Category Archives: Hannah Arendt

“Hannah Arendt: Life is a Narrative” by Julia Kristen— Hannah Arendt, Philosophically

Kristeva, Julia. “Hannah Arendt: Life is a Narrative”, University of Toronto Press, 2020.

Hannah Arendt, Philosophically

Amos Lassen

When one of my favorite feminist thinkers, Julia Kristeva ,writes about one of my favorite thinkers, Hannah Arendt, I know that I am in for a powerful and enlightening reading experience.

This volume is based on the series of Alexander Lectures Kristeva delivered at the University of Toronto exploring the philosophical aspects of Hannah Arendt’s work: her understanding of such concepts as language, self, body, political space, and life. Kristeva’s goal is to clarify contradictions in Arendt’s thought and correct misapprehensions about her political and philosophical views.

The first two chapters are about how Arendt followed an original conception of human narrative, such that life, action, and even thought, are only human when they can be narrated and thus shared with other persons who, through the evocation of memory, complete the story and make history into a condensed sign, into a revelation of the ‘who.’ The third chapter examines Arendt’s work in relation to her twentieth-century contemporaries, especially Isak Dinesen, Berthold Brecht, Franz Kafka, and Nathalie Sarraute. In the last two chapters that focus on the body and the Kantian concept of judgment, Kristeva gives a subtle critical exploration of Arendt’s ignoring of the world of the unconscious opened up by psychoanalysis. This paradoxically reveals the political force of Arendt’s acceptance of herself as woman and Jew.

Kristeva’s account of Arendt’s ‘philosophy of narrative’ is “clear, coherent, forceful and impassioned” We have much written about Arendt’s political work, but little about her more philosophical endeavors and this book is a compelling case that Arendt may be the twentieth century’s only true and most important political philosopher.



“The Bloomsbury Companion to Arendt” edited by Peter Grafton and Sari Yesemin— Writings and Ideas

Grafton, Peter and Sari Yasemin, editors. “The Bloomsbury Companion to Arendt”, Bloomsbury Companions, 2020.

Writings and Ideas

Amos Lassen

There is little doubt that Hannah Arendt was one of the most influential and powerful philosophical minds of the twentieth century and this we see still with how much is still being written about her today. Her texts are still studied in institutions of higher learning and she is constantly being argued about and discussed. Now we have a companion to her writings with “The Bloomsbury Companion to Arendt”.

Arendt’s writings, both in public magazines and in her important books were original contributions in political thinking. She has been the subject of several films and numerous books, colloquia, and newspaper articles, and she remains an important voice in debates about “the use of violence in politics, the responsibility one has under dictatorships and totalitarianism and how to combat the repetition of the horrors of the past.” 

The Bloomsbury Companion gives us a definitive guide to her writings and ideas, her influences and commentators, and why she still has significance. Sixty-six essays make up the companion in accessible terms and explore the many ways in which we can read her work and see her continuing importance. The essays are written by an international set of her foremost readers and commentators and together they give us a comprehensive coverage of her life and the contexts in she wrote. There are sections that examine each of her key writings, how they were received and her influences and interpretations. This is an ideal way to think about and discover (or rediscover) of “one of the most important intellectuals of the past century.” We also read of Arendt’s foray into science and ecology and this gives us more than the areas she was so well known for. Some of the topics here were not explored until after her death in 1975.  “Arendt’s approaches as well as her concrete claims about the political have much to offer given the current ecological and refugee crises, among others.” The Companion is not only “a tool for thinking with Arendt” but it also shows “where those thinking with her can take her work today.”

While Arendt found “truth”  to be elusive, she felt that we have an obligation  to “think about what we are doing” and this is emphasized here.  Here is “the urgency and vitality of Arendt’s writings.”

“THE GERMAN NEIGHBOR”— Observing Eichmann



Observing Eichmann

Amos Lassen

Six psychiatrists had certified that Eichmann was a “normal” man. But, can one of the biggest criminals look like a “normal man”? World history shows us yes; the little stories, the testimonies of everyday history, confirm it. Hannah Arendt postulates again and again how the normality of a man can subsume the most atrocious and stark, horrifying and criminal acts towards the human race:

In Eichmann’s case, was precisely that there were many men like him, and that these men were not perverted or sadistic, but were, and remain, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the point of view of our legal institutions and our moral criteria, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities together, because it implied that this new type of criminal.

The movie “The German Neighbor” shows this. It mixes history and fiction as we watch the daily life of a genocidal monstere. Under the pretext of the translation that a young woman, Renata Liebeskind is a translator for the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem for the crimes perpetrated during the Nazi totalitarian system and through her part of the history of Eichmann is reconstructed, framed and related, in multiple ways. The plot of the film also draws a path to rebuild the identity of Renata herself. The times of the film story overlap with the different moments in history and alternate to show the greater future.

Responsible for the logistics of deportations to concentration camps, Adolf Eichmann became one of the main responsible for the catastrophe. He dared to present himself (and was convinced that he was) as a simple gear in the machinery of such a managed massacre ; According to him, “I only carried out orders.” After fleeing Germany, he found refuge in Argentina, where he lived between 1950 and 1960, the year in which he was captured by “Operation Garibaldi”. He adopted the name of Ricardo Klement here. Renata begins to enter these issues through the investigation of her stay in Buenos Aires and in a small town in the province of Tucumán. Philosophers, researchers and specialists in the subject are other figures that Renata uses to analyze part of the story. One of the great merits of his work (and that of the directors Rosario Cervio and Martin Liji) is the reconstruction of history through Eichmann’s neighbors in Argentina: it is about searching for the living word that allows composing, first hand and from everyday life, the essence of Eichmann, or Ricardo Klement.

The phrase repeats itself in the testimonies that the film gathers is, as Hannah Arendt said, is that “He was a good person.” This “double consciousness”, as the directors point out, is what reconstructs the film. Able to break the normality of human life, in the macabre border between the two spaces, we see Eichmann as a “normal man.”

Adolf Eichmann speaks this film. But of him and much more: of the history of the Nazi genocide on a global level, of the judgment, of the after such history on the individual level, of the facts of a daily life after the events of macrohistory, of the reconstruction of the stories — the testimonies, of the perceptions, of the language, of the memory, of the memory, of identity (s). It is impressive to see Eichmann in the images that the film recovers: to watch him declaring, to hear him speak at the trial as an ordinary man, taking the floor to defend himself from the indefensible. The film leads us to think about the ways of horror, memory, memory, identity, language, human conscience and subjectivity of the victimizer. This film let us see that narration and fiction are, as Arendt believed, one of the privileged ways of studying, investigating and questioning history.

“The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky” by Susie Linfield— Struggling with Zionism Philosophically 

Linfield Susie. “The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky.” Yale University Press, 2019.

Struggling with Zionism Philosophically

Amos Lassen

Zionism is quite the hot topic today and I believe that many Jews have great problems trying to formulate personal definitions that are acceptable and politically correct at the same time. I know that I do and with my spending much of my life in Israel, I really have a rough time trying to figure out (on an hourly basis sometimes) where I stand Zionistically.

Cultural critic Susie Linfield looks at the issue and I was hoping that she would be able help me out and while she has many important things to say, she is not a philosopher. I do, however, appreciate her probe into how eight prominent midcentury public intellectuals struggled with the philosophy of Zionism, and then with Israel and its conflicts with the Arab world. I also appreciate that as she explored Zionism, she also dealt with modernism and how it affects how we think as seen through the minds that she focuses on. More specifically, I was interested in what she had to say about Hannah Arendt as I have been a student of her views for years now.

Linfield’s style is “lively” as the blurb tells us but liveliness is not what I look for when facing a difficult issue such as Zionism. We get something of an intellectual history of the political Left, through looking at twentieth-century intellectuals struggling with the philosophy of Zionism, and then with Israel and its conflicts with the Arab world. Linfield constructed this as a series of interrelated portraits that bring together the personal and the political and includes philosophers, historians, journalists, and activists— Hannah Arendt, Arthur Koestler, Maxime Rodinson, Isaac Deutscher, Albert Memmi, Fred Halliday, I.F. Stone, and Noam Chomsky. As they considered Zionism, these thinkers also had to wrestle with many of the twentieth century’s most crucial political dilemmas including socialism, nationalism, democracy, colonialism, terrorism, and anti‑Semitism. In other words, as they thought about Zionism, they also confronted the very essence and nature of modernity and the often catastrophic histories of our time. Through examining these leftist intellectuals, Linfield also tries to understand how the contemporary Left has become focused on anti‑Zionism and how Israel itself has moved rightward. We are all certainly very aware of how the political hot bed of the Middle East has generated fierce responses from the left.

Linfield gives us an analysis of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through an examining how left-wing intellectuals came to their strong views on Zionism that Linfield sees as “support for a democratic state for the Jewish people.” We see here the debate which is filled with “fearless intellectual energy” and, the upsetting imposition of “fantasy, symbol, metaphor, and theory overtaking reality and history.” Her subjects, like Arendt, held an “ideological antipathy to sovereignty” that made them critical of Zionism (although Arendt remained a Zionist her entire life and certainly philosophized about it at every opportunity and unapologetically so). Some, like Koestler, who was an admitted  combative self-loathing Jew, “insisted that there was no Jewish history and culture” to merit statehood for “a chosen people.” Rodinson, who was a French scholar of Islam, believed that Palestinians, as victims of colonial oppression, were justified in their one unifying stance: hostility to Israel (and we certainly see where that has gone). That position has been repeated over and over again by Chomsky, whose hatred for Israel and championing of Palestine has cost him followers and support as well as consideration as a has-been. Linfield criticizes him as arrogant and ignorant, based on “manufactured history” and “staggering” misrepresentations. Here was a man who was loved by many but who now has few followers. On the other hand, Linfield lauds Memmi and Halliday for their principled, humane analyses. For Memmi, Zionism is “the national liberation movement of an oppressed people,” and worthy of being supported by the left. Halliday who is an activist, journalist, multilinguist, and scholar, condemned the “profound mistakes” and crimes committed by both Zionist and Palestinian movements. Memmi and Halliday agree that support for terrorism was indefensible and simply “a short circuit that substitutes immediate fear and panicky responses for long-term solutions.” Halliday (and Linfield) advocated the establishment of two democratic states of Israel and Palestine. In presenting an unusually clear and informed history of the Arab-Israeli struggle, Linfield sheds  light on the perils of fanaticism and insularity.

Now while Linfield sees her book as an incisive commentary on eight intellectuals who wrote about the Israel/Palestine conflict she seems to forget the ninth intellectual, Linfield, herself, Her position is strong and persuasive and I take back what I said earlier bout her not. Being a philosopher. Susie Linfield is herself the ninth intellectual in this book, with a strong and persuasive position of her own.

Wherever you stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this book is a must read for devotees of exciting debates. I cannot often sit and read a philosophical text from cover to cover in one sitting. That happened here and I could not read quickly enough. If you have ever wondered why some of the brightest minds in the American and European Left been unable to understand Jewish nationalism, this is the book you need to read. You might not find the answer you are looking for, but you will enjoy the quest.

“The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky” by Susie Linfield— “The Very Nature of Modernity”

Linfield, Susie. “The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky”, Yale University Press, 2019. “The Very Nature of Modernity” Amos Lassen Susie Linfield’s “The Lion’s Den” is an intellectual history that explores how prominent midcentury public intellectuals approached Zionism and the State of Israel itself and its conflicts with the Arab world. It is an intense look at the political Left that investigates how eight prominent twentieth-century intellectuals struggled with the philosophy of Zionism, and then with Israel and its conflicts with the Arab world. It comes to us as a series of interrelated portraits that bring together the personal and the political and it includes includes philosophers, historians, journalists, and activists including Hannah Arendt, Arthur Koestler, I. F. Stone, and Noam Chomsky. It. Does not shy from controversy or radicalism. In their engagement with Zionism, influential thinkers also wrestle with socialism, nationalism, democracy, colonialism, terrorism, and anti‑Semitism. In looking at Zionism, they confront the very nature of modernity and the often catastrophic histories of our time. By examining these leftist intellectuals, we begin to understand how the contemporary Left has become focused on anti‑Zionism and how Israel itself has moved rightward. Wherever one stands on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is a fascinating read. If you are like me and change positions constantly, this is a must-read. Have you even wondered why some of the greatest minds in the American and European Left are unable to understand Jewish nationalism? You probably won’t find that answer here but you will find plenty to talk about.  The book comes to grips with “both the tragedy of Zionism and the way in which anti-Zionism became a touchstone for the global Left.” We get a commentary on eight intellectuals who wrote about the Israel/Palestine conflict. We find ways to deal with both the tragedy of Zionism and the way in which anti-Zionism became a touchstone for the global Left.

“Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life” by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings— An Elusive Intellectual

Eiland, Howard and Michael W. Jennings. “Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life”, Belknap, 2018.

An Elusive Intellectual

Amos Lassen

Walter Benjamin was perhaps the twentieth century’s most elusive intellectual. His writings cannot be categorized and his improvised existence provides food for thought. In this new biography, Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings give us a comprehensive portrait of the man and his times

This is a compelling, well-written, and accessible biography of an uncompromising and enigmatic writer and public intellectual. In the work I have done on Hannah Arendt, I could not help but notice that she was especially fond of Benjamin and took his death very badly.

The book provides excellent background on the influences and background to Benjamin’s works such as Critique of Violence and the Arcades Project.  It draws on a multitude of sources, including his correspondence with dear friends. This biography offers surprising details and welcome nuances to the basic outline that many readers may already know.

This 800 plus page book teaches about modernity through the eyes of Walter Benjamin as well as the history of the early and mid-twentieth century as seen through the eyes of intellectuals who had the courage to comment on society.

Benjamin was the son of a well-to-do family who could be described as a geek as well as a charismatic and courageous man. Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings have produced a classic. A Critical Life is an essential companion to Benjamin’s works and a literary work in its own right.



Theater for the New City

Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director



by Douglas Lackey

directed by Alexander Harrington

world premiere

September 27 to October 14, 2018

Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt were leading intellectuals of the twentieth century. In the 1920s, they had a passionate affair. In the 1930s, Heidegger became an ardent Nazi while Arendt became an ardent Zionist. Nevertheless, after the war, they still continued to correspond and to meet. Douglas Lackey dramatizes their relationship. The dialogue and action of the play go beyond known facts, but everything in the play is consistent with them.

 Alyssa Simon* as Hannah Arendt 
Joris Stuyck* as Martin Heidegger 
Stan Buturla* as Ernst Cassirer
 Alexandra O’Daly* as Elfride Heidegger and Students

Stage Manager Marsh Shugart 
Set and projection design by Lianne Arnold
Costume design by Sidney Fortner
Lighting Design by Joyce Liao
Co-Video Designer/Associate Scenic Designer Asa Lipton

Associate Producer Courtney Fenwick

September 27 to October 14, 2018
Theater for the New City
155 First Ave (between 9th and 10th Sts.) 
Thurs – Sat at 8:00 PM, Sun at 3:00 PM
$15 general admission, $10 seniors and students
Box office: (212) 254-1109 
Smarttix (212) 868-4444


“The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Terror” by Ken Krimstein— A Graphic Look at Hannah Arendt

Krimstein, Ken. “The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth”, Bloomsbury, 2018.

A Graphic Look at Hannah Arendt

Amos Lassen

Hannah Arendt was one of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century and a hero of political thought who was largely unsung and often misunderstood. She is best known for her landmark 1951 book on openness in political life, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” with its powerful and timely lessons that make it very relevant today.

Arendt led an extraordinary life. She endured Nazi persecution firsthand and survived harrowing “escapes” from country to country in Europe. She was a friend of such luminaries as Walter Benjamin and Mary McCarthy, Marc Chagall, Marlene Dietrich, Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. She was a woman who finally had to give up her unique genius for philosophy, and her love of a very compromised man (the philosopher and Nazi-sympathizer Martin Heidegger) for what she referred to as “love of the world.”

New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein’s brings us a strikingly illustrated portrait of a complex, controversial and courageous woman whose intelligence led her to brilliant insights into the human condition.

I am a huge fan of Arendt and was so when it was not the best time to be one. To be in the same room with Arendt was to be in a room with greatness and the few times that I was able to do so gave my life a whole new meaning. Ken Krimstein brings us a deeply moving graphic memoir about the life and thoughts of Arendt. We see clearly hear that through her words, Arendt taught us about how to live in the world, the meaning of freedom, the perils of totalitarianism, and our power as human beings to think about things and not just act blindly. There is a lot to know about Arendt and Krimstein explains her ideas clearly and with humor and in doing so we see why they still resonate.

She was an émigré intellectual who lived through dark times, leading a life of the mind. Krimstein turns a wartime adventure tale into a coming-of-age story, a graphic novel of ideas, a political biography, and a meditation on the importance of truth.

To some it might seem counterintuitive that Hannah Arendt who was known for her fiercely independent and pioneering philosophical writings, should be the subject of a cartoon biography, but Ken Krimstein shows that it could be respectfully done. He sends “a fundamental, crucial message regarding Arendt’s thinking about the world and the possibility of a recurrence of the thoughtless, meaningless evil of destruction that appeared in 20th century totalitarian regimes”.

Basically, this is a biographical work that stresses Arendt’s lifelong search for a way to understand the world around her. We look at Arendt through three escapes. Before he does this, he looks at the social trials of Arendt’s childhood and youth, the beginning of her need and desire to understand, and her infamous relationship with her professor/philosopher Martin Heidegger. Arendt’s three escapes include one from Berlin in 1933 after being arrested for doing research for a Zionist organization. Her second escape was from France in 1941 after she was able to get away from an internment camp during Germany’s invasion. Her third escape came while Arendt lived and worked in New York.

It is clear that Krimstein admires Arendt very much and takes a particular line in presenting her life and character. Heidegger seems to occupy Arendt’s thoughts too much and too long after they lost contact. Krimstein uses Heidegger to illustrate arguments that Arendt has with herself in later years. She gave us the phrase “the banality of evil,” and this is a very true way to look at human drive.

Krimstein is faithful to the known facts of Arendt’s life and certainly gives her a long overdue placement in the world of 20th century philosophers. “If she had done nothing else but contribute the concept of “the banality of evil” to our discourse, Arendt would have earned her place in our thinking processes… and, yes, as the book makes clear, she did much more.” Arendt was a complicated person and a complicated Jew in life and thought. Told from the perspective of Arendt herself, the book is a probing look at the many dimensions of fidelity to truth that she sought to uncover in humanity. We gain insight into the Arendtian perspective as well as a sense of its relevance to today. We must be “cognizant to not let demagogues and opportunists co-opt the democratic values that are essential to maintaining civil liberties.”

“Exile, Statelessness, and Migration: Playing Chess with History from Hannah Arendt to Isaiah Berlin” by Seyla Benhabib— Exile and Migration, A Philosophical Look

Benhabib, Seyla. “Exile, Statelessness, and Migration: Playing Chess with History from Hannah Arendt to Isaiah Berlin”, Princeton University Press, 2018.

Exile and Migration,  A Philosophical Look

Amos Lassen

Seyla Benhabib examines the intertwined lives and writings of a group of prominent twentieth-century Jewish thinkers who experienced exile and migration. These include Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Hirschman, Judith Shklar, Hans Kelsen, Emmanuel Levinas, Gershom Scholem, and Leo Strauss. These philosophers and intellectuals who were informed

by their Jewish identity and experiences of being outsiders, taken as a whole produced one of the “most brilliant and effervescent intellectual movements of modernity.”  These thinkers faced migration, statelessness, and exile because of their Jewish origins, even if they did not take positions on specifically Jewish issues personally. The sense of belonging and not belonging, of being “eternally half-other,” led and caused them to confront essential questions: “What does it mean for the individual to be an equal citizen and to wish to retain one’s ethnic, cultural, and religious differences, or perhaps even to rid oneself of these differences altogether in modernity”? Benhabib concentrates on and isolates four themes in their works: dilemmas of belonging and difference; exile, political voice, and loyalty; legality and legitimacy; and pluralism and the problem of judgment. I have always found it interesting that Jews have been regarded as people with one voice and “that we all think alike”. We know that is far from the truth and we see this in our daily lives. We also see I here among the illustrious names that appear in this study. What I do love is that they influenced one another and they will be the first to say so. I find this even more interesting when we look at the names of our thinkers here and while they do not share the same thoughts, they do share that they think. When Benhabib shows us here is the valuable plurality of their Jewish voices, most of whom developed their universal insights in the face of the crises of this new century.

We look at key aspects of German-Jewish thought in the twentieth century and we see affinities and differences in the lives and work of intellectuals confronting the pressures of exile, statelessness, and migration. We understand that we must consider the political challenges of our time as real and viable. The intellectuals here were quite a force in the twentieth century. In most cases, they were Jewish refugees and exiles and who still speak eloquently to timely political and philosophical issues.

“OPERATION FINALE”— Another Look at Eichmann

“Operation Finale”

Another Look at Eichmann

Amos Lassen

As I was sitting here preparing my new lecture on Hannah Arendt, I received an email telling me about the new film Eichmann film, “Operation Finale”. What struck me is that this is the second time in five years that while preparing to teach about Arendt, a film is released in which her presence is felt. The first, of course, is the wonderful biography directed by Magarethe von Trotta and starring the amazing Barbara Sukowa and now this. Surprisingly, these films do not make my job easier since they give me added resources. While the names Arendt and Eichmann come together often in the same breath when looking at either personage, this new film is all Eichmann. I must say that “Operation Finale” is a brilliant piece of filmmaking and I would love to know what Arendt would say about it.

“Operation Finale” is the story of Peter Malkin and his role in capturing, guarding, and transporting the man who orchestrated the Final Solution to Jerusalem and it is a thrilling adventure even knowing how it ends.

Director Chris Weitz pushed all the right buttons to give us a tense psychological drama that rarely vacates the room where Malkin and Eichmann spent nine days in a battle of wits. He has chosen a wonderful cast to tell his story. Oscar Isaac is Malkin, a man whose courage overrides. Lior Raz is the Mossad’s chief, Isser Harel; Mélanie Laurent is Hanna, a guilt-ridden doctor who cannot help but wonder if the Hippocratic oath covers the forced sedation of a Nazi war criminal. Nick Kroll is Rafi Eitan, the operation’s straight man whose covers injury and pain with jokes. Almost all of the agents that were sent to Argentina to capture Eichmann had lost loved ones because of him and nearly all have, at one time or another, to go into his room and end his life.

Weitz lets them all simmer together. Inside the safe house, dinners lead to tense confrontations as the team, like the audience, struggles to deal with the man they must guard and have tied to the bed in his underwear and who shows no remorse about what he did. There is no banality of evil here. Sir Ben Kingsley’s Eichmann is imperious, menacing, and vulnerable at the same time and even “when sitting on the toilet, surrounded by Mossad agents and delivering a monologue about defecation. Klaus (Joe Alwyn), Eichmann’s son reminds us that his father had done no wrong and that the pain that he feels as a son for a missing father is very real

“Operation Finale” is a dance between captor and captive, and Isaac and Kingsley shine as two men who understand that they’ve no choice but to allow the other his humanity. To convince Eichmann to sign the papers needed to get him on the flight to Tel Aviv, requires his consent. To get this, Malkin has to allow his prisoner a shot at dignity, be that a smoke and a shave or real emotional intimacy. Eichmann, in turn, tries to find favor with Malkin by asking him about his sister Fruma who had been executed in a forest by the machine Eichmann had helped design. Eichmann begs for news of his own family and lets out a blood-curdling scream when he realizes that no harm has come to his wife and his sons. Eichmann manipulates empathy as he struggles to convince Malkin that he’s capable of feeling his pain. But he may not be: in flashback we see him as a manipulative ogre wearing eyeliner, an SS uniform, and an overcoat as he stands “haughtily above pits stacked with bodies, like a ghoulish rock star on a stage looking down at his fans”. This is the picture that stays with us. As the two men try to figure each other out, so do we, making this a film filled with suspense even for those who have read all there is to read about Eichmann’s trial and execution.

This is both a cinematic and emotional achievement. Weitz allows us to entertain Eichmann’s reasoning as well as Malkin’s, and he trusts us to find our own way out after having spent time listening to a personable and very convincing Nazi. This film is a study in unruly “and the extremes we sometimes go to when we strive for or run away from our just deserts.”

Hannah Arendt said that the longer one listened to Eichmann, the more obvious it became that he did not have the ability to speak or to think from someone else’s point of view. He could not be communicated with and this was not because he was a liar but because he “was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.” Weitz sees Eichmann differently and his Eichmann is demonic because he knows exactly how to think from the standpoint of his interrogator, and knows, too, how to use this skill as a weapon. He sees no reason to empathize other than to gain an upper hand and this makes him all the more human and all the more terrifying. He and others like him can cause death and misery even though they are capable of not doing so. There are men like this everywhere.

To combat this kind of wickedness is to put no burden on our emotions and to be free to explore our own emotional reflexes. “Operation Finale” lets us do just that.