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Arendt, Hannah.

LETTERS: Eichmann in Jerusalem: Correspondence Archive.

Letter(s)

The Hannah Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem Archive:
A Controversy Told Through Correspondence
1961-1963
Arendt, Hannah, et al. Eichmann in Jerusalem: Related Correspondence. 1961-63.  
Ca. 90 items. In a specially made quarter-morocco slipcase.
Approximately 90 letters, notes, telegrams, and publishing memorandum relating to Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Viking Press, 1963) and the controversy that erupted following the publication of Justice Michael A. Musmanno's vitriolic review, which appeared in The New York Times Book Review on May 19, 1963.
This remarkable collection of letters tells the story of the critical storm that erupted following Musmanno's searing indictment of Arendt's viewpoint and alleged distortion of facts regarding the Eichmann trial. In his review of Eichmann in Jerusalem, Musmanno accused Arendt of being an Eichmann sympathizer and of dangerously displacing blame for the Nazi atrocities of WWII. By depicting Eichmann as a small-minded cog in the German totalitarian machine, Musmanno claimed Arendt was removing him from the realm of moral responsibility, thus reducing the magnitude of his crimes. Shortly after the review ran, letters flooded the offices of The New York Times, The Viking Press, and The New Yorker, where sections of Eichmann in Jerusalem were printed serially prior to the publication of the book.    
The correspondence begins in 1961, when Arendt was just beginning to consider the possibility of publishing a book comprised primarily of her pieces in The New Yorker. She refers to the project somewhat mockingly as a "non-book" and expresses doubt as to whether Viking would want to option a collection of such recent vintage. She writes, "My coverage of the Eichmann trial: I still think, hope, it won't be a book…. If you are interested to do just the New Yorker material without expansion, and if I feel that this is a possibility…. you see there are many ifs…" (May 26, 1961). Arendt, however, unsatisfied with the media trial coverage, could not abandon the issue. In a letter from the same year to her editor at Viking, Denver Lindley, she writes, "I would so very much want to write the truth about this whole business which is even more complicated than I thought when I left. The trial seems to have been well covered but as far as I can see, everybody is leaning over backwards in one direction or the other…" (June 1961).
Much of the original Arendt material in the archive concerns Arendt's reactions to the accusations in Justice Musmanno's review of Eichmann in Jerusalem. In a TPCS to Denver Lindley, she reports that she has received "loads of furious letters from Germans and German Jews & a few nice ones from Americans of all denominations" (March 13, 1963). In a telegram to Newsweek editor Jack Kroll, she writes of the scandal: "Fortunate result of storm that important moral issues are discussed, unfortunate only the frequent misrepresentation of my position by people who never read me" (June 1963). Arendt maintains a calm, professional tone in all the letters relating to Musmanno, never betraying any emotional reaction to the scandal-she writes to Lindley on May 29, 1963, "Needless to say neither Musmanno nor the Times (of all things on earth) can disturb me. I just can't take such nonsense seriously, although I know it can be dangerous."
Arendt's eloquent rebuttal to The New York Times Book Review was published along with a sampling of letters both supporting and attacking Musmanno's review. In an ALS to Lindley dated June 1, 1963, Arendt explains why she chose to respond in the form of a Letter to the Editor as opposed to replying directly to Musmanno:
I did it very reluctantly because of my old principle: never reply unless you have  something new to say or wish to retract. Not the case here. And to honor Musmanno with a reply-of all people! ... A reply to M. would have been preposterous.
And: not helpful. Public opinion is on his side. And all the Jews who are up in arms and who don't want to read and who usually buy books-they won't be persuaded, least of all by me, the culprit, who "befouled his own nest" and wrote things which "are not good for Jews." The reason for the misrepresentations, which are so infuriating, is that they won't even mention what they really hold against me-that I mentioned "mixed marriages" and other [ ] of the State of Israel in particular and the Jewish people in general.
In her Letter to the Editor, Arendt says she is angered more by the "choice of a reviewer rather than the review itself," and lambastes the Times for its error in judgment in selecting a biased party to write the review, calling it a "flagrant break with normal editorial procedures"-Musmanno was a Nuremburg judge and witness for the prosecution at Eichmann's trial. The idea that The New Yorker would print a series in defense of Eichmann is beyond absurd, Arendt wisely points out, and the whole "grotesque incident" could have been avoided had they chosen a more unbiased reviewer. The letter as it appeared in the June 23, 1963 edition of The New York Times lacks her original closing paragraph from the manuscript draft, dated May 31, 1963:
The riddle, which in my view surrounds this rather grotesque incident, is hardly elucidated by the fact that a considerable number of letters, protesting the review,  reached you very soon after publication, all of which you postponed until now. Clearly, five weeks later, you could be confident that they had lost most of their effect. What is so puzzling about this last editorial decision is that it seems so strikingly in line with your other departures from normal editorial procedure.
In editing the draft, Arendt herself made the decision to end the letter a paragraph earlier and withdraw this direct attack on New York Times Book Review, ending her statement instead with a string of questions that draw attention to Musmanno's ludicrous implication that her book is pro-Eichmann.
Since Arendt was living in Europe at the time of the Musmanno uproar, her editor at The Viking Press, Denver Lindley, was largely responsible for responding to the hundreds of letters that came in after the controversial review was published. These letters provide insight into Lindley's role as a mouthpiece not only for Viking, but also for Arendt. Though Lindley forwarded many of the incoming missives to Arendt, he composed most of the replies himself, repeatedly informing  Arendt's "critics" of Musmanno's personal connection with the events described and possible vengeful motives behind his negative review.
Lindley's tone is consistently professional, but his fierce loyalty to Arendt comes across very clearly. In one letter to an angry reader, he writes, "I do not hope to change your opinion of the conclusions. I can even see that [Arendt's] objectivity may seem to you to be heartlessness. But I do want to express to you my complete conviction of the author's good will and absolute honesty….You will pardon me, I hope, if I have written with some heat. The subject is, of necessity, very close to me at present" (June 14, 1963). The relationship between Arendt and Lindley went beyond that of writer and editor; the two were close friends, and Lindley's tenderness for Arendt undoubtedly made it difficult for him to exercise emotional restraint in his defense of her as spokesman for the Viking Press. He writes repeatedly that Viking is "proud to have published Hannah Arendt's book" (June 4, 1963) and considers her "one of the foremost political scientists of our day and a brilliant and devoted representative of her race" (May 29, 1963).
(One correspondent in particular warranted a series of replies from Lindley: Max I. Dimont, a fellow writer who cited Arendt as a source for his book Jews, God, and History (New York: Signet, 1962). Dimont wrote to Lindley, as well as the Department of Correction and Amplification at The New Yorker, with his concerns regarding factual details in Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt responded to Dimont directly. Dimont replied snidely with a lengthy letter challenging Arendt's methodology as a historian and writer. Dimont continued to harass both The Viking Press and The New Yorker throughout the summer of 1963, demanding further source information to verify Arendt's findings, but no record of further dialogue-in the form of letters from Viking, The New Yorker, or Arendt herself-is present in this archive.)
Musmanno's own letters shed the most light on the controversy. Musmanno was appointed to serve as a judge on the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, where he presided over three cases, and was called in as a witness for the prosecution during the Eichmann trial. In his letters to The Viking Press, he requests that several sections of Eichmann in Jerusalem be emended or omitted in order to diminish Arendt's unflattering account of his testimony against Eichmann. Musmanno repeatedly states that Arendt's interpretations of certain trial events, which he calls "errors," would "do irreparable harm" and "therefore should not be in the book" (March 16, 1963). Even if the Viking Press had wanted to incorporate any of Musmanno's suggestions, the time frame for publication prevented thorough investigation into his allegations. In a frantic letter to Arendt, Marshall A. Best, Chairman of the Executive Committee at Viking, writes that when Musmanno's initial phone call was received, "The book was already on press… in making the corrections, we did everything possible to keep your points intact and to not alter your judgments, changing only what was strictly a matter of fact that could be proved against you in court" (March 19, 1963). Apparently the changes appeased Musmanno somewhat, judging by the courteous letters he wrote in the months to follow-but not enough to make him an appropriately neutral reviewer of the work for The New York Times Book Review.
The interoffice Viking Press correspondence relating to the Musmanno crisis is dominated by debates over how the situation should be publicly handled. The New Yorker printed a lengthy correction article which appeared in their April 27, 1963 issue; however, among the staff at Viking, there was much dispute over what should, if anything, be retracted on their behalf. A typescript draft of a statement, covered in emendations made by several different hands, belies the extraordinary delicacy with which Viking had to handle the legal issues pertaining to Musmanno's claims. Additionally, the question of how to approach Arendt about the need to make changes so late in the process is well documented in another typed letter draft.
This collection offers a vivid journey in letters of a literary and journalistic controversy that captured the nation's attention.      
Inventory:
Hannah Arendt correspondence:
  • 5 TLS to literary agent Denver Lindley
  • 1 TLS to Roger Straus
  • 3 ALS to Denver Lindley
  • 1 TPCS to Denver Lindley
  • 1 telegram to Marshall Best, Chairman of the Executive Committee at the Viking Press
  • 1 manuscript page with text for a telegram for Jack Kroll, editor of Newsweek
  • 2 TNS to Denver Lindley, attached to Xeroxes of 2 TLs to other recipients
  • 1 six-page manuscript draft of Arendt's Letter to the Editor of The New York Times, with emendations, published
Justice Michael A. Musmanno correspondence:
  • 8 TLS to Arendt's representatives at The Viking Press and The New Yorker
  • 1 TL carbon from Denver Lindley
  • 2 TL carbons from Viking Press staff relating to the Musmanno situation
  • 1 typed draft with handwritten emendations of Viking Press response to Musmanno's New York Times Book Review article on Eichmann in Jerusalem
  • 1 TL draft with autograph emendations, to Arendt, detailing Musmanno's requests
Max I. Dimont correspondence:
  • 5 TLS to Viking Press / New Yorker staff with 2 TL carbons
  • 2 TL carbons from Denver Lindley
  • 1 Xerox TL from Arendt
Denver Lindley correspondence:
  • 13 letters to Lindley (approximately half TLS, half ALS) from scholars, readers, and academics reacting to Eichmann in Jerusalem
  • Ca. 20 TL carbon replies by Lindley
Printed material:
  • New Yorker correction article
  • Clipped review from unknown publication
  • 2 Xeroxed articles from The Observer (London) and Newsweek
  • Ca. 30 typed quotations excerpted from reviews of Eichmann in Jerusalem
Viking Press / New Yorker interoffice correspondence:
  • Ca. 15 documents relating to the publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem (autograph memos, notes from meetings, typescript memos, royalty documents, etc.)       
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