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I'm not sure about the proceedings in Israel that are the main topic (or nominal topic?) of Arendt's book, but the quoted bits make me wonder whether she'd heard about the Armenian genocide (Hitler, supposedly, had and was influenced by it) and if she had heard of it, why she thought the holocaust was an unprecedented crime - why did she think the cases were different? (I don't mean this to be a rhetorical question. I haven't read the book and would be interested to know if she discusses it or just ignores it or is ignorant of it.)

The discussion of international law seem odd, since the Genocide Convention, which came into effect in 1951, would seem to fit with what she suggests - that it's a distinct crime from murder, directed at groups - and so it's not clear what's supposed to be standing in the way of the development of international law. Again, maybe someone can fill me in.

Eric Schliesser

Hi Matt,
She recognizes the existence of the Armenian case explicitly. And also other much earlier cases of genocidal murder (in the Ancient world). But all of these are, according to her, extensions of what can be captured by some notion of political utility and not (as I tried to show above) intended to promote human homogeneity. (So they are not attacks on human diversity as such.)

On the relationship between the Convention and then standing international law. You may actually wish to read her *Eichmann.* It is very good on exposing the reluctance of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Tribunal and its many successors to really let cases hang on the genocide charge, if at all. (The earlier post I did on *Eichmann* and refer to above is indirectly relevant on this.)


Thanks, Eric - I should read it at some point. The Nuremberg trials pre-date the Genocide convention, so even if they fit w/ Arendt's claim, I'm not sure that helps with the claim as applied to the Genocide convention.

The point on Armenia is interesting - one I'll have to think about. I'm not sure if it's right historically, but I'm not an expert.

Eric Schliesser

I think you misunderstand one of her claims. She argues that many of the successor tribunals are, while temporally after the Genocide convention, conceptually and legally they follow the pattern laid down at Nuremberg.


Maybe - as I've said, I haven't read the book. But, what "successor tribunals" were there between the Eichmann trial and Nuremberg that could have, but failed to, apply the Genocide convention? The ones well known today were, of course, long after Arendt's death, and don't seem to fit her account. It's true that it's hard to bring and win a genocide conviction, but it's not clear that's wrong itself. It seems to me here that she's talking about her (not realized) expectation or over-generalizing, but maybe there are cases you can note here that I haven't thought of. If so, which ones?

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