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The banality of evil

July 12, 2012

One of my favourite non-fiction books is Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth, an epic biography that cracked Speer’s very cool exterior and provided a fascinating insight into the workings of one of the twentieth century’s most fascinating figures.  Sereny also wrote about the child killer Mary Bell (you can watch a very good BBC documentary about Bell here) but also Franz Stangl, the Commandent of Treblinka, one of the most efficient Nazi concentration camps, which she wrote about in Into that Darkness after some 70 hours of interviews with Stangl himself.

Here Sereny describes more about Stangl whom she describes as “an Austrian provincial man”.

Though Sereny is not comfortable with the use of the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ she accepts that it fits with regards to Stangl and how he went about his work.  Sereny even laughs at the notion of Stangl being evil and once you get beyond the shock of this it’s a thought-provoking view on the mechanics of the holocaust.

You can hear Sereny talking more about Stangl at Web of Stories and they’re well worth watching for her insightful observations.

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