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Hannah Arendt

Lawrence Bush
December 4, 2017

Political theorist Hannah Arendt died on this day in 1975 at age 69. In 1959 she became the first woman appointed to a full professorship at Princeton. Arendt was born in Germany on October 14, 1906, and was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 for her analyses of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. She managed to escape imprisonment and flee to France, and in 1941 to the U.S., aided by American diplomat Hiram Bingham IV and Varian Fry (see Jewdayo for September 13th). Arendt held posts at the University of Chicago, the New School, Yale, and Wesleyan, among other institutions; her gravesite and her personal library are at Bard College. Her most influential books were The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which recognized both the Nazi and Communist systems as radical betrayals of Enlightenment ideals of human rights; and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil(1963), which sparked great controversy over her comments on Jewish collaboration with the mechanisms of the Holocaust.

“Dedicate yourself to the good you deserve and desire for yourself. Give yourself peace of mind. You deserve to be happy. You deserve delight.” — Hannah Arendt

Watch an hourlong 1964 interview with Hannah Arendt (in German with English subtitles). A transcript of this interview is reprinted in The Portable Hannah Arendt as “‘What Remains? The Language Remains’ A Conversation with Günter Gaus.”

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.