'The Banality of Evil'

Date taken: June 22, 1961
Location: Jerusalem, Israel

Photographer: Israel Government Press Office
Source: The Times of Israel

Historical Context

Toward the end of World War II, SS officer Adolf Eichmann said "I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction".

Eichmann was one of the primary organizers of the Holocaust. Tasked by Reinhard Heydrich with managing the logistics of the Final Solution, Eichmann was a participant in the infamous Wannsee Conference where the decision exterminate the Jews was made; Eichmann and his staff were responsible for organizing the deportations to death camps.

After Germany's defeat Eichmann fled to Argentina. One of the most wanted Nazis, the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad located him in 1960. After extensive surveillance, on 11 May 1960 a team of Mossad agents launched a successful and audacious operation to abduct him and fly him to Israel to stand trial.

During his trial, reporter Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe Eichmann, who appeared stiff and lackluster in comparison to the enormity of his crimes. Sentenced to death, Eichmann was executed by hanging on 1 June 1962.

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