Eichmann in Jerusalem


Hannah Arendt

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Gideon Hausner Character Analysis

The charismatic and loquacious Israeli Attorney General who prosecuted Eichmann and, according to Arendt, worked with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to turn the case into political propaganda for the Israeli government. He spoke frequently to the press, claiming that his office “made no ethnic distinctions” about Eichmann’s crimes—before emphasizing how those crimes uniquely targeted the Jewish people. Hausner also tried to hide Zionists’ complicity with Nazism and Israeli ally West Germany’s failure to prosecute Nazis who remained in its government, and called 100 irrelevant “background witnesses” to testify about their experiences of suffering during the Holocaust before repeatedly asking them why they did not rebel against the Nazis. Arendt sees Hausner as trying to prove that Israel was a heroic savior for the long-suffering, persecuted, meek Jewish people, and thus indirectly win support for his country’s violence against its territory’s native Arab population.

Gideon Hausner Quotes in Eichmann in Jerusalem

The Eichmann in Jerusalem quotes below are all either spoken by Gideon Hausner or refer to Gideon Hausner. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Banality of Evil Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Eichmann in Jerusalem published in 1963.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Justice demands that the accused be prosecuted, defended, and judged, and that all the other questions of seemingly greater import—of “How could it happen?” and “Why did it happen?,” of “Why the Jews?” and “Why the Germans?,” of “What was the role of other nations?” and “What was the extent of co-responsibility on the side of the Allies?,” of “How could the Jews through their own leaders cooperate in their own destruction?” and “Why did they go to their death like lambs to the slaughter?”—be left in abeyance. Justice insists on the importance of Adolf Eichmann, son of Karl Adolf Eichmann, the man in the glass booth built for his protection: medium-sized, slender, middle-aged, with receding hair, ill-fitting teeth, and nearsighted eyes, who throughout the trial keeps craning his scraggy neck toward the bench (not once does he face the audience), and who desperately and for the most part successfully maintains his self-control despite the nervous tic to which his mouth must have become subject long before this trial started. On trial are his deeds, not the sufferings of the Jews, not the German people or mankind, not even anti Semitism and racism.

Related Symbols: The Glass Booth
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

In this respect, perhaps even more significantly than in others, the deliberate attempt at the trial to tell only the Jewish side of the story distorted the truth, even the Jewish truth. The glory of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto and the heroism of the few others who fought back lay precisely in their having refused the comparatively easy death the Nazis offered them—before the firing squad or in the gas chamber. And the witnesses in Jerusalem who testified to resistance and rebellion, to “the small place [it had] in the history of the holocaust,” confirmed once more the fact that only the very young had been capable of taking “the decision that we cannot go and be slaughtered like sheep.”

Related Characters: Gideon Hausner, David Ben-Gurion
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Alas, nobody believed him. The prosecutor did not believe him, because that was not his job. Counsel for the defense paid no attention because he, unlike Eichmann, was, to all appearances, not interested in questions of conscience. And the judges did not believe him, because they were too good, and perhaps also too conscious of the very foundations of their profession, to admit that an average, “normal” person, neither feeble-minded nor indoctrinated nor cynical, could be perfectly incapable of telling right from wrong. They preferred to conclude from occasional lies that he was a liar—and missed the greatest moral and even legal challenge of the whole case. Their case rested on the assumption that the defendant, like all “normal persons,” must have been aware of the criminal nature of his acts, and Eichmann was indeed normal insofar as he was “no exception within the Nazi regime.” However, under the conditions of the Third Reich only “exceptions” could be expected to react “normally.” This simple truth of the matter created a dilemma for the judges which they could neither resolve nor escape.

Page Number: 26-7
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

It quickly turned out that Israel was the only country in the world where defense witnesses could not be heard, and where certain witnesses for the prosecution, those who had given affidavits in previous trials, could not be cross-examined by the defense. And this was all the more serious as the accused and his lawyer were indeed not “in a position to obtain their own defense documents.”

Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

In the eyes of the Jews, thinking exclusively in terms of their own history, the catastrophe that had befallen them under Hitler, in which a third of the people perished, appeared not as the most recent of crimes, the unprecedented crime of genocide, but, on the contrary, as the oldest crime they knew and remembered. This misunderstanding, almost inevitable if we consider not only the facts of Jewish history but also, and more important, the current Jewish historical self-understanding, is actually at the root of all the failures and shortcomings of the Jerusalem trial. None of the participants ever arrived at a clear understanding of the actual horror of Auschwitz, which is of a different nature from all the atrocities of the past, because it appeared to prosecution and judges alike as not much more than the most horrible pogrom in Jewish history. They therefore believed that a direct line existed from the early anti-Semitism of the Nazi Party to the Nuremberg Laws and from there to the expulsion of Jews from the Reich and, finally, to the gas chambers. Politically and legally, however, these were “crimes” different not only in degree of seriousness but in essence.

Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gideon Hausner Character Timeline in Eichmann in Jerusalem

The timeline below shows where the character Gideon Hausner appears in Eichmann in Jerusalem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The House of Justice
Justice and Legal Responsibility Theme Icon
Zionism and Nazism Theme Icon
...is the trial’s “invisible stage manager.” He speaks through the obedient prosecutor, Attorney General Gideon Hausner, who serves the Israeli government as loyally as judge Landau serves Justice. (full context)
Justice and Legal Responsibility Theme Icon
Zionism and Nazism Theme Icon
...the actions and guilt of the diminutive and awkward defendant. Ben-Gurion, contrary to Justice, allows Hausner to speak endlessly with the press and put on a show for the audience, which... (full context)
Conscience, Authority, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Zionism and Nazism Theme Icon
Storytelling and Resistance Theme Icon
Hausner emphasizes “the contrast between Israeli heroism and the submissive meekness with which Jews went to... (full context)
The Banality of Evil Theme Icon
Conscience, Authority, and Totalitarianism Theme Icon
Zionism and Nazism Theme Icon
...Nazis and offered them shelter, but in West Germany, which scarcely prosecuted its remaining Nazis. Hausner scarcely mentions West Germany, however, on account of its close ties to Israel. Although West... (full context)
Zionism and Nazism Theme Icon
...begins zealously prosecuting Nazi criminals in the months leading up to the Eichmann trial. Despite Hausner’s insistence on making the trial about the totality of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, he... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Killing Centers in the East
Justice and Legal Responsibility Theme Icon
Zionism and Nazism Theme Icon
...that they are professional and obligated to treat the case in a balanced manner. Yet Hausner’s “‘tragic multitude’ of sufferers” feel they deserve the chance to testify about their experiences. Eichmann... (full context)