The exhibition relies more accurately on research that emerged in the last decade of the 20th century that shows Eichmann as a man who plotted to "improve" the effectiveness of the murder of Jews, who was constantly in action, not as a puppet but as an active anti-Semitic warrior against "the Jewish enemy."
The Berlin exhibit coincides with the publication of Deborah Liptstadt's new book, "The Eichmann Trial," which also faults Arendt's failure to bring attention to his key role in organizing the Holocaust, partly because she left the trial early and wrote less as a personal witness to his testimony than from dry transcripts that lack his sinister inflection. Her social and political prejudices also infected her analysis.
"I wasn't only issued orders, in this case I'd have been a moron, but I rather anticipated (them), I was an idealist," he testified, smug from behind the protection of his bulletproof glass booth. His "idealism" was employed in perfecting the efficiency of genocide. As early as 1938, he had roughed up a leader of the Jewish community in Vienna, a man 20 years his senior, "to get the Jewish trotting along." He beat to death a Jewish boy for stealing fruit from his tree in Budapest.
The Holocaust offered him greater "rewards" for malevolence. As he became increasingly obsessed with destroying Jews, he described himself as rational rather than emotional, even calling himself a Zionist who preferred finding another land for the homeless Jews rather than sending them to the death camps.
Evil need not be theatrical to expose itself. Eichmann was no Dr. Faustus, ambitiously making a pact with the devil. He was a puny man when he wasn't inflated by the grandeur of power. Like most villains when caught, he was reduced to defending himself with tawdry half-truths, admitting complicity in evil deeds but denying responsibility. A large map shows his presence in Prague, Vienna, Budapest and various concentration camps between 1937 to 1945, confirming his whereabouts before, during and after the crimes against the Jews.
"You'd never know when I'd turn up," he told an Argentine interviewer, a former SS agent, after World War II.
So he's turned up again in Berlin, of all places, where a new generation gets to draw its own conclusions. They, too, will find nothing banal about it.