The Desire to Kill

Hannah Arendt's believed that Adolf Eichmann was a "thoughtless,"
unquestioning person who simply followed the rules, or accepted the judgment of
others. Evidence subsequently has arisen proving Arendt's interpretation to be

Rudolf Hoess, the COMMANDANT AT AUSCHWITZ (the title of his book),
reports that he drank with Eichmann in order to get him to reveal his true
thoughts. According to Hoess, Eichmann showed that he was completely obsessed with the
idea of destroying every single Jew that he could lay his hands on. "Without
pity and in cold blood," Eichmann said, "We must complete this extermination
as rapidly as possible."

Eichmann, according to Hoess, was absolutely convinced that if he could
succeed in destroying the biological basis of Jewry in the East by complete
extermination, then Jewry as a whole would never recover from the blow. The
assimilated Jews of the West, including America, would, in his opinion, be in no
position (and would have no desire) to make up this enormous loss of blood and
there would therefore be no future generation worth mentioning.

Eichmann, Hoess concludes, was "completely obsessed with his mission
and also convinced that this extermination action was necessary in order to
preserve the German people in the future from the destructive intentions of the

The enlightenment consciousness of Arendt's time could not tolerate the
idea, on the one hand, that human beings might have a passionate desire to
exterminate other human beings, and on the other hand that this desire to kill
might grow out of a systematic body of thought.

The fact of the matter, however, is that Nazi scholars, including
medical doctors, anthropologists, political scientists and philosophers (as well as
Nazi ideologues) believed, put forth and embraced a particular theory about
the Jew. This idea required the destruction of the Jew and generated the Final

Profound destructiveness and "thought" can go together. It is not that
the Nazis (and many Germans) simply "went along" with something they did not
understand. Rather, many comprehended Hitler's message. They resonated with his
belief that the existence of the Jew and existence of Germany were
contradictory ideas. If "Jews" existed, Germany could not. The logic of extermination
unfolded from this premise.

An ideology is not simply "imposed" from up above.

While It is obvious that individuals born into a society do not "choose"
the beliefs or artifacts that constitute their culture, nevertheless it is
human beings and human beings alone that create and perpetuate culture. Persons
born into the United States (and many other societies) encounter air
conditioners as a widely-distributed cultural form. Even though we ourselves have not
invented air-conditioners, we do not view them as a creation that is separate
from human agency.

We do not mystify air-conditioners. We understand that they have become
part of human societies because they are responsive to specific human needs.
So it is with each and every idea or invention that constitutes culture.

Certain symbolic forms are selected out and "passed along." Many ideas
and inventions are put forth or proposed but few become "culture." I
hypothesize that ideas or inventions become significant elements of societies to the
extent that they are responsive to psychic needs. These ideas or inventions
exist because they "do something" for human beings.

Hitler and Eichmann were convinced that the extermination action was
necessary in order to "preserve the German people in the future from the
destructive intentions of the Jew." They became "completely obsessed" with their
mission of killing every single Jew that they could find.

The actuality is that Jews represented no danger to the German people.
Jews were persons who existed in Europe seventy years ago. However, when
Hitler spoke of "the Jew" he was not referring to concrete human beings. Rather,
these terms constituted for Hitler mental representations. When Hitler insisted
that it was necessary to "kill Jews," what he meant was that it was necessary
to kill or kill off some idea that was contained within or represented by the
word "Jew."

In killing Jews, Hitler was struggling to kill off something within
himself. If this "something" continued to exist, then the German nation could not
exist. What is it the existence of which disproves the existence of the

With regards,

Richard Koenigsberg

Richard A. Koenigsberg, Ph. D.
Library of Social Science

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