Who Is Responsible for Evil?

George Will recently wrote an opinion article on Adolf Eichmann. [1]  Eichmann was greatly responsible for the wholesale slaughter of those who the Germans considered to be undesirables in the World War II era.  Some think Eichmann to be evil incarnate.  Others, including Eichmann, consider him to be a bureaucrat who was just following orders.

My question is:  Does it really matter which person Eichmann was?  Either way, millions of innocent people died horribly.

So why this argument about who Eichmann really was?  Is it because we do not want to face the reality that all of us have some responsibility for the evil that exists in our world?  Say that Eichmann was just a bureaucrat following orders.  If he and several other bureaucrats had stood up and refused to carry out their orders, then it is possible the Holocaust would not have happened.  Even if Eichmann was evil incarnate, then those under him who were just carrying out his orders had an opportunity to stop this madness.

The problem is we humans are more interested in power, prestige, and wealth than we are in doing what is right.  History shows we will twist our logic and ethics to justify doing whatever we want to do.  While the consequences of our actions might not be as severe as Eichmann’s actions were, they do contribute to the deteriorating moral climate of our world.


[1]   George Will, “The warped idealism of a murderer”, Tulsa World, November 21, 2014, p. A14.

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