Arendt, Levertov and Reznikoff
Uploaded by sandpiper1 on Oct 26, 2011
This paper briefly compares the work of the three authors with regard to the trial of Adolf Eichmann. (2+ pages; 3 sources; MLA citation style)
Hannah Arendt, Denise Levertov and Charles Reznikoff all wrote works based on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the man responsible for running the Nazi machine that murdered six million Jews during World War II. This paper compares the approaches of these three writers; the advantages of each format; and asks whether or not they can truly be compared.
Hannah Arendt’s book, entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem, is a non-fiction work that describes the trial in detail. She begins with a description of the courtroom and the justices, and the reasons for the trial. She then considers Eichmann himself, his appearance, demeanor, and defense. She traces his life history, his involvement with the Nazis and his final standing as the man who implemented Hitler’s “final solution”—the extermination of the Jews. She concludes by saying that what Eichmann had taught us was “the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.” (P. 252). Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more ordinary man that Eichmann, and that is precisely her point.
Her style is easy to read, fluid, and factual. She never becomes heated or passes judgment; nor does she dwell overmuch on the horrible details of the camps themselves.
Reznikoff, however, uses the trial testimony (which Arendt doesn’t disclose) as a basis for his poems, which are graphic in the extreme. It seems to be his purpose to force us to face the ugliness without being able to turn away; he describes shootings, gassings, torture and murder over and over again until the reader is numb. For example: “The S.S. man took the baby from her arms / and shot her twice, / and then held he baby in his hands. / The mother, bleeding but still alive, crawled up to his feet. / The S.S. man laughed / and tore the baby apart as one would tear a rag.” (P. 29).
Levertov also describes the terrors of the Nazi regime, but far less graphically; she stands in contrast to Reznikoff’s brutal directness. Here, for instance, is her description of Eichmann, in which it would seem she finds a commonality among all men: “He stands / isolate in a bulletproof / witness-stand of glass, / a...