Crim­i­nal Case 40/61, The Tri­al of Adolf Eichmann

Har­ry Mulisch
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012

I am not a lawyer or a jour­nal­ist; I am a writer, the only one to have occu­pied him­self to this extent with Eich­mann.” Thus Har­ry Mulisch char­ac­ter­izes him­self. As a most com­pe­tent writer, he cov­ers the Eich­mann tri­al with an artist’s brush, not a reporter’s notebook. 

The author was a very young, unknown writer in 1961 when he was sent to cov­er the tri­al in Jerusalem by a Dutch week­ly pub­li­ca­tion. It is unfor­tu­nate that it took all this time to get the Eng­lish trans­la­tion. Now, he is renowned in the Nether­lands as a nov­el­ist, poet and critic. 

Mulisch does much more than cov­er the tri­al. With a novelist’s eye, he leads the read­er on an explo­ration of the psy­ches and philoso­phies not only of Eich­mann, but of the judges, pros­e­cu­tors, defense attor­neys and var­i­ous indi­vid­u­als involved in the tri­al of the cen­tu­ry. He tours Israel, where he learns that he him­self is not half Jew­ish, but all Jew­ish, because his moth­er is Jew­ish. He also vis­its Berlin, War­saw and Auschwitz. 

He devotes much atten­tion to philoso­phers, ancient and mod­ern, as he ana­lyzes Eich­mann and oth­er promi­nent Nazis, and expos­es them to the­o­ries of evil and its man­i­fes­ta­tions. He con­cludes that Eich­mann, of all the Nazi hier­ar­chy, was most sus­cep­ti­ble to fol­low­ing orders, with­out ques­tion­ing any aspects of evil consequences. 

His the­sis that com­mit­ing evil is more effi­cient in an era of advanced tech­nol­o­gy is even more rel­e­vant today than it was dur­ing the Nazi era. Index.
Arlyne Samuels a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege, taught and super­vised Eng­lish in New York City for 40 years. She was the coor­di­na­tor of the book club of the Greater Worces­ter (MA) Chap­ter of Hadas­sah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jew­ish Book World team.

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