Hannah Arendt (film)

2012 film by Margarethe von Trotta

Hannah Arendt is a 2012 biographical drama film about Hannah Arendt. It centers on Arendt's response to the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann. The film is directed by Margarethe von Trotta and stars Barbara Sukowa.

Hannah Arendt

  • Western tradition mistakenly assumes that the greatest evils of mankind arise from selfishness. But in our century, evil has proven to be more radical than was previously thought. And we now know that the truest evil, the radical evil, has nothing to do with selfishness or any such understandable, sinful motives. Instead, it is based on the following phenomenon: making human beings superfluous as human beings. The entire concentration camp system was designed to convince the prisoners they were unnecessary before they were murdered. In the concentration camps men were taught that punishment was not connected to a crime, that exploitation wouldn't profit anyone, and that work produced no results. The camp is a place where every activity and human impulse is senseless. Where, in other words, senselessness is daily produced anew. So, to summarize: if it is true that in the final stage of totalitarianism, an absolute evil emerges, absolute as it no longer relates to human motives, then it is equally true that without it, without totalitarianism, we would never have known the truly radical nature of evil.
  • I wrote no defense of Eichmann, but I did try to reconcile the shocking mediocrity of the man with his staggering deeds. Trying to understand him is not the same thing as forgiveness. And furthermore, I see it as my responsibility to understand. It is the responsibility of anyone who dares to put pen to paper on this subject.
  • Since Socrates and Plato, we usually call thinking to be engaged in that silent dialogue between me and myself. In refusing to be a person, Eichmann utterly surrendered that single most defining human quality: that of being able to think. Consequently, he was no longer capable of making moral judgments. This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale, the like of which one had never seen before. It is true I have considered these questions in a philosophical way. The manifestation of the "wind of thought" is not knowledge, but the ability to tell right from wrong, beautiful from ugly. And I hope that thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down.

Martin Heidegger

  • You say you want me to teach you how to think. Thinking … is a lonely business.


Hannah Arendt: He transported people to their deaths, but didn't feel responsible for it. Once the trains were in motion, his work was done.
Kurt Blumenfeld: So he can say he's free of guilt despite what happened to the people he transported?
Hannah Arendt: Yes! That's how he sees it. He's a bureaucrat!
Kurt Blumenfeld: Your quest for truth is admirable, but this time you have gone too far.
Hannah Arendt: But Kurt, you can't deny the huge difference between the unspeakable horror of the deeds and the mediocrity of the man.

See also

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