This evidence definitively contradicts Arendt’s portrait of a mediocre automaton mindlessly transporting Jews to the east with no care for the larger ethical questions of their ultimate destination. Is evil then still banal? In many cases, most certainly. The Final Solution could hardly have been implemented without a lot of mediocre functionaries who simply saw themselves as doing a job. Stangneth’s work shows Arendt’s thesis to be not so much wrongheaded as too simplistic as a generalization and as incorrect when applied specifically to Eichmann. Documentation to which Arendt had no access now proves that Eichmann was not a cog in the Final Solution machine. He was instead one of those who designed the machine, ran the machine, and took immense pleasure and pride in the machine. Indeed, he was still boasting about his part in making it work in the late fifties. And he did all this not because he was mindlessly committed to obeying orders but because he was passionately committed to an ideological anti-Semitism and to an apocalyptic vision of the race war.
Trueman: what Arendt got right about evil