Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Arendt on the Schreibtischtäter

In her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, which is on the trail of Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt says that the holocaust was perpetrated through a new, modern type of murderer: the Schreibtischtäter or the desk murderer. She does not see a linkage between the holocaust and German history. She asserts that the German bureaucrats (the Schreibtischtäters) were responsible for the Nazi atrocities. Modernity, she notes, empowered the Nazi Schreibtischtäters, who blindly obeyed orders, and without personally participating directly in the murders, sent millions to their death by putting their signature on the official documents that came before them. She presents Eichmann as the prototype of a Schreibtischtäter.

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