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Journeys In Thought - Arendt In Jerusalem

Updated Tuesday 25th October 2005

Jonathan Rée goes to Jerusalem, in the footsteps of Hannah Arendt.

The Eichmann Trial - image copyright British Pathe Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

In April 1961, Adolf Eichmann was put on trial in Israel (pictured right), charged with crimes against humanity. Eichmann had been one of the chief logistical organisers of the Final Solution – the genocide of European Jewry – and had been kidnapped by the Israeli secret service from his house in Buenos Aires. It was an episode that was to fundamentally shape Israel’s national identity.

Watching proceedings in the Jerusalem courtroom was one of the most influential political thinkers of the twentieth century: Hannah Arendt, herself of Jewish extraction. Her articles on the trial, and her subsequent book, were so contentious that many of her friends ceased speaking to her. It was Arendt who coined the phrase ‘the banality of evil’. But what did she mean by banal? Can evil ever be banal? In Journeys In Thought, our series about turning points in the lives and thoughts of great thinkers,

The programme features interviews with experts on Hannah Arendt’s work - Avishai Margalit, and Schlomo Avineri, Leora Bilsky, Yaacov Lazowick, Stephen Ascheim and Idith Zertal, and with people who knew her, Professor Leni Yahil, and Richard Sennett. It includes readings from several of her major works.

 

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