Hannah Arendt, 1906 -1975

October 14, 1906: Birthdate of author and commentator Hannah Arendt.  Many know her for her writings about the Nazis and the originator of the term “the banality of evil.” Living amidst the political turmoil of Europe greatly shaped Arendt’s studies and interests. Initially a philosophy and theology student, Arendt shifted her focus to the rising anti-Semitism permeating the German polity in the 1930s. In addition to her writing, Arendt became involved in the German Zionist Organization in 1933 and worked to bring Nazi atrocities to global attention. Arendt was arrested for investigating anti-Semitic propaganda, but befriended a Berlin jailer who enabled her escape. Fleeing to Paris, Arendt worked with Youth Aliyah to help rescue Jewish children from the Third Reich by bringing them to Palestine. While in Paris, Arendt met her second husband and both were sent to internment camps in southern France. In 1941, both were able to reach America and reunite with Arendt’s mother. In America, Arendt published numerous articles in Jewish studies journals, and was in charge of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, a program created by historian Salo W. Baron to recover and restore lost and damaged Jewish archives and cultural markers. The publication of her book The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1951, made Arendt an intellectual celebrity as America, searching for answers to the horrors of World War II, careened into the Cold War. The Origins of Totalitarianism sought to explain the rise and appeal of both Hitler and Stalin. Arendt went on to publish several other books including her most controversial work, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil in 1963.  Arendt taught at the University of Chicago and Wesleyan and was the first female full professor at Princeton. She continued to lecture and teach until her death in 1975.

This stamp from 2006 was the second one issued by Deutsche Post in Germany honoring Arendt.  The first was issued in 1988 as part of its Women in German History series.

Hannah Arendt - Germany


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