Enter the Hannah Arendt Archives & Discover Rare Audio Lectures, Manuscripts, Marginalia, Letters, Postcards & More


The work of Han­nah Arendt has been in the press recent­ly for two rea­sons in par­tic­u­lar: first, the 50th anniver­sary of her book Eich­mann in Jerusalem, pub­lished in 1963 from reports she filed for The New York­er on the 1961 tri­al of the arche­typ­al Nazi bureau­crat. Then there is Mar­garethe von Trotta’s 2012 biopic Han­nah Arendt, star­ring Ger­man actress Bar­bara Sukowa as the Ger­man Jew­ish philoso­pher. Recent cov­er­age of the book and the film have focused on Arendt’s rep­u­ta­tion as a philo­soph­i­cal jour­nal­ist most close­ly iden­ti­fied with the famous descrip­tive phrase “the banal­i­ty of evil,” a com­ment on Adolf Eich­mann as an exem­plar of geno­ci­dal mur­der­ers who, as the well-worn defense goes, were “just fol­low­ing orders.”

Arendt schol­ar Roger Berkowitz argues that this read­ing of Arendt’s book is a pro­found mis­read­ing. Eich­mann in Jerusalem was divi­sive, set­ting crit­ics against each oth­er in efforts to vin­di­cate or cas­ti­gate its author. The con­tro­ver­sy, how­ev­er, at the time of pub­li­ca­tion and again in the recent re-eval­u­a­tion, has the unfor­tu­nate effect of obscur­ing the breadth of Arendt’s philo­soph­i­cal think­ing apart from Eich­mann and Nazism. Those inter­est­ed in con­nect­ing with Arendt’s life, schol­ar­ship, and philo­soph­i­cal insight can find a wealth of archival mate­ri­als online from the col­lec­tions of Bard Col­lege and the Library of Con­gress. Today, we high­light sev­er­al items in those col­lec­tions that may be of inter­est, includ­ing the Library of Congress’s scanned copy of the final type­script of Eich­mann in Jerusalem.

Part 1:
Part 2 (Q&A):

First, direct­ly above, hear Arendt’s speech “Pow­er & Vio­lence.” The lec­ture re-iter­ates ideas Arendt expressed more ful­ly in a lengthy 1969 essay pub­lished by the New York Review of Books as “Reflec­tions on Vio­lence” and as a book titled On Vio­lence. In the lec­ture and the essay, Arendt ref­er­ences the work of thinkers like Friedrich Engels and, espe­cial­ly, Frantz Fanon in a crit­i­cal dis­cus­sion of the roles racism and ide­ol­o­gy play in state vio­lence.

That same year Arendt deliv­ered a series of lec­tures for a Spring semes­ter course at The New School for Social Research called “Phi­los­o­phy and Pol­i­tics: What is Polit­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy.” This fas­ci­nat­ing inves­ti­ga­tion grap­ples not only with polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy, but phi­los­o­phy in gen­er­al as a mean­ing­ful activ­i­ty. You can view the full type­scripts of her course lec­tures here.

The Library of Con­gress has also dig­i­tized much of Arendt’s cor­re­spon­dence and uploaded images of her let­ters, includ­ing some to and from such well-known fig­ures as W.H. Auden, Lionel Trilling, and Alfred Kazin (most of Arendt’s let­ters are only avail­able for view­ing onsite at the Library of Con­gress, The New School Uni­ver­si­ty, or the Uni­ver­si­ty of Old­en­burg).

Bard College’s Han­nah Arendt Col­lec­tion show­cas­es many of Arendt’s per­son­al books. We can see dig­i­tized images of her copies of—among many others—Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Leo Strauss, her friend poet Robert Low­ell, Carl Schmitt, and, of course, her one­time men­tor and lover, Mar­tin Hei­deg­ger. Each of the uploads shows the pages in which Arendt under­lined or marked key pas­sages and left mar­gin­al notes.


In addi­tion to the “Arendt Mar­gin­a­lia” sec­tion, Bard hosts a gallery that includes “inscribed books, jour­nals & man­u­scripts,” “art­work & pho­tographs,” and “post­cards and oth­er cor­re­spon­dence” (such as the above post­card from Wal­ter Ben­jamin, addressed to “Han­nah Stern,” her mar­ried name at the time).

Last­ly, for an excel­lent overview of Arendt’s life and work that puts all of the above mate­ri­als in con­text, see the Library of Congress’s “Bio­graph­i­cal Note” and be sure to read “Three Essays: The Role of Expe­ri­ence in Han­nah Arendt’s Polit­i­cal Thought” by Jerome Kohn, direc­tor of the New School’s Han­nah Arendt Cen­ter. As many know, Arendt, and many oth­er Ger­man Jew­ish intel­lec­tu­als who fled the Nazis, found a home at New York’s New School for Social Research (now New School Uni­ver­si­ty). And we have the New School (and an Andrew W. Mel­lon Foun­da­tion grant) to thank for the Library of Congress’s vast, dig­i­tized col­lec­tion of Arendt’s papers, which pre­serves her lega­cy for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Han­nah Arendt Dis­cuss­es Phi­los­o­phy, Pol­i­tics & Eich­mann in Rare 1964 TV Inter­view

Han­nah Arendt’s Orig­i­nal Arti­cles on “the Banal­i­ty of Evil” in the New York­er Archive

The Tri­al of Adolf Eich­mann at 50

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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