“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.

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