Jesus and Eichmann in Jerusalem

JesusandEichmann copy.jpg

Welcome back to Defender’s Voice. This is Paul Kattupalli. Thank you for joining us today. Defender’ Voice is a program dedicated to Christian apologetics. Please visit our web site for more information about our ministry. This year, we are looking for more partners to join us in this ministry. So, we look forward to hearing from you. In today’s message I would like to describe 4 ideologies dominating our world today. So, let us get started. 

   I entitled today’s message Jesus & Eichmann in Jerusalem.  Jesus Christ and Adolf Eichmann both spent their final days in Jerusalem. Jesus was put to trial and executed by death penalty. Two thousand years later, Adolf Eichmann was brought to Jerusalem, put to trial and executed by death penalty. 

    Even Eichmann, who oversaw the killings of millions of people, got a defense attorney to stand beside him in his trial. But Jesus had no defence. He had to speak for himself against a multitude of accusers. Jesus, all alone by himself, wearing a crown of thorns and purple robe, stood before Pilate. Pilate announced, ‘Behold the Man!’. People shouted, ‘Crucify him, Crucify him’. Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘Yes, I am. That is why I came to this world, to bear witness unto the truth’.  (Mark 15:2; John 18:36; John 19:4-10) 

           Lord Jesus told Pilate why He came into this world: to bear witness unto the truth. There is truth independent of human existence, of human opinions and of human experience. That is an absolute truth. Our world rejected this view. It believes we construct the truth. 

          When I went to Poland, I took some time to visit Auschwitz Concentration Camp. As I was walking through the SS administrative buildings, labor camps, barracks, the buildings where medical experiments were carried out, train tracks, gas chambers, crematoriums, I was thinking about Eichmann. Between 1941 and 1945, he was at the center of the Nazi genocide against the Jews and other minorities of Europe. 

    In 1941, Hitler decided on the ‘Final Solution’, which is the extermination of all Jews and other  ‘inferior’ groups in the conquered nations. The Jews and other victims were to be shipped to the East and exterminated there. Eichmann was put in charge of transporting over 2 million Jews to their death at Auschwitz and other death camps: Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, and Sobibor. 

    Innocent people were deported, enslaved, starved and murdered in those death camps. In every responsibility, Eichmann did a meticulous job: Rounding up the people, constructing train tracks, scheduling trains, selecting the guards,  organizing labor camps, building the gas chambers, disposing their ashes, and destroying the evidence. Nazi leaders were proud of him. 

    After the War, Eichmann escaped to Argentina in 1958 and settled there. He was captured in 1960 by Israel’s secret service. They smuggled him out of Argentina and took him to Israel. Eichman stood trial before a special court in Jerusalem.The trial lasted for more than three months. It was the first televised trial in the history of the world. Thousands of journalists arrived in Jerusalem. Jewish German-American political philosopher Hannah Arendt covered the trial for New Yorker magazine. Having lived through Nazi Germany and its aftermath, she wrote three famous books, The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951, The Human Condition in 1958, and Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1963. They became influential works in political philosophy. The book that first got my attention was Eichmann in Jerusalem. The subtitle of this book gave us the phrase ‘the banality of evil’. People were curious to see Eichmann. They called him a monster. But Hannah Aredt says, he is not a monster, he is just an average human being living out the ideologies of his time. 

   I would like to give you four ideologies that influenced Eichmann which surfaced during this trial: Relativism, Legalism, Determinism and Totalitarianism. 

  1. Relativism: The first ideology is Relativism. Eichmann’s defense attorney Robert Servatius stood up and said, ‘You are accusing my client of so many crimes. But they are not crimes. They are acts of state, for which you are decorated if you win and go to the gallows if you lose.’ There is nothing criminal about what my client did. For some people, he is a monster. But for others, he is a hero. At this point, Arendt quotes Goebbels, who said,  ‘We will go down in history as the greatest statesmen of all times or as their greatest criminals’. Am I am statesman? or Am I a criminal? It depends on your view, because there is no absolute truth. For Jews, I am a monster, but for my people, I am a hero. 

     When Einstein came out with his Theory of Relativity, millions of people misunderstood it as endorsement of moral relativism. British historian Paul Johnson wrote in his book, Modern Times

“At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism….He (Einstein) lived to see moral relativism, to him a disease, become a social pandemic” Eichmann lived in a world taken over by relativism. 

  1. Legalism: The second ideology is legalism. Eichmann said, ‘I was following the law’. He claimed that he never hated Jewish people. Some of his relatives married Jews. He had a Jewish aunt called, Dorczi. He never read Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In fact, he was an avid reader of Jewish literature such as Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State. He asserted that he had not violated any law. He stated, ‘I could not help myself; I had orders, but I had nothing to do with that business’. I am just doing my job.

     I am just following the law…this is the spirit of legalism. It does not consider God or the heinousness of one’s action or the value of the victims in the eyes of God. Sabbath was not created for man, but man was created for the Sabbath. 

      Eichmann describes that he read Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Practical Reason, and he was following the Categorical Imperative, absolute obedience to the law and the law giver. Kant spoke about absolute law, the Categorical Imperative. But he removed God from active role in this world. Eichmann believed in absolute law. But it did not come from God. It came from Hitler. 

3.Determinism:    Then the third ideology is determinism. This view says, we have no free will, we are the products of nature, we are determined by causes external to the will. When he became part of the ‘Final Solution’, Eichaman said, he was no longer “master of his own deeds,” he was unable “to change anything”, “I was only an instrument in their hands and also in the hands of a fate that knew no mercy”. 

 Please note those words: “I was no longer master of my own deeds”, “I am unable to change anything”, “I was only an instrument in their hands”, “I was in the hands of a fate that knew no mercy”….that is the spirit of determinism.  Eichmann lived in a society which embraced determinism. It was a generation that refused to believe in free will and moral autonomy. 

            Last time I was in Jerusalem, I was in Yad Vashem.  Going through the exhibits on all the horrors committed by Eichmann and his colleagues, I asked myself: Are we just creatures reacting to stimuli? or do we have independent moral will?  If Eichmann was just reacting to stimuli, if he had no free will, if he was determined, he committed no evil. If determinism is true, we have no right to judge him. 

  1. Totalitarianism: Relativism, legalism, determinism and finally totalitarianism. Eichmann explained how completely the Nazis controlled the mental lives of the people. He said “For cases of insubordination the SS penal code provided death as punishment. One could commit suicide but couldn’t oppose his orders.” If don’t like my orders, kill yourself. But as long as you are alive, you have no choice but to follow my commandments. 

     In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt says that the totalitarianism of Hitler and Stalin was unprecedented in human history. Yes, the world had seen dictatorships before. But, the modern totalitarianism is the total transformation, organization and mobilization of society in the service of the state. 

      The totalitarianism creeps into every segment of human life from culture, religion, economics, education, welfare. The state rules all spheres of existence. Arendt says that in totalitarianism, the extermination camps, labor camps, gas chambers are not anomalies. They are necessary to achieve the goals. Their intention is not just to kill human beings but to establish a form of nonexistence, in which individuals are not treated as human beings at all. They are not persons with intrinsic value. They can be sacrificed for the sake of larger goals of utopia. The long-term ideal goals are what matter, not human beings. 

     Relativism, legalism, determinism, totalitarianism: When Jesus was tried, he faced the same four ideologies. You can see relativism. People could not see any difference between Jesus and Barabbas. They chose Barabbas,a murderer! Their legalism, ‘By law, Jesus must die because he claimed to be the Son of God’. Did they know what he meant when he said he was the Son of God? But according to their law, Jesus must die.  Their determinism, ‘his blood will be on us and our children’, he must die. If our fate is to bear the brunt of his death, so be it. Their totalitarianism, ‘We have no king but Cesar’. Here is Jesus – King of the Jews, the prophesied Messiah, God Incarnate, King of the Universe. They said no to him. They chose Cesar, a human tyrant. Our generation does not want God as its King. It says, ‘we have no king but our government’. Our governments think they are the final authority. Jesus told Pilate, ‘Your power was given to you from above’. Human governments should not think that they are the final authority. God is above them. They derive their authority and legitimacy from God. 

    Robert Servatius, the defense attorney for Eichmann, said, ‘Eichmann feels guilty before God, not before the law’. If relativism, legalism, determinism, and totalitarianism get their way, Eichmann is not guilty. He is guilty only if God exists. 

     That is the difference between Jesus and Eichmann. Eichmann was guilty before God, not before men. Jesus was guilty before men, not before God. That is why God raised him from the dead. It is our sins that crucified Jesus, not his sins. For forty days he showed himself alive by many infallible proofs. Then they were all gathered on the Mt Olives outside Jerusalem. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus gave his disciples a promise, the promise of the Holy Spirit. When he is come, the Holy Spirit will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8). Today we have this myth that we can figure out what is good and what is evil on our own. That will only lead us to moral relativism. We need God to define good and evil. We need God to deliver us from evil. We need God to empower us to resist the evil. 

   Today, we have seen four ideologies dominating our worldview today: Relativism, legalism, determinism and totalitarianism. We reject relativism because we believe truth is absolute and independent of human opinions. We reject legalism because we only obey human law as long as it is consistent with God’s values and commandments. We reject determinism because  we believe that God has given us personal autonomy, free will and will hold us accountable for all our actions. We reject totalitarianism because the final authority on us is not government, or a human dictator, but as Jesus told Pilate, ‘all authority is given from above’. Lord Jesus Christ told, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’ When we reject his Way, we become a culture of confusion and despair; when we reject his Truth, we become a culture of falsehood, and when we reject his life, we become a culture of death.  

Paul Kattupalli MD is an author and physician. Please visit us at

Download full article here 

2 thoughts

  1. Sick how you identify the supposed ‘legalism’ of the Rabbis with the man that almost 2,000 years later helped in the murder of those Rabbis descendants!
    Of course, nothing about the centuries of Christian anti-Semitism, both from the Catholic Church and later from Martin Luther that helped set the stage for the Nazis policy of extermination of the Jews.

  2. I’m reading Eichmann in Jerusalem by Arendt and as I’m going through the epilogue I thought of a connection between Eichmann and Jesus as a type of mirroring of situations. I googled the idea and was glad to stumble upon your article. Thanks for sharing 🙂

Leave a Reply