Arendt, Hannah 1906-1975

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Arendt, Hannah 1906-1975


Born October 14, 1906, in Hannover, Germany; immigrated to France, 1933; immigrated to the United States, 1941, naturalized, 1950; died of an apparent heart attack, December 4, 1975, in New York, NY; daughter of Paul (an engineer) and Martha Arendt; married Gunther Stern, 1929; married Heinrich Bluecher (a professor of philosophy), 1940 (died, 1970). Education: Koenigsberg University, B.A., 1924; attended universities at Marburg and Freiburg; Heidelberg University, studied with Karl Jaspers, Ph.D., 1928; Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft, research fellow, 1931-33. Politics: Independent.


Social worker for Youth Aliyah, Paris, France, 1934-40; Conference on Jewish Relations, New York, NY, research director, 1944-46; Schocken Books, Inc., New York, chief editor, 1946-48; Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, New York, executive director, 1949-52; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, visiting professor of politics, 1959; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, professor with committee on social thought, 1963-67; New School for Social Research, Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, New York, professor, 1967-75. Visiting professor at University of California, Berkeley, 1955, Columbia University, 1960, and Brooklyn College (now Brooklyn College of the City University of New York). Member of board of directors, Conference on Jewish Relations, Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, and Judah Magnes Foundation.


Institut International de Philosophie Politique, American Academy of Political and Social Science, National Institute of Arts and Letters, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (fellow), American Political Science Association, American Society of Political and Legal Philosophy, Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (corresponding member), PEN.


Guggenheim fellow, 1952-53; award from National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1954; Rockefeller fellow, 1958-60 and 1969-70; Lessing Preis, Hamburg, 1959; Freud Preis from Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung, 1967; Emerson-Thoreau Medal from American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1969; M. Cary Thomas Prize from Bryn Mawr College, 1971; Danish Sonning Prize, 1975; honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities, including Yale University, 1971, Dartmouth College, 1972, and Princeton University, 1972.


Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin, J. Springer (Berlin, Germany), 1929.

Sechs Essays, L. Schneider (Heidelberg, Germany), 1948.

(Translator, with M. Greenberg) Franz Kafka, Diaries, edited by Max Brod, Volume 2, Schocken (New York, NY), 1949.

The Origins of Totalitarianism, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1951, published as Burden of Our Time, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1951, new edition, 1966, three-volume edition, Volume 1: Totalitarianism, Volume 2: Imperialism, Volume 3: Anti-Semitism, 1968, new edition with added prefaces, 1973.

(Editor and author of introduction) Hermann Broch, Essays, Volume 1: Dichten und Erkennen, Volume 2: Erkennen und Handeln, Rhein-Verlag (Zurich, Switzerland), 1955.

Fragwuerdige Traditionsbestaende im politischen Denken der Gegenwart: Vier Essays, Europaeische Verlagsanstalt (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1957.

The Human Condition (lectures delivered under the title "Vita Activa"), University of Chicago Press, 1958, collector's edition, 1969.

Die Krise in der Erziehung, Angelsachsen Verlag (Bremen, Germany), 1958.

Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess, translation by Richard and Clara Winston, East and West Library for Leo Baeck Institute, 1958, revised edition published as Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewish Woman, Harcourt, 1974, original German text published as Rahel Varnhagen: Lebensgeschichte einer Deutschen Juedin aus der Romantic, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1959.

Die ungarische Revolution und der totalitaere Imperialismus, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1958.

Wahrheit, Freiheit, und Friede: Karl Jaspers, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1958.

Elemente totaler Herrschaft, Europaeische Verlagsanstalt (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 1958.

Von der Menschlichkeit in finsteren Zeiten: Rede ueber Lessing, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1960.

Between Past and Future: Six Exercises in Political Thought, Viking (New York, NY), 1961, enlarged edition published as Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, 1968.

Freedom and Revolution, Connecticut College (New London, CT), 1961.

(Editor) Karl Jaspers, The Great Philosophers, translated by Ralph Manheim, Harcourt (New York, NY), Volume 1: The Foundations (also published as Kant, Plato and Augustine, and Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus), 1962, Volume 2: The Original Thinkers, 1966.

On Revolution, Faber (New York, NY), 1963.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Viking (New York, NY), 1963, revised and enlarged edition, 1964.

Men in Dark Times, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1968.

(Editor and author of introduction) Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, translated by Harry Zohn, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1968.

Macht und Gewalt, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1970.

On Violence, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1970.

Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience, On Violence, Thoughts on Politics and Revolution, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1972.

Wahrheit und Luege in der Politik: Zwei Essays, Piper (Munich, Germay), 1972.

(Editor) Spinoza, translated by Ralph Manheim, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1974.

The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age, Grove (New York, NY), 1978.

The Life of the Mind, Harcourt (New York, NY), Volume 1: Thinking, 1978, Volume 2: Willing, 1978, one-volume edition, 1981.

Hannah Arendt: The Recovery of the Public World, edited by Melvyn A. Hill, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1979.

Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1983.

(With Karl Jaspers) Hannah Arendt/Karl Jaspers Correspondence, 1926-1969, edited by Lotte Kohler and Hans Saner, translated from the German by Robert and Rita Kimber, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (New York, NY), 1992.

Was ist politik? Fragmente aus dem nachlass, edited by Ursula Ludz, Vorwort von Kurt Sontheimer, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1993.

Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954, edited by Jerome Kohn, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Mary McCarthy) Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949-1975, edited, introduction by Carol Brightman, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1995.

Love and Saint Augustine, edited by Joanna Vecchiarelli and Scott and Judith Chelius Stark, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.

(With Heinrich Blucher) Within Four Walls: The Correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blucher, 1936-1968, edited by Lotte Kohler, translated from the German by Peter Constantine, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2000.

The Portable Hannah Arendt, edited and with an introduction by Peter Baehr, Penguin (New York, NY), 2000.

Es Ist Mit Dem Leben Etwas Gemeint: Hannah Arendt über Rahel Varnhagen, U. Helmer (Königstein/Taunus, Germany), 2002.

Responsibility and Judgment, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Pagine di storia della Shoah: Nazifascismo e collaborazionismo in Europa, Kaos (Milan, Italy), 2004.

Politik und Verantwortung: Zur Aktualität von Hannah Arendt, Offizin (Hannover, Germany), 2004.

Der Briefwechsel 1967-1975, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 2004.

Letters, 1925-1975, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2004.

The Promise of Politics, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Arendt und Benjamin: Texte, Briefe, Dokumente, Suhrkamp (Frankfurt am Main, Germany), 2006.

Denken Ohne Geländer: Texte und Briefe, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Bonn, Germany), 2006.

The Jewish Writings, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Reflections on Literature and Culture, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2007.


K.S. Pinson, editor, Essays on Antisemitism, 2nd edition, Conference on Jewish Relations, 1946.

William Ebenstein, editor, Modern Political Thought, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1954.

Columbia College, Man in Contemporary Society, Volume 2, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1956.

Carl J. Friedrich, editor, Authority, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1958.

Robert M. Hutchins and Mortimer J. Adler, editors, The Great Ideas Today, Encyclopedia Britannica (Chicago, IL), 1961-1963.

Peter Demetz, editor, Brecht, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1962.

Analyse d'un vertige, Societe d'Editions et de Publications, Artistiques et Litteraires, 1968.

Arthur A. Cohn, editor, Arguments and Doctrines: A Reader of Jewish Thinking in the Aftermath of the Holocaust, Harper (New York, NY), 1970.

Carl Saner, compiler, Karl Jaspers in der Diskussion, Piper (Munich, Germany), 1973.

Contributor to Contemporary Jewish Record, Review of Politics, New Yorker, New York Review of Books, and other publications.


Hannah Arendt earned a reputation as one of the twentieth century's most brilliant and original political thinkers. Arendt studied philosophy at the University of Heidelberg under Karl Jaspers and received her doctorate when she was only twenty-two years old. She was already established as an outstanding essayist in her own country when Hitler's ascent to power in 1933 sent her to Paris. For several years she studied and wrote there; she also was active in a relief agency that found homes in Palestine for the orphaned and homeless children of Europe. Arendt and her husband finally fled for the United States when Nazi troops began to press into France in 1940.

Arendt's first major publication in the United States was a penetrating analysis of the forces that brought Hitler to power, The Origins of Totalitarianism. Her contention that anti-Semitism and imperialism were at the root of totalitarianism was disputed by some, but her writing was praised even by those who disagreed with her theories. Arendt's background led the New Yorker magazine to send her to Israel for the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of Hitler's top bureaucrats. The magazine pieces she wrote from Israel evolved into her most controversial book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report of the Banality of Evil. Eichmann was held responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews. Arendt did not excuse him for his part in the Holocaust, but she argued that to hold him personally responsible for so many deaths was to attribute him with a power that was more than any one person could ever embody. She stated that the Nazi leadership had encountered an extraordinary amount of cooperation from all levels of European society, including the Jewish leaders themselves. Her point was that the success of the Nazi regime was attributable to a general moral collapse across Europe. She characterized Eichmann not as a fanatical anti-Semite, but simply an ambitious office worker whose main concern was to provide for his family.

Her subtle arguments provoked highly emotional responses. Many critics wondered if Arendt was defending Eichmann's activities. Her statement that the cooperation of Jewish leaders had led to the deaths of millions who might otherwise have escaped infuriated many Jews; B'nai B'rith pronounced Eichmann in Jerusalem an evil distortion of the facts. Arendt herself was suspected of anti-Semitism. Arendt's later works clarified her position, particularly the collection of essays called The Jew as Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the Modern Age.

Toward the end of her life, Arendt's focus shifted inward. Instead of analyzing political trends, she became increasingly involved in the analysis of thought itself. She planned a three-volume work exploring the three activities of the mind she considered basic—thinking, willing, and judging. She had completed the first volume and part of the second at the time of her death, and these were published posthumously as The Life of the Mind. Walter Clemons assessed them in Newsweek: "The Life of the Mind is a work requiring stubborn application and a readiness to cope with abstractions more elusive than the social and political arguments advanced in The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, or Eichmann in Jerusalem. The reward for perseverance is contact with a passionate, humane intelligence addressing itself to the fundamental problem of how the mind operates." The ideas examined in the books are complex, Clemons observed, but "because Arendt was strongly endowed with common sense, her forays into the realm of the unverifiable are as toughly argued as her investigations, in earlier books, of violence and revolution."

Two other works published after her death, Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949-1975 and Hannah Arendt-Karl Jaspers: Correspondence, 1926-1969, provide further insight into Arendt's life through the letters she exchanged with two of her closest friends. "[Arendt and McCarthy's] correspondence, like their friendship, sparkles with wit, politics, intimate domestic details and glorious, sometimes shocking, gossip about everybody else in their extended, argumentative circle," noted Blanche Wiesen Cook in the London Review of Books. Peter Conrad and Thomas Mallon expressed similar opinions. Conrad, an Observer Review contributor, found "the letters strenuously exchange ideas, but their most touching quality is an adolescent effusiveness, an almost girlish gushing," while Thomas Mallon explained in the Washington Post Book World: "What makes Between Friends such a pleasurable, sometimes even thrilling book … is its constant mixture of the abstract and concrete, of world politics and personal foibles."

Arendt's Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess is in many ways the work of her heart and the culmination of her life's work. "One soon realizes," stated reviewer Vivian Gornick in the Nation, "that only Hannah Arendt could have written Rahel. It's a complicated tale this book has to tell, representing one of those rare instances in literature where the serendipity of this writer finding this subject is as relevant to the subject and to the story being told as the document itself." In many ways, Gornick continued, Arendt's own life paralleled Varnhagen's, although the two women were separated by a distance of more than a hundred years. Varnhagen was a product of the late eighteenth century Enlightenment, a woman who believed (like her feminist contemporaries Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Olympe de Gouges) that full acceptance for Jews and women were forthcoming in the new world promised by the French Revolution. She was a prominent saloniste, hosting parties where the most brilliant social, political, and artistic minds gathered to discuss the most important problems of the age. Varnhagen's disillusionment came when Napoleon captured Berlin and reestablished Jews as social pariahs. Eventually she reclaimed some of her former status by marrying a government official and converting to Christianity. "But for Arendt she remains noble," Gornick declared, "because she never forgot her pariah status, always understood how vast was the actuality of her lifelong experience and how small the thing she had achieved with marriage and conversion." "Seen against the disturbed and disturbing climate of a time, then as now, in which profound questions of self and world are being asked," the Nation contributor concluded, "Rahel's double portion of outsiderness cannot help but sound a deep note in the responsive reader."



Arendt, Hannah, On Revolution, Faber (New York, NY), 1963.

Arendt, Hannah, On Violence, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1970.

Aschheim, Steven E., Culture and Catastrophe: German and Jewish Confrontations with National Socialism and Other Crises, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Barnouw, Dagmar, Visible Spaces: Hannah Arendt and the German-Jewish Experience, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1990.

Benhabib, Seyla, The Reluctant Modernism of Hannah Arendt, Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, CA), 1996.

Bergen, Bernard J., The Banality of Evil: Hannah Arendt and "The Final Solution," Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1998.

Bernstein, Richard J., Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Question, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

Bowen-Moore, Patricia, Hannah Arendt's Philosophy of Natality, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Bradshaw, Leah, Acting and Thinking: The Political Thought of Hannah Arendt, University of Toronto Press, 1989.

Calhoun, Craig, and John McGowan, editors, Hannah Arendt and the Meaning of Politics, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.

Canovan, Margaret, The Political Thought of Hannah Arendt, Methuen (London, England), 1977.

Canovan, Margaret, Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Contemporary Issues Criticism, Volume 1, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1982.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 66, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.

Disch, Lisa Jane, Hannah Arendt and the Limits of Philosophy, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1996.

Dossa, Shiraz, The Public Realm and the Public Self: The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt, Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), 1989.

Essays and Reviews from the Times Literary Supplement, 1964, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1965.

Ettinger, Elczbieta, Hannah Arendt/Martin Heidegger, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1995.

Garner, Ruben, The Realm of Humanitas: Responses to the Writings of Hannah Arendt, Lang (New York, NY), 1990.

Gottsegen, Michael G., The Political Thought of Hannah Arendt, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1994.

Hansen, Phillip Birger, Hannah Arendt: Politics, History and Citizenship, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1993.

Hinchman, Lewis P., and Sandra K. Hinchman, Hannah Arendt: Critical Essays, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1994.

Hobsbawm, E.J., Revolutionaries: Contemporary Essays, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1973.

Honig, Bonnie, Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 1995.

Isaac, Jeffrey C., Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1992.

Kielmansegg, Peter, Horst Mewes, and Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt, Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss: German Emigres and American Political Thought after World War II, German Historical Institute (Washington, DC), 1995.

May, Larry, and Jerome Kohn, Hannah Arendt: Twenty Years Later, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

McCarthy, Mary, On the Contrary, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1961.

McGowan, John, Hannah Arendt: An Introduction, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

Nordquist, Joan, Hannah Arendt: A Bibliography, Reference and Research Services, 1997.

Nye, Andrea, Philosophia: The Thought of Rosa Luxemburg, Simone Weil, and Hannah Arendt, Routledge (New York, NY), 1994.

Passerin d'Entraeves, Maurizio, The Political Philosophy of Hannah Arendt, Routledge (New York, NY), 1994.

Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel, The Attack of the Blob: Hannah Arendt's Concept of the Social, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

Podhoretz, Norman, Doings and Undoings: The Fifties and After in American Writing, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1964.

Scheurmann, Reiner, The Public Realm: Essays on Discursive Types in Political Philosophy, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1989.

Skoller, Eleanor Honig, The In-between of Writing: Experience and Experiment in Drabble, Duras, and Arendt, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1993.

Villa, Dana Richard, Arendt and Heidegger: The Fate of the Political, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1996.


Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 1, 1996, J.H. Barker, review of Love and Saint Augustine, p. 1807; May 1998, R.S. Levy, review of Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess, p. 1597.

London Review of Books, March 12, 1995, Blanche Wiesen Cook, review of Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, 1949-1975, p. 2.

Nation, April 6, 1998, Vivian Gornick, review of Rahel Varnhagen, p. 25.

New Republic, November 27, 2000, "The Illiberal Imagination," p. 27.

Newsweek, March 20, 1978, Walter Clemons, review of The Life of the Mind.

New York Review of Books, February 18, 1999, Amos Elon, review of Rahel Varnhagen, p. 19.

New York Times Book Review, December 3, 1995, review of Between Friends, p. 74.

Observer Review, July 16, 1995, Peter Conrad, review of Between Friends, p. 14.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 1998, review of Rahel Varnhagen, p. 33; February, 2006, review of Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954.

Washington Post Book World, January 29, 1995, Thomas Mallon, review of Between Friends, p. 3.


Hannah Arendt Organization, (December 7, 2007), author biography.