Banality of Evil

Hannah Arendt coined the term “banality of evil” in the 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, to characterize the bureaucrats and “ordinary people” who carried out the Holocaust. I recently came across a collection of mug shots of members of the infamous German SS Einsatzgruppen killing squads. These pictures were taken by U.S. Army photographers on behalf of the Office
of Chief of Counsel for War Crimes (OCCWC) during Nuremberg Trial IX
(Einsatzgruppen Trial / Einsatzgruppen-Prozess). Look at these faces closely: Each a mass murderer who was just following orders.
 


About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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  1. Fascinating stuff. These men were often not merely mass murderers just following orders, but were also citizens, family men, etc. One of the most chilling experiences for me when I worked at Buchenwald Kz (which is now a public memorial, museum, and archive) was discovering the children’s zoo built directly facing the prisoners barracks. The zoo was built for the SS families stationed at the camp, and were positioned so the officers could bring their children to see the animals, which were of course housed in far better conditions than the camp’s prisoners directly across the path.

    There is an incredible archive of photos available for online viewing at the Buchenwald Memorial website:

    http://www.buchenwald.de/english/

    It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s critical that current generations continue to bear witness. Genocide continues, after all. Thanks for posting this, Steve.

  2. Fascinating stuff. These men were often not merely mass murderers just following orders, but were also citizens, family men, etc. One of the most chilling experiences for me when I worked at Buchenwald Kz (which is now a public memorial, museum, and archive) was discovering the children’s zoo built directly facing the prisoners barracks. The zoo was built for the SS families stationed at the camp, and were positioned so the officers could bring their children to see the animals, which were of course housed in far better conditions than the camp’s prisoners directly across the path.

    There is an incredible archive of photos available for online viewing at the Buchenwald Memorial website:

    http://www.buchenwald.de/english/

    It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s critical that current generations continue to bear witness. Genocide continues, after all. Thanks for posting this, Steve.

  3. Fascinating stuff. These men were often not merely mass murderers just following orders, but were also citizens, family men, etc. One of the most chilling experiences for me when I worked at Buchenwald Kz (which is now a public memorial, museum, and archive) was discovering the children’s zoo built directly facing the prisoners barracks. The zoo was built for the SS families stationed at the camp, and were positioned so the officers could bring their children to see the animals, which were of course housed in far better conditions than the camp’s prisoners directly across the path.

    There is an incredible archive of photos available for online viewing at the Buchenwald Memorial website:

    http://www.buchenwald.de/english/

    It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s critical that current generations continue to bear witness. Genocide continues, after all. Thanks for posting this, Steve.