Hannah Arendt was an esteemed Jewish thinker, a leading political theorist, and a Nazi survivor.
Arendt was born October 14, 1906, in what is now Hanover. She spent her youth in Konigsberg and Berlin, studying philosophy at the University of Marburg. Her university days were rumored to include a romantic relationship with Martin Heidegger, one of the most famous philosophers of the 20th century.
In 1929, Arendt married Gunter Anders, a Jewish philosopher and journalist, though the couple divorced in 1937. Later in 1929, Arendt published her dissertation on the concept of love in the manner of Saint Augustine. The completion should have enabled her to begin teaching at the university level, but Arendt was prohibited from “habilitating,” a German prerequisite for aspiring professors, because she was Jewish.
The prohibition led Arendt to begin researching the nature and history of anti-Semitism, which drew the attention of officials. She was interrogated shortly after by the Gestapo.
Arendt fled Germany for Paris in 1933, where she worked to aid Jewish refugees, leading to the stripping of her German citizenship in 1937. She married philosopher Heinrich Blucher three years later, the same year she was interned at Camp Gurs in the southwest of France. She was labeled an “enemy alien.”
Arendt escaped the camp a few weeks later and immigrated to the US in 1941 along with her mother and husband. They were aided in their fleeing by American diplomat Hiram Bingham, who helped some 2,500 Jews escape to the US via illegal visas.
Arendt took up action among the German-Jewish community in New York. She regularly wrote a column in the German-language Jewish newspaper Aufbau, and she directed the Commission of European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction.
At the end of the war, Arendt returned to Germany to help in a Zionist movement to help youths make aliyah to Israel.
Arendt was later named a visiting scholar at a number of prestigious universities—Berkley, Princeton, and Northwestern. She taught at schools like the University of Chicago, The New School of Manhattan, and Yale University, finally fulfilling the path of professorship blocked to her by the Nazis.
Arendt died on December 4, 1975, at the age of 69. She left behind a prolific library of work, and is remembered through a number of research sites and schools named in her honor. The Hannah Arendt Prize is awarded annually to individuals representing her tradition of political theory.
Famous quotes from Hannah Arendt:
“There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.”
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.”
“Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think.”
“This is the precept by which I have lived: Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes.”
“No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny.”