collecting the luggage

This quote is from the news article:

Shortly after he arrived, Gröning was assigned to supervise the luggage collection from incoming transports. Gröning, responsible for counting the money and shipping it to Berlin headquarters, has spoken at the trial about his impressions: “You would be surprised to know with how many valuables the Jews arrived there.” As testimony from survivors makes clear, they had brought as much of their wealth as they could in the deluded hope they might thus save their lives.

Gröning’s crime was that he counted the money that the Jews had brought with them in the hope that they might be able to buy their way out a death camp.

But that was not the worst crime that Oskar committed.

This quote from the article describes his worst crime at Auschwitz.

He says, “there were people who made themselves comfortable with silk sheets to sleep in… Whatever the Jews brought with them.” Gröning soon learned to spot who had money and who did not. “With the travelling Poles there was nothing to be found,” he recalled, “but the Hungarian, we knew, had big bacon.”

Can you believe this? Oskar Gröning admits that he stole silk sheets from the luggage of the rich Hungarian Jews, and slept on those sheets himself. For that crime, he deserves life without parole, but because of his advanced age, he will probably not serve any prison time for this great crime.

But forget all that. This quote from the article reveals the worst crimes at Auschwitz:

In another example that demonstrates his incapacity to contextualize, Gröning told Fuchs [the prosecuting attorney] how he was helping fellow SS men find escaped prisoners when he arrived at a barracks. There he witnessed an SS man throwing Zyklon B, the gas used for mass killing, down a chute. Inside he heard cries that became louder until suddenly they stopped. When Fuchs asked him why the death of a baby bothered him, but not the many in the gas chambers, Gröning explained: “For me, it was no different from what was happening at the front. What happened in Auschwitz, I thought was right. That’s what I was taught from the age of ten onward.” Only having to witness the excesses, the bashing to death of an infant, was too much for him. That’s why he repeatedly asked for the transfer.

Did you catch that? Besides witnessing the bashing of a baby to death, Oskar also witnessed an SS man throwing Zyklon-B into a barracks building to disinfect the building. The Nazis were trying to save lives by using Zyklon-B to kill the lice that spread typhus.

This quote is also from the news article:

The trial of the SS bookkeeper from Auschwitz exposes not only the banality but the bean-counting that was integral to the Holocaust.

Week after week the German court reveals in graphic detail the smoothly run murder machinery behind “the final solution,” the Nazi effort to exterminate Europe’s Jews.

End of Story.

“—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

[John Keats Ode to a Grecian Urn]