Hannah was big before, now she's the Doodle

  • Hannah Arendt - HOME
They used to say that you know you have REALLY made it if you are depicted on a stamp. These days, a higher honour goes to those few who find themselves on the daily Google-search bar. Hannah Arendt today received both, as Google honoured what would have been her 108th birthday (pic left) and she has been depicted on a German stamp! Read about this fascinating philosopher, her ties with Einstein and others and her amazing achievements.
by ANT KATZ | Oct 14, 2014

 As if Hannah Arendt wasn’t famous enough, she added to her long list of accomplishments a Google Doodle today, on what would have been her 108th birthday.

Johanna "Hannah" Arendt (October 14 1906 – December 4 1975) was a German-American political theorist. Though often described as a philosopher, she rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular" and instead described herself as a political theorist because her work centres on the fact that "men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world". Her works deal with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, direct democracy, authority, and totalitarianism. The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honour.

According to WIKIPEDIA, Arendt was born into a secular family of German Jews in Linden (present-day Hanover), the daughter of Martha (née Cohn) and Paul Arendt. She grew up in Königsberg (renamed Kaliningrad and annexed to the Soviet Union in 1946) and Berlin. At the University of Marburg, she studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger.

According to Hans Jonas, her only German-Jewish classmate, Arendt embarked on a long and stormy romantic relationship with Heidegger, for which she later was criticised because of Heidegger's support for the Nazi Party when he was rector at the University of Freiburg.

Hannah Arendt - FULLRIGHT: Hannah on the Google Doodle today 

In the wake of one of their breakups, Arendt moved to Heidelberg, where she wrote her dissertation under the existentialist philosopher-psychologist Karl Jaspers on the concept of love in the thought of Saint Augustine. In 1929, in Berlin, she married Günther Stern, later known as Günther Anders. (They divorced in 1937.) The dissertation was published in 1929. Arendt was prevented from "habilitating" - a prerequisite for teaching in German universities - because she was Jewish.

She researched anti-Semitism for some time before being arrested and briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1933.


Paris, aiding Jewish refugees

In 1933, Arendt fled Germany for Paris, where she befriended the Marxist literary critic and philosopher, Walter Benjamin, her first husband's cousin. While in France, she worked to support and aid Jewish refugees. In 1937, she was stripped of her German citizenship. In 1940, she married the German poet and Marxist philosopher Heinrich Blücher, a former member of the Communist Party of Germany.

Later that year, after the German military occupation of northern France, the Vichy regime began deportation of Jews to Nazi concentration camps in the unoccupied south of France, and she was interned in Camp Gurs as an "enemy alien".


New York, thanks to Hiram Bingham

Arendt was able to escape after a few weeks and left France in 1941 with her husband and her mother to the United States. They relied on visas illegally issued by the American diplomat Hiram Bingham, who aided roughly 2 500 Jewish refugees in this way. Varian Fry, another American humanitarian, paid for their travel and helped obtain the visas.

Upon arriving in New York, Arendt became active in the German-Jewish community. From 1941-45, she wrote a column for the German-language Jewish newspaper, Aufbau.

From 1944, she directed research for the Commission of European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction and travelled frequently to Germany in this capacity.



After the Second World War, she returned to Germany and worked for Youth Aliyah, a Zionist organisation, which saved thousands of children from the Holocaust and settled them in the British Mandate of Palestine. She became a close friend of Karl Jaspers and his wife, developing a deep intellectual friendship with him. She began corresponding with American author Mary McCarthy around this time.

In 1950, Arendt became a naturalised citizen of the United States. She served as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, and Northwestern University.

In 1959, she was named the first female lecturer at Princeton. She also taught at the University of Chicago from 1963 to 1967, where she was a member of the Committee on Social Thought; The New School in Manhattan; Yale University, where she was a fellow; and, the Centre for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University (1961–62, 1962–63).

She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1962 and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1964.

Arendt was instrumental in the creation in 1974 of Structured Liberal Education (SLE) at Stanford University. She wrote a letter to the then president of Stanford University to persuade the university to enact Mark Mancall's vision of a residentially-based humanities programme.

Arendt died in New York City on December 4 1975, at age 69, of a heart attack. She was buried alongside her husband, Heinrich Blücher, at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.


Her published works

  • The Origins of Totalitarianism - Arendt's first major book was titled The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which traced the roots of Stalinism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and imperialism. The book was opposed by the Left on the grounds that it presented the two movements as equally tyrannical. She further contends that Jewry was not the operative factor in the Holocaust, but merely a convenient proxy. Totalitarianism in Germany was, in the end, about megalomania and consistency, not eradicating Jews.
  • The Human Condition - Arguably her most influential work, The Human Condition (1958) distinguishes between the concepts of political and social, labour and work, various forms of action, and explores implications of those distinctions. Her theory of political action, corresponding to the existence of a public realm, is extensively developed in this work. Arendt argues that, while human life always evolves within societies, the social-being part of human nature, political life, was intentionally constructed by only a few of these societies as a space for individuals to achieve freedom through the construction of a common world. These categories, which attempt to bridge the gap between ontological and sociological structures, are sharply delineated. While Arendt relegates labour and work to the realm of the "social", she favours the human condition of action as the "political" that is both existential and aesthetic.
  • Men in Dark Times - Her collection of essays, Men in Dark Times, presents intellectual biographies of some creative and moral figures of the twentieth century, such as Walter Benjamin, Karl Jaspers, Rosa Luxemburg, Hermann Broch, Pope John XXIII, and Isak Dinesen.
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil - In her reporting of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker, which evolved into Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), she coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe the phenomenon of Eichmann. She raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction. She was sharply critical of the way the trial was conducted in Israel. She also was critical of the way that some Jewish leaders, notably MC Rumkowski, acted during the Holocaust. This caused a considerable controversy and even animosity toward Arendt in the Jewish community. Her friend Gershom Scholem, a major scholar of Jewish mysticism, broke off relations with her. Arendt was criticised by many Jewish public figures, who charged her with coldness and lack of sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust.
  • On Revolution - Arendt presents a comparison of two of the main revolutions of the eighteenth century, the American and French Revolutions. She goes against a common view of both Marxist and leftist views when she argues that France, while well studied and often emulated, was a disaster and that the largely ignored American Revolution was a success. The turning point in the French Revolution occurred when the leaders rejected their goals of freedom in order to focus on compassion for the masses. In America, the Founding Fathers never betray the goal of Constitutio Libertatis. However, Arendt believes the revolutionary spirit of those men has been lost, and advocates a “council system” as an appropriate institution to regain that spirit.


  • On Violence - Arendt's essay, "On Violence", distinguishes between violence and power. She maintains that, although theorists of both the Left and Right regard violence as an extreme manifestation of power, the two concepts are, in fact, antithetical. Power comes from the collective will and does not need violence to achieve any of its goals, since voluntary compliance takes its place. As governments start losing their legitimacy, violence becomes an artificial means toward the same end and is therefore, found only in the absence of power. Bureaucracies then become the ideal birthplaces of violence since they are defined as the "rule by no one" against whom to argue and therefore, recreate the missing links with the people they rule over.
  • The Life of the Mind - Her posthumous book, The Life of the Mind (1978, edited by Mary McCarthy), remained incomplete. Stemming from her Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, it focuses on the mental faculties of thinking and willing, in a sense moving beyond her previous work concerning the vita activa. In her discussion of thinking, she focuses mainly on Socrates and his notion of thinking as a solitary dialogue between Me and Myself. This appropriation of Socrates leads her to introduce novel concepts of conscience (which gives no positive prescriptions, but instead, tells me what I cannot do if I would remain friends with myself when I re-enter the two-in-one of thought where I must render an account of my actions to myself) and morality (an entirely negative enterprise concerned with non-participation in certain actions for the sake of remaining friends with one's self).
  • Legacy - In the intended third volume of The Life of Mind, Arendt was planning to engage the faculty of judgement by appropriating Kant's Critique of Judgement; however, she did not live to write it. Nevertheless, although her notion of judging remains unknown, Arendt did leave manuscripts ("Thinking and Moral Considerations", "Some Questions on Moral Philosophy",) and lectures (Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy) concerning her thoughts on this mental faculty. The first two articles were edited and published by Jerome Kohn, an assistant of Arendt and a director of Hannah Arendt Centre at The New School, and the last was edited and published by Ronald Beiner, professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Her personal library was deposited at Bard College at the Stevenson Library in 1976, and includes approximately 4 000 books, ephemera, and pamphlets from Arendt's last apartment. The college has begun archiving some of the collection digitally, which is available at The Hannah Arendt Collection.



  • The asteroid 100027 Hannaharendt is named in her honour
  • The German railway authority operates a Hannah Arendt Express between Karlsruhe and Hanover
  • The Hannah Arendt Centre for Politics and Humanities at Bard College is named in her honour
  • The Hannah Arendt Institute for the Research on Totalitarianism is named in her honour
  • The Hannah Arendt Prize is named in her honour
  • Various gymnasiums (German high schools) have been dedicated to Arendt
  • The photographer Fred Stein has taken a portrait of Hannah Arendt which has become famous
  • Hannah Arendt - HOMEHannah Arendt appeared on a 1988 German stamp in the Women in German history series (PICTURED RIGHT)
  • On October 14 2014 Google Doodle celebrates her 108th birthday


Film about her life

In 2012 a German film titled Hannah Arendt was released, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, and with Barbara Sukowa in the role of Arendt. The film concentrates on the Eichmann trial, and the controversy caused by Arendt's book, which at the time was widely misunderstood as defending Eichmann and blaming Jewish leaders for the Holocaust.

Arendt as depicted in the 2012 film is now the basis for a seminar held at Brown University's Cogut Centre for the Humanities.

Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and others’ letter – see below picture:

Hannah Arendt - FULL

New Palestine Party. Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed. A letter to The New York Times. Saturday December 4, 1948 by Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Sidney Hook, et al

New Palestine Party. Visit of Menachen Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed. A letter to The New York Times, published in the "Books" section (Page 12) of Saturday December 4, 1948

Source: Text from original microfilm


Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the "Freedom Party" (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organisation in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr Begin's political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.

Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin's behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr Begin and his movement.

The public avowals of Begin's party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

Attack on Arab village

A shocking example was their behaviour in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants (240 men, women, and children) and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicised it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.

The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.

Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.

During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute.

The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavours were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.

Discrepancies seen

The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a "Leader State" is the goal.

In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin's efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.

The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.



  1. 2 abu mamzer 14 Oct
    1)if Arendt was so concerned about Jewish survival,why was she so banal about Eichman's guilt? She is discredited for swallowing Eichmann's excuse that he was a mere functionary and pawn in the Nazi apparatus and her gullibility that he was a nothing/sclemiel in the scheme of things...just doing his job in a utilitarian world.
    2) and as is depicted in the film she ultimately recapitulates clearly that she had no love of the Jewish people.
    2)Dir Yassin was certainly a hotbed of attacks against Jews by Arabs and threatened the road to besieged Jerusalem,and a legitimate target of offence.
    3)The Left's discomfiture with nation states has been complicated by the collapse of multi-ethnic- nation states in the middle East,USSR,and the reassertion of nationalism and the 2 state solution in the Land of Israel is the new history to be followed and Jewish nationhood is no exception.
    4)Without the Irgun,Britain would still be an occupying power which we heroically booted out in 1948
  2. 1 David Abel 14 Oct
    History has shown that Hannah Arendt, the Jewish Marxist, Albert Einstein, et al  were wrong about Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel, Leader of the Israel political parties Herut later Likud, Commander-in-Chief of the Irgun Tzai Leumi and Head of the multi-million strong Betar Zionist Youth Movement in Poland. His political philosophy was that of "national liberalism" - a legacy he inherited from the great Zionist Revisionist Leader, Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Like many Zionist leftists of the time, they had absolutely no idea of the "fighting family's" true character and, in the process, did the Jewish People inestimable harm. Many decades later, one of the Zionist left's leading political lights, David Ben Gurion, in retirement admitted that had he known the true character of Menachem Begin, he would have acted differently towards him.   


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