Becoming Eichmann

Da Capo Press  2006


This new volume, the first on its topic in over 40 years, describes in excruciating detail, using recently discovered documents, how Eichmann became Eichmann. How did a low-level Nazi bureaucrat become Hitler’s “expert” on the Jews and become ultimately responsible for the deaths of over two million Jews in various concentration camps? On this simplest level, a biography of a World War II SS officer, the book works well.

However, it is the deeper layers of this book that are the most thought-provoking. In addition to a description of Eichmann’s life and its historical context, there is an he became a mass murderer. His early military career did not portend its final outcome. Initially, he had a working relationship with Zionist Jews which took a horrible turn somewhere along the line. He eventually applied a cold, matter-of-fact method to the mass murder of humans, much the same as a middle-level manager might manage widgets. This next layer tries to further decipher Eichmann, as he was neither hardwired or necessarily pre-disposed to become a genocidal maniac.

The deeper layer, then, forces the reader to put him- or herself in the subject’s shoes, and asks a chilling question: What would happen to me in a similar position? The book works well on all levels. And like an onion, the deepest layers are not always the most appetizing.

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