The Psychology of Otto Adolf Eichmann: Study in Moral Responsibility

Featured in what is perhaps one of the most publicized trials of the recent century, Otto Adolf Eichmann was often referred to as the “Architect for the Holocaust. ” As such, the life and psychology of Eichmann has been under scrutiny ever since then. The theory that the mind of a Nazi follower was different than that of ordinary men was even advocated by many learned psychologists.

Be that as it may, it does not change the fact, as Eichmann himself admits, that Eichmann himself was present and even ordered the execution of millions of Jews during the Second World War.

Eichmann joined the SS on the advice of Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Though initially he joined because of this, Eichmann, as he testifies, also began to develop personal convictions with regard to the Nazi’s and his role in the SS. It is interesting to note that Eichmann was psycho-analyzed to be a “joiner” as he habitually joined several organizations in order to define his own identity.

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During the time that Eichmann was tasked to oversee the deportation of the Jews to concentration camps, he began studying Judaism and not soon after he began to develop anti-Semitic views. It did not take long for him to develop his own hatred for the Jews. During the Nuremberg Trials, Eichmann defended his actions by stating that he was never one with any power. All of the actions that he took were because he was simply following orders.

He never had any discretion and always had to follow the orders of his superiors without any question.

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Citing the categorical imperative as espoused by Emmanuel Kant, Eichmann claimed that he was simply following his duty which was to abide by his orders. Though a criticism by Hannah Arendt reveals that Eichmann’s citation of Kant was too literal and perhaps taken out of context, it does not change the fact that the main thrust of the Eichmann’s defense was that he was simply following the commands of his superior.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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The Psychology of Otto Adolf Eichmann: Study in Moral Responsibility. (2017, Jan 26). Retrieved from

The Psychology of Otto Adolf Eichmann: Study in Moral Responsibility essay
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