Nazis And The Nature Of Evil

The release of Adolf Eichmann's memoirs in Israel last week sparked a debate over their historical value. Some historians say they are just a self-serving tract. Others argue that Eichmann's account is important because he directly ties Adolf Hitler to the Holocaust. The memoirs have revived a subtler debate over the nature of evil in Nazi Gemany. The Israeli government had suppressed the 1,200-page tome since Eichmann's 1962 execution, arguing that his self-portrayal as a bureaucrat following orders rather than the personification of evil could be manipulated by Holocaust deniers. That interpretation was given wide currency in philosopher Hannah Arendt's 1963 "Eichmann in Jerusalem." The book was never published in Israel; some suspect government pressure kept it under wraps. But now, a small Israeli publishing house has translated her work for release in Israel. "Israel needed a lot of time to work out its attitude toward the Holocaust," says Israeli author Tom Segev. "This a sign of the nation feeling more mature."