Since Hannah Arendt wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1964, her stance toward the Eichmann trial in Israel has been the subject of controversy. This essay considers why Arendt, in her reporting on the trial, seems to have insisted on a criterion of “relevance” in the face of pain and focused on procedures in the face of catastrophe. The authors propose that relevance and legality are doing a certain work in Arendt’s text, that they are not the only criteria in play, and that they are not, strictly speaking, criteria at all. Arendt treats relevance and legality as contested and contestable practices that operate in various ways in different contexts. She does this in the service of a broader and heretofore unappreciated argument developed in Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which she tries to participate in the repair of the world broken by what survivors in 1945 referred to as “Nazi extermination plans.” This essay shows how we can see this if we look not only at what Arendt says in Eichmann but also at what she does in that book, at what she recovers from the trial as she casts about for resources that may help renew judgment, responsibility, spontaneity, creativity, and imagination

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