Alpinists of evil

As there was quite a lot of text, I am adding this as a new post, rather than adding to the existing conversation.  The quotation below is a response to this comment:

Yaacoz Lozowick, the author of a particularly illuminating study of Eichmann and his fellow Nazi administrators, proposes four separate kinds of evil. The first kind can be called ‘indifference’. This is the ability to live while ignoring the suffering of others, when the suffering is not a result of our own actions. More troubling is the second kind of evil, ‘selfishness, the ability to cause suffering without intending it, but also without being bothered by it. An example could be selling arms to a dictatorship in order to provide employment for our own citizens.’ Then comes ‘heartlessness’.  The ‘heartless cause suffering consciously in order to advance their own interests. There is a large measure of evil here, since we first encounter the active desire to cause suffering, [either] limited suffering to an entire community…[or] absolute suffering on a small scale, such as terrorist organisations that murder individuals in order to advance their goals.’ But after indifference, selfishness and heartlessness comes the worst of all, ‘malevolence’. The ‘malevolent are those who devote all their powers to causing as much suffering as possible.’ They work in a coordinated and committed way, even to their own short-term detriment, to do everything necessary to make the exercise of their malevolence possible, justifying it (though not diluting it) with reference to some larger goal, which in itself, may not be defined in an explicitly malevolent way. For Lozowick, however, it is misleading to regard this process as a slippery slope, an incremental series of steps by which somebody ends up an inadvertent perpetrator. He disputes this image and replaces it with quite a different one: ‘mountain-climbing.’ Instead of working towards malevolence absent mindedly, it is achieved by conscious effort: ‘Just as a man does not reach the peak of Mount Everest by accident, so Eichmann and his ilk did not come to murder Jews by accident, or in a fit of abdent-mindedness, nor by blindly obeying orders or by being small cogs in a big machines.  They worked hard, thought hard, took the lead over many years. They were the alpinists of evil.

Yaacoz Lozowick Hitler’s Bureaucrats, London. 2002 277-9 (As quoted in Martin Davidson’s postscript)


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