The Maxfields

The Maxfields

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Banality of Evil

[Editors Note: This post has nothing to with Sacred Road and could be controversial. The fact that it could be controversial, however, is a statement in itself.]

Adolf Eichmann
This summer I read the book by Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. This book describes the trial of the German Nazi leader that occurred in Israel in 1961. Eichmann was accused of committing crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and war crimes during the whole period of the Nazi regime but especially during the War. Eichmann was instrumental in the deportation of Jews from various countries in Europe and then eventually in the transporting of Jews to the extermination camps.

What I'd like to do is quote several passages from this book with the purpose of showing how people like Eichmann could be instrumental in accomplishing the Holocaust and the entire German nation could support (or at least stand by and allow) the Holocaust to happen. And then draw an analogy to how the United States is passively and some actively allowing the holocaust of abortion to happen right under our noses.

In trying to justify his actions, Eichmann tried to point to the Kantian definition of duty. He defined this as "'I meant by my remark about Kant that the principle of my will must always be such that it can become the principle of general laws' (which is not the case with theft or murder, for instance, because the thief or the murderer cannot conceivably wish to live under a legal system that would give others the right to rob or murder him). . . . In this 'period of crimes legalized by the state,' as he himself now called it, he had not simply dismissed the Kantian formula as no longer applicable, he had distorted it to read: Act as if the principle of your actions were the same as that of the legislator or of the law of the land--or, in Hans Frank's formulation of 'the categorical imperative in the Third Reich,' which Eichmann might have known: 'Act in such a way that the Fuhrer, if he knew your action, would approve it. . . . It is true that Eichmann's unconscious distortion [of Kant's principle] agrees with what he himself called the version of Kant 'for the household use of the little man.' In this household use, all that is left of Kant's spirit is the demand that a man do more than obey the law, that he go beyond the mere call of obedience and identify his own will with the principle behind the law--the source from which the law sprang. In Kant's philosophy, that source was practical reason; in Eichmann's household us of him, it was the will of the Fuhrer. Much of the horribly painstaking thoroughness in the execution of the Final Solution . . . can be traced to the odd notion, indeed very common in Germany, that to be law-abiding means not merely to obey the laws but to act as though one were the legislator of the laws that one obeys. Hence the conviction that nothing less than going beyond the call of duty will do." pgs, 136-137

"Confronted with documentary proof of [Eichmann's] extraordinary loyalty to Hitler and the Fuhrer's order, Eichmann tried a number of times to explain that during the Third Reigh 'the Fuhrer's words had the force of law', which meant, among other things, that if the order came directly from Hitler it did not have to be in writing. . . . Within this 'legal' framework, every order contrary in letter or spirit to a word spoken by Hitler was, by definition, unlawful. Eichmann's position, therefore, showed a most unpleasant resemblance to that of the often-cited soldier who, acting in a normal legal framework, refuses to carry out orders that run counter to his ordinary experience of lawfulness and hence can be recognized by him as criminal. p. 148

"Eichmann . . . at least dimly realized that it was not an order but a law which had turned them all into criminals. The distinction between an order and the Fuhrer's word was that the latter's validity was not limited in time and space, which is the outstanding characteristic of the former.  This is also the true reason why the Fuhrer's order for the Final Solution was followed by a huge shower of regulations and directives, all drafter by expert lawyers and legal advisers, not by mere administrators; this order, in contrast to ordinary orders, was treated as a law.  Needless to add, the resulting legal paraphernalia, far from being a mere symptom of German pedantry or thoroughness, served most effectively to give the whole business its outward appearance of legality.

"And just as the law in civilized countries assumes that the voice of conscience tells everybody "Thou shalt not kill,' even though men's natural desires and inclinations may at time be murderous, so the law of Hitler's land demanded that the voice of conscience tell everybody: 'Thou shalt kill,' although the organizers of the massacres knew full well that murder is against the normal desires and inclinations of most people. Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it--the quality of temptation. Many Germans and many Nazis, probably an overwhelming majority of them, must have been tempted not to murder, not to rob, not to let their neighbors go off to their doom (for that the Jews were transported to their doom they knew, of course, even though many of them may not have known the gruesome details), and not to become accomplices in all these crimes by benefiting from them. But, God knows, they had learned how to resist temptation." pgs, 149-150.

I agree that comparing the US with Nazi Germany is controversial and not accurate.  However, it struck me as I was reading this book that we have so thoroughly cloaked abortion in politics and court cases and precedent that it seems to insulate us from the horror of what it actually is, the murder of our offspring. We have cloaked the discussion in conversations about choice and a choice it is, to murder our offspring.

The Nazi's were able to cloak their actions by changing the law to sanction the massacre of Jews, Gypsys and others that were defenseless and without advocates.  How different is this from the United States cloaking its actions (and Christians not doing much about it) under Roe v. Wade to sanction the murder of the defenseless unborn?

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