"In his book about the Eichmann trial in 1961, Mulisch is engrossed by the enigma of evil: not the incidental fact of pain, nor even the occasional nastiness of man to man, but the innate vastness of wickedness in the cosmos."—Times Literary SupplementThe trial of Adolf Eichmann began in 1961 under a deceptively simple label, "criminal case 40/61." Hannah Arendt covered the trial for the New Yorker magazine and recorded her observations in Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil. Harry Mulisch was also assigned to cover the trial for a Dutch news weekly. Arendt would later say in her book's preface that Mulisch was one of the few people who shared her views on the character of Eichmann. At the time, Mulisch was a young and little-known writer; in the years since he has since emerged as an author of major international importance, celebrated for such novels as The Assault and The Discovery of Heaven.
"Mulisch, a celebrated Dutch author who has written in many genres, originally published this account of the Eichmann trial in Holland in 1962. . . . This is the first English translation. . . . Mulisch makes an attempt to understand and expose the enigma that is Adolf Eichmann. . . . . Mulisch's conclusion is that Eichmann acted as a 'machine,' which is in many ways a more chilling conversion to contemplate than being 'hypnotized' by a madman's agenda. . . . All academic libraries should have this primary account."—Library Journal
"Mulisch provides an immensely personal account of the trial . . . that is deftly intertwined with observations of Eichmann the man and Eichmann the myth, as well as observations regarding the development of the Israeli state, which 'had no long-established institutions' and which found in the Eichmann trial a raison d'être, 'an opportunity for creative nation-building.'"—Human Rights & Human Welfare
Mulisch modestly called his book on case 40/61 a report, and it is certainly that, as he gives firsthand accounts of the trial and its key players and scenes (the defendant's face strangely asymmetric and riddled by tics, his speech absurdly baroque). Eichmann's character comes out in his incessant bureaucratizing and calculating, as well as in his grandiose visions of himself as a Pontius Pilate-like innocent. As Mulisch intersperses his dispatches from Jerusalem with meditative accounts of a divided and ruined Berlin, an eerily rebuilt Warsaw, and a visit to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Criminal Case 40/61, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann becomes as a disturbing and highly personal essay on the Nazi extermination of European Jews and on the human capacity to commit evil ever more efficiently in an age of technological advancement.
Here presented with a foreword by Debórah Dwork and translated for the first time into English, Criminal Case 40/61 provides the reader with an unsettling portrait not only of Eichmann's character but also of technological precision and expertise. It is a landmark of Holocaust writing.
Novelist, poet, and critic, Harry Mulisch (1927-2010) was one of the Netherlands' most prominent writers. His last book was the novel Siegfried (2001). Debórah Dwork is the Rose Professor of Holocaust Studies and Modern Jewish History and Culture at Clark University and author of Children with a Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe.