Vol. 31 No. 2 1964 - page 278

I have just reread your piece on the Eichmann controversy, the
pieces by Lionel Abel, Marie Syrkin, Daniel Bell, and others, and I have
also reread Hannah Arendt's book. I must tell you that I am bewildered
and saddened by the confusion so many intelligent people have brought
to issues that were clearer before they were so energetically and trium–
phantly clarified. Particularly depressing
the procession of polemics,
with everyone arguing so cleverly, with so much wit and logic, as
though those awful events were being used to sharpen one's mind and
one's rhetoric. At the risk of sounding polemically sentimental and
righteous, I should say my own reaction was just the opposite. On
rereading the sickening accounts of the extermination of the Jews, the
last thing I wanted to do was to trot out my dialectical skills, to show
how clever I was in deploying the argument.
A historical disaster has been transformed, I am sorry to say, into a
journalistic occasion, because people have been talking not so much about
the meaning of those awful events as about what other people were
saying about them. And some people seemed to think that what was being
said was more awful than the events themselves. I have actually heard
people say Hannah Arendt is worse than Eichmann, and there must be
some who believe Abel worse than Arendt, you worse than Abel, etc.,–
where does this put me? Clearly, we have here a case of criminality by
dissociation. In this atmosphere, I feel it would be most useful to
depolemicize the questions, not only to see the questions, themselves,
more clearly, but to evaluate what has been said about them.
is true
that questions do not really exist apart from their formulation, but in
this controversy the questions have been so tangled up in the polemics
that we have almost lost sight of them.
How should we go, backwards or forwards? Suppose we begin with
you, which is why I am writing you. Your piece, though beautifully
done, as is everything of yours, shows that you are, above all, out to defend
Hannah-by winning a decision on points, over Hannah's critics. Hence
most of your piece is intent on scoring points, some of them debaters'
points that catch Lionel in a contradiction or a distortion. I am not
saying your points are bad, many are good, but they are points.
One cannot properly discuss your piece without going into Hannah's
book, and that I will do later. But, in the meantime, let me say a few
more concrete things about your piece. You begin by saying that the
159...,268,269,270,271,272,273,274,275,276,277 279,280,281,282,283,284,285,286,287,288,...322
Powered by FlippingBook