Sipping my decaf coffee yesterday morning, reading the New York Times, I came to the op-ed page. I read “The New Face of German Hate,” by by Anna Sauerbrey.
In this article, Ms. Sauerbrey describes the hateful rhetoric that spewed from Bjorn Hocke, a leader in Germany’s right wing party Alternative fur Duetschland. She describes that it was “an openly racist speech on the ‘differing reproductive strategies’ of Africans and Europeans.” Ms. Sauerbrey struggles. She wants to see Mr. Hocke as a monster – different than the rest of Germans. “In the minds of most, racists wore their heads shaved, feet heavily booted and arms rune-tattooed.” Stunningly, Mr. Hocke is not a monster: “He’s a high school history teacher on leave and a married father of four. He lives in the countryside and is invariably well dressed, though never in a showy way.“ He seems normal.
This article sent a shiver down my spine. My mind was jolted to Hannah Arendt’s words describing Adolf Eichmann in her reporting on his 1961 trial in Jerusalem.
The world watched the trial, expecting a monster. But as Hannah watched, she found no such monster. In her controversial article in the New Yorker: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Arendt states: “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.” (Arendt at 276).
It seems that Eichmann’s execution for crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against the Jewish people just after midnight on June 1, 1962, did not rid the world of evil, even the banal type.
Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York. Penguin Group. 1963.
Sauerbrey, Anna. “The New Face of German Hate,” New York Times. December 30, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/opinion/the-new-face-of-racism-in-germany.html