Back to All Events

First They Came for the Immigrants: Hannah Arendt on "the Banality of Evil"

First They Came for the Immigrants:

Hannah Arendt on “the Banality of Evil”

September 6th - October 18th

Friday mornings, 9:30-11am

7 sessions, inner NE Portland

with Satya Doyle Byock, MA, LPC


In 1961, Jewish political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt traveled to Jerusalem to report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the mass deportation and extermination of Jews in World War II.

Commissioned by The New Yorker, Arendt’s report was originally published in the magazine in three parts, before being published as the book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Highly controversial at the time, her writing on the trial challenged the world to wrestle with the concept of evil and the possibility that evil is far more banal than we would like to think.

In this seminar, we will explore Arendt’s insights from a depth psychological perspective.

We will see through her scholarship on how the legal government at the time perpetuated often “legal” acts of terrorism and genocide through a systematic take-over of a democracy. Arendt both lived through it and looked through it, seeing the nuances and banality of the extreme evil. She saw the insecurity underneath the men’s actions, not the power. She named the nuanced psychology behind their political motivations.

She also provided a step-by-step history on the escalation of mass extermination of the Jewish people, and others perceived as “degenerate” by the pervasive dehumanizing philosophy at the time, the same we see today in daily acts of horror: toxic masculinity and white supremacy.

Through a careful reading and discussion of Arendt’s master work, “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” we’ll walk through the unquestionable parallels between the methodical unfolding of anti-immigrant and anti-Jewish sentiment that led to mass extermination in WWII, and our present moment in American history.

Arendt leaves us psychological and political clues about how to respond. There are few books more valuable for depthful exploration at this moment in history.


  • Date: Friday mornings, 9:30-11am, September 6th - October 18th, 2019