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Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War CriminalsAnatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War Criminals by Joel E. Dimsdale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What is evil?

Hannah Arendt, a witness to the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961, discussed what she called "the banality of evil," i.e., the actions of Adolph Eichmann, a bureaucrat presiding over various aspects of the vast machinery responsible for 11 million deaths of Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, Christians during Hitler's Third Reich, whom she described as little more than a small cog in that gigantic machine. But she mentioned nothing about his vitriolic hatred of Jews, and didn't bring a professional psychiatrist's or clinical psychologist's expertise in her analysis of Eichmann or evil in general. Nor did she really bring out the true horror of what the Nazis did to their victims, including honest German citizens who themselves were horrified at what their government was doing, and said so.

In actuality, evil always has a core of the truly alien for those of us who have not embraced it. As author Joel Dimsdale himself says in Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War Criminals, the analysis of the German war criminals at Nuremberg by psychologists and psychiatrists at the time if the Nuremberg trials was highly controversial and, ultimately, unsatisfying. What could have made so many people commit such devastating crimes against humanity in the thankfully short, 12-year term of Das Tausend-Jahre Reich? To date, that questions still has not been satisfactorily answered, and may never be. Evil has always been with us, wily as the metaphorical fox, and will be until we are no longer human or have become extinct.

A brilliant analysis of that seminal moment in modern history by psychiatrist Joel Dimsdale, this book is must reading for anyone interested in learning why modern history has gone as it has, and wants to understand something of the reality and presence in evil in human affairs.



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