A Tribute to Hannah Arendt: Marking the Centenary of Her Birth

By Naparstek, Ben | Tikkun, November/December 2006 | Go to article overview

A Tribute to Hannah Arendt: Marking the Centenary of Her Birth


Naparstek, Ben, Tikkun


ON THE 100TH ANNIVERsary of her birth, Hannah Arendt's influence has never been greater. Yet within the Jewish world, Arendt's status remains contested. Her critique of Zionism as an exclusory ideology is celebrated for its prescience by the Jewish Left. But for most Jewish intellectuals, Arendt's legacy remains tainted by her relationship with the Nazi-affiliated philosopher Martin Heidegger, her criticism of Jewish complicity in the Final Solution, and her depiction of Adolf Eichmann as a banal desk-murderer, rather than a demonic stereotype.

Arendt's schism with mainstream Jewry is perhaps best represented by her falling out with her friend Gershom Scholem in 1963. Writing in the wake of her coverage of the Eichmann trial, Scholem admonished Arendt: "in the Jewish tradition there is a concept, hard to define and yet concrete enough, which we know as Ahavet Israel, 'love of the Jewish people.' In you, dear Hannah ... I find little trace of this."

Arendt was born in Linden, Germany on October 14, 1906. She studied philosophy under Heidegger, with whom she became romantically entangled, and wrote her doctorate-published in 1929 as Love and St. Augustine-under the existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers. In 1933, after anti-Semitic laws barred her from teaching in Germany, Arendt immigrated to Paris, where she befriended Walter Benjamin. There she worked for Zionist organizations assisting the passage of Jewish refugees to Palestine, before fleeing to the United States in 1941.

Arendt maintained her friendship with Heidegger after WWII, despite his involvement with the Nazis. She first achieved fame with her book The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), controversially arguing that Hitlerism and Stalinism are manifestations of the same social phenomena. Covering the trial of Eichmann for the New Yorker in I960, Arendt caused a furor for criticizing Jewish organizations in Nazi Europe for allowing themselves to be co-opted into the Nazi extermination plan. She died in 1975, at age 69.

To mark the centenary of her birth, Tikkun asked a select group of leading Jewish intellectuals for their reflections on Arendt's legacy.

Ben Naparstek is a literary journalist and broadcaster based in Melbourne. He is a contributing editor to Tikkun.

Omer Bartov

AT A RECENT CONFERENCE IN LJUBIj ana dedicated to Arendt's legacy, I was taken aback by the tendency to apply her writings to the present, with which she would have doubtlessly disagreed. Arendt's theory of totalitarianism was extremely acute, but ended up serving conservatives, eager to equate Nazism and communism. Would she have agreed that the Bush administration represents the "new totalitarianism," or rather that it is fighting the good war against "Islamo-fascism"? I assume Arendt would have rejected both of these empty slogans. I think she would have agreed that the only means to stop Milosevic's butchers were bombs, which could have similarly saved hundreds of thousands in Rwanda and in Darfur, Sudan. She would have also recognized that today the main threat to freedom comes from a messianic, relentless, violent, and expansionist Islamist movement. Arendt would have had no time for the likes of Bush and Cheney; but she would have insisted, I believe, that the greater evil emanates from those who advocate the return of the Khalifa under the rule of such aspiring firebrands as Osama bin Laden, Moktada al-Sadr, Hassan Nasrallah, and Mahmoud Ahmadinej ad.

Omer Bartov is the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History at Brown University.

Seyla Benhabib

FOR SOME, ARENDT WAS NOT JEWISH enough, for others, she was ail-too Jewish. Her critique of the nation-state, and, in particular, political Zionism, appeared to many-among them, Isaiah Berlin and Gershom Scholem-to be an exercise in vacuous moralism. But for the neo-Marxist members of the Frankfurt School, Arendt was too particularistic and culturalist in her analysis of totalitarianism and modern evil. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Tribute to Hannah Arendt: Marking the Centenary of Her Birth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.