A recent morning's newspaper had a charming snapshot of a laughing soldier playing an accordion, surrounded by equally cheerful, laughing women, all clearly having a carefree time of it. But the reader soon discovers a shocking fact. It is a photo of a playful off-duty moment for the staff of the Auschwitz death camp, which came from a photo album documenting many such ordinary moments. The article's author, Neil Genzlinger, comments that “yes, the genocide was conducted by real human beings who kicked back after a day's work, flirted with the ladies, shared a joke, played with the dog” (2008, B14).

The reader's shock is much like the reaction that Hannah Arendt had observing the war crimes trial of the Nazi Adolph Eichmann. Arendt was surprised, ...

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