Arendt, Hannah

Arendt, Hannah

biographical name

(born Oct. 14, 1906, Hannover, Ger.—died Dec. 4, 1975, New York, N.Y., U.S.) German-born U.S. political philosopher. She studied philosophy at the Universities of Marburg, Freiburg, and Heidelberg, receiving a doctorate from the latter in 1928. While at Marburg she began a romantic relationship with her teacher Martin Heidegger. Following the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933, Arendt, who was Jewish, fled to Paris, where she became a social worker, and then to New York City in 1941. Her major work, Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), traced totalitarianism to 19th-century anti-Semitism, imperialism, and the disintegration of the traditional nation-state. Her highly controversial book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) argued that the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was not inwardly wicked or depraved but merely “thoughtless”; his role in the extermination of the Jews thus epitomized the fearsome “banality of evil” that had swept across Europe at the time. Resuming contact with Heidegger in 1950, she claimed that his involvement with the Nazis had been the “mistake” of a great philosopher. She taught at the University of Chicago (1963–67) and thereafter at the New School for Social Research in New York City.

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