Helgard Mahrdt  

"European Intellectual, American Activist, Cosmopolitan Thinker: On the Trail of Hannah Arendt's Intellectual (and Moral) Itinerary"

What did I hope to find? How did I proceed? What did I find?


Hannah Arendt


Please allow me to begin my talk by thanking the Kluge Center for its extraordinary and wonderful hospitality and the opportunity to meet other scholars. In particular I want to thank: Les Vogel, who was always interested in my work and who provided me with several contacts; David Wigdor, who gave me the important overall permission to copy non-digital Arendt papers; Thomas Mann, whose introductory talk not only encouraged me to ask librarians for help, but who moreover, whenever I asked, shared his wealth of knowledge with me; David Cresh, who helped me in finding Hannah Arendt's letters to Alfred Kazin; Anne Caldiron, who encouraged me to edit the correspondence; Benita Woodard, who saved me a great deal of time in copying all my collected material; Joanne and Regina for their warmth; and last but not least, once again the Kluge-Center for all the delightful lunches, which to me expressed the Center's great wisdom in recognizing that it is not only the spirit that gets inspired in these venerable surroundings, but that also the body must be nurtured and stimulated to work. Virginia Woolf would have had good reason to envy me.


The reason why I came here was to study Arendt's more journalistic work and thus broaden the scope of my research by placing Arendt in a sociopolitical horizon that joins and fuses European and American intellectual history. I wanted to do so because Arendt herself systematically elaborates, in the theoretical tract on The Human Condition, the different ways of taking part in the active life (vita activa) of the world, through labor, work, and action. Before I came to Washington I knew that she was in no way 'only' an abstruse political thinker. She participated actively in the day-to-day political, literary, and cultural life of the New York Circle of intellectuals.

From the time she arrived in the United States in 1941, she on the one hand maintained a close relationship with old émigré friends like Robert Gilbert, Anne Mendelssohn Weil, and Hermann Broch. She also, on the other hand, quickly became integrated into the intellectual circle of non-Marxist leftists, – best known as the "New York Intellectuals" of the 1930s and 1940s. As soon as the war was over, some of Arendt's newly won American friends also became members of her "peer group," in particular, Alfred Kazin, Robert Lowell, Mary McCarthy, and Dwight Macdonald. Although Arendt never wrote for Dwight Macdonald's journal, she influenced his thinking with her postwar ideas on collective guilt. That was what I knew before I came here. After having looked more closely at articles not only written by Macdonald for his own journal, simply called politics (with a small 'p') 0 but also at articles contributed by other authors such as Nicola Chiaromonte, I would say that the influence was mutual. I'll come back to this later.

Arendt on her part wrote articles both for German periodicals such as Merkur and Der Monat and for American journals like Review of Politics, Partisan Review, The Nation, Commentary, The Sewanee Review, Contemporary Jewish Record and Jewish Frontier, where she achieved renown for her activities as a reviewer and commentator who brought European culture, thought, and literature to American readers. She also assumed editorial responsibilities in the New York publishing houses of Schocken Books and Harper & Row (the Heidegger translations).

I wanted to look more closely at these more journalistic activities of Hannah Arendt in the United States, because they can, it seemed to me, be related to her understanding of the world, and the basic importance she gave to the public realm. Assuming that I in my application for the Kluge fellowship rightly understood the indispensable relevance of the public realm for the development of the individual as a political individual, I now wanted to go one step further and emphasize that, without the public realm, human beings simply have no possibility of experiencing freedom. In other words, it became far more obvious to me why Arendt does not follow the rhetoric and philosophy of the long Western tradition, which takes happiness to be simply a private matter. She instead emphasizes the 18th century concept of "public happiness" (promoted by American Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison), in order to connect happiness to the possibility of enjoying what is "localized in the world that we have in common [but] without owning it"1Here, of course, she did not mean the decreasing possibilities of modern life, not the shrunken public sphere where the "voting booth (…) hardly (can) be called a public place.2 Instead, what she had in mind are the rights that we have as citizens, that is, the "second life" which man has "in the sphere that is common to him and his fellowmen." 3 There is still at least one way that a citizen nowadays, according to Arendt, can function as citizen, namely, "as member of a jury." Arendt was fully aware that "freedom, political life, the life of the citizen – this 'public happiness'" she speaks of – " is a luxury; it is an additional happiness that one is made capable of only after the requirements of the life process have been fulfilled." 4

My original idea was to tell the story of Arendt's manifold activity after she arrived in the United States as the story of an individual, a "literary portrait" that would give an account of the circumstances of her own generation of European refugees. Now I would say I will tell this story as a story about Hannah Arendt who was FORCED to become the "breadwinner" of her European-American household, FORCED to support a husband as well as a mother by "earning a living" as a journalist, collecting puny honoraria for book reviews and articles-on-demand for the German-language newspaper Aufbau and other literary venues available in the Jewish quarters of New York. In other words, Hannah Arendt's first entry into the free space of speech acts that American politics offers came by way of the COMPULSION of first having to take care of the NECESSITIES of life. In fact, her late statement "to ask sacrifices of individuals who are not yet citizens is to ask them for an idealism which they do not have and cannot have in view of the urgency of the life process," is something that she knew first-hand from her own experience. (See Letter from Arendt to Gurian, May 27, 1942: "Nach Chicago oder South Bend kann ich nicht kommen. Finanzen! Stehen augenblicklich schlecht." Library of Congress, Arendt Papers). In this context of the daily struggles for bare survival among the émigré newcomers, her husband Heinrich was fond of quoting Bertold Brecht's maxim, "First feed the face and then preach right and wrong!" or, more laconically, "First grub, then ethics!" and then observed for his New York household that this meant, when stripped of its Marxist irony, "First the cake and then the theory for cutting it!"

I wish, in what follows, to sketch how Arendt found her way into the American intellectual community and along the way developed an extraordinary circle of enduring American friendships. I will focus in particular on some of the steps which I believe contributed to Arendt's unique conceptualizing of politics.



Looking back over the past six months, I can say that my own desire to understand Arendt's American odyssey drove my own American itinerary, taking me to various destinations such as 1) to Bard College, where Arendt's husband, Heinrich Bluecher, taught and where both Hannah and Heinrich are buried, 2) to the annual conference of the Society of Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy in Chicago, where I was introduced to colleagues who either remembered her or are themselves involved in research projects about her life and thought, among them professor Dallmayr from the University of Notre Dame. This is the University at which Hannah Arendt's friend, Waldemar Gurian, became a professor in political science after he emigrated to the United States in 1937, and where Arendt gave her lecture, "Ideology and Terror," in 1950, After the talk, she wrote to Jaspers that Gurian was "in fear and trembling, because at this Catholic institution a woman had never before mounted the podium." 5

My curiosity also brought me 3) to the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, where Hannah Arendt in 1956 gave the Walgreen Foundation Lectures and in 1963 accepted a five-year appointment with the Committee on Social Thought. John U. Nef was at that time chairman. He also was a contributor to Waldemar Gurian's The Review of Politics 6, the same journal to which Jacques Maritain had contributed, among others, his article on "The End of Machiavellianism" – Hannah Arendt admired this article 7 in particular, as well as Maritain's book, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (1953). 8 It was in The Review of Politics that Hannah Arendt also published her articles on Race-Thinking Before Racism (in January 1944) as well as Imperialism, Nationalism, Chauvinism (in October 1945), Peace and Armistice in the Near East?  (January 1950), and The Imperialist Character (July 1950), along with her important review of J.-T. Delos' book La Nation (1946). Here, I can only note that it is worth the effort to read Delos' analysis of the state, and especially his understanding of human rights as "les droit de l'homme et du national". Arendt herself regarded the book as "a highly desirable case of an English translation," she agreed with Delos' understanding of the state as "an open society, ruling over a territory where its power protects and makes the law," the state "as a legal institution which recognizes citizens no matter what their nationality, (which) legal order is open to all who happen to live on its territory." Such a state is "far from being identical with the nation, (as) the supreme protector of a law which guarantees man his right as man, his right as citizen and his rights as a national." 9

But let me finish the tale of my research journey, my American voyage of discovery. In fact, it also brought me 4) to New York, the New School on Social Thought and the Berg Collection of English and American Literature in The New York Public Library, where I found the letters Hannah Arendt had written to Alfred Kazin between 1948 and 1966, and 5) to the College Archives of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where Arendt in November of 1962 delivered the Alice M. Holden Lecture – it was entitled "On the Meaning of Revolution." 10 Four years later, in 1966, the Smith College Board of Trustees offered her an honorary degree "in view of (her) achievement and distinction as an author, critic, and student of history and public affairs." 11 For Arendt, it was a long way from her arrival in New York in May 1941 to Smith College 's honorary degree in 1966, from being stateless to becoming an American citizen and renown political thinker. The journey began for her, her husband, and her mother Martha with " twenty-five dollars in their possession and a seventy-dollar monthly stipend from the Zionist Organization of America." 12 In her biography, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl narrates the steps of this journey, such as Arendt's article "Dreyfus und die Folgen" translated by Theodor Herzl Gaster and published by Salo Baron as "From the Dreyfus Affair to France Today", in the Jewish Social Studies in 1942. 13 That means Arendt had "in less than a year (…) in hand 'a carte de visite to the academic world'." 14 This article on European antisemitism proved to be the very step toward her 1951 book, The Origins of Totalitarianism. The next steps are also known, her work as a regular columnist during the years 1941 to 1945 for the "German-language newspaper Aufbau" 15, where she supported the idea of a Jewish Army, contributed to the discussions of Zionism by suggesting that Palestine be made "a part of a postwar British Commonwealth," a position that "left her totally cut off from any possibility of action and without influence among the Zionists", 17 her research for the Commission on European Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (1944-46), her work for the publisher Salman Schocken, who hired her during the first year after the war for "Schocken Books in New York" . 18 Let me pause here, because the new job at Schocken gave Arendt the chance to edit Franz Kafka's Diaries. Arendt had been interested in Kafka for years, and when she sent her article on Kafka to Partisan Review, Philip Rahv answered in his letter that they "like her article on Kafka very much and are accepting it for early publication." He continues his letter by letting her know that "they in some respects don 't at all agree with (her) interpretation of Kafka, but (they) think (her) point of view is interesting and well worth presenting to (their) readers." 19 It may be worth mentioning that Philip Rahv himself in 1939 wrote an article entitled"Kafka' s Joseph K. and Tolstoi's Death of Ivan Ilyich" for the Southern Review, 20 and that by the forties Kafka had become a kind of fetish among the New York intellectuals. Alfred Kazin, another of Arendt's closer American friends after the war, remembers that "Edmund Wilson saw nothing in Kafka", and that "was a serious mark against Wilson with the New York intellectuals". 21

In 1958, when Arendt ran into difficulties with the Jewish review Commentary, Partisan Review was more than willing to publish her article, The Crisis in Education. 22 Besides Partisan Review, I can name another periodical, Dissent, where it was Irving Howe who offered to print her piece on racism in the Southern school systems, which didn't appear in Commentary. The journal Dissent through Howe informed her that they would "probably want someone to ask to comment on (her) article but would guarantee of course that it would be in the bounds of polemical decency", underlining his interest "in having a discussion about this topic, not a brawl". 23 In fact, the Crisis in Education got published in Partisan Review, in the winter of 1958, and Reflections on Little Rock in Dissent, in the winter of 1959. Let me sum up these examples of the magazines Partisan Review and Dissent, and I could add Review of Politics and Nation, by calling them 'Oases', places where the plurality of views on the world could be freely expressed. To print polemics, replies, and counter-replies was part of what the intellectuals of those days meant "by a free and sustained intellectual life." 24 What Arendt found was a spectrum of magazines where she could publish, because they shared a mutual understanding of the importance of free speech. It was very much like an urban "town meeting" calling for communal action. Speech and action, according to Arendt, belong together. She will later in The Human Condition refer to the Greek self-understanding and write: "To be political, to live in a polis, meant that everything was decided through words and persuasion and not through force and violence." (HC 26) She will make her point even more strongly by referring to Aristotle's statement that "everybody outside the polis – slaves and barbarians – was aneu logou, deprived, of course, not of the faculty of speech, but of the way of life in which speech and only speech made sense and where the central concerns of all citizens was to talk with each other" (HC 27).



Having mentioned the Greek self-understanding of what it means to be political, I have to bring Dwight Macdonald onto center stage in the circles of New York journalism. Hannah Arendt never contributed articles to Macdonald's magazine, politics, but their correspondence shows that Arendt was a regular reader of his "one-man" magazine, and obviously admired the magazine's profile. 25 Politics played an important role especially for the European-Americans in the circle of New York intellectuals. In its inaugural issue of February 1944, Dwight Macdonald sketches the magazine's aim and editorial policies by emphasizing his wish "to create a center of consciousness on the Left, welcoming all varieties of radical thought," "(1) to broaden political comment so as to include all kinds of social, technological, cultural and psychological factors; and (2) to measure month-to-month developments with the yardstick of basic values." The magazine has a normative understanding about what politics ought ideally to be, which is radically humanistic in orientation. Macdonald doesn't understand politics as "'who gets what, and how' ," his intention is to "bring back to the public opinion the meaning of politics as the Greeks represent it". 26 Here we have one of the topics Arendt and Macdonald shared: they both were convinced that politics is about more than administrating budgets and managing national wealth or acting according to private interests. Beyond that, they shared the opinion that Nazi-Germany and Soviet Russia were "two essentially identical systems which were clearly growing constantly more alike in exterior forms of rule." (OT: 429)

Arendt exchanged opinions on Tucci and Chiaromonte's articles, 27 tried to encourage Macdonald in 1951 to get "back into political journalism, " they shared experiences with the Ford Foundation, and he was her guest at her New Year's parties, 28 and finally, she felt "comradeship" with him. 29 Comradeship or friendship, as Arendt scholars know, played a central role in Arendt's life, whether this concerned her old friendships with Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, and Anne Mendelssohn Weil, or her extraordinary capacity for new friendships later in her life with Waldemar Gurian, Mary McCarthy, W. H. Auden, and Alfred Kazin. Friendship, moreover, could, according to Arendt, become a political dimension. To avoid misunderstandings, friendship is not compassion, since friendship refers to the individual, and "friendship is as selective as compassion is egalitarian." 30 More than twenty years after Arendt wrote her first letter to Dwight Macdonald, he will ask her to write an introduction to the Greenwood Press reprint edition of all the old issues of politics, because, as he tells her, she is "the one [who is] more on the same wave-length than anybody else living (he) can think of". 31 Arendt did write this introduction, in which she highlighted Dwight Macdonald's "extraordinary flair for significant fact and significant thought," his choice of contributors, thus really doing what he had announced, to print "younger relatively unknown American intellectuals, and even lesser known 'leftist refugees,'" among them Simone Weil, Bruno Bettelheim and Victor Serge, "who twenty years later (would) be very well known indeed." She values Macdonald's own series of articles, later published as a book, The Root is Man, as his "most important contribution to (…) set out for the discovery of new roots in the realm of theory, on the one hand new 'Ancestors' (…), and 'New roads in Politics' on the other." This new creed "consisted of a radical humanism for which man was not merely the root, the origin of all political issues, but the ultimate goal of all politics and the only valid standard of judgment to be applied to all political matters." (My italics) 32

That man is not only the origin of all politics, but also its ultimate goal, we find this thought expressed in Arendt 's words in The Human Condition, where she explores what is necessary for human beings to experience companionship. To join in companionship and comradeship, man needs a public realm. The public realm, according to Arendt, is the guaranteed space where human beings can reveal who they are, a realm that both "binds us together and distinguishes us from one another." Arendt emphasized in her Introduction to the reprint of Macdonald's magazine that there was a "feeling of companionship" among the readers of politics, that their confidence in the magazine was not grounded in "the rightness of any opinions so much as in the reliability of those who wrote for it." 33 "Speech and action," we can read in The Human Condition, "are the modes in which human beings appear to each other," (HC: 176) in which they reveal "their unique distinctness." Without their revelatory character, "action and speech would lose all human relevance" (HC 182).

I said in the beginning that the influence between Arendt and Macdonald's politics was mutual. Let me now give you an example of how I arrived at this statement. In May 1947, Nicola Chiaromonte published his article, "Remarks On Justice," in politics. Arendt, who was never very fond of Chiaromonte, nevertheless liked "his piece on justice." 34 Chiaromonte in this article demonstrates an understanding of the particular quality of "being together", when he states that "the fact that men live in relation to each other" cannot be "solved in the light of a moral law (of Duty or of Love)", because the "peculiar substance of the relationship is [thereby] overlooked." Once this happens, "[terms like] 'just' and ' unjust' become synonymous with 'good' and 'evil'" and thus become "a problem for individual consciences." The conclusion that Chiaromonte draws from this dis-sociation, this dissociety,* is that "the common ground," "society," ‑‑-- and " society (…) means relations" -- "is made to be simply the ground (…) of compromise with one another and with the powers-that-be." 35 Manifestly, Chiaromonte places great emphasis on the peculiar substance of 'being together'. Arendt also tries to find a name for this reality and arrives in The Human Condition at a metaphor, "the 'web ' of human relationships, (…) by the metaphor (she wants to indicate) its somewhat intangible quality". (HC 183)

There is another aspect that Chiaromonte and Arendt share: both see the necessity to limit action. 1) According to Chiaromonte, this happens by practicing justice. But justice in practice is not "an intellectual scheme to be imposed on society with more or less violence, on the pretext that it is required by reason or history." Doing justice is rather, "first and foremost, the defense of a specific right (that of the Egyptian serf, of Alfred Dreyfus, or of the modern proletarian), which defines and limits any action on our part."

2) According to Arendt, the limitation of the boundlessness of action happens in a body politic by way of laws that provide human beings with the necessary protection against the boundlessness of action. Once a public realm is established and guaranteed through the bounds of law, man can enter its "space of appearance" through speech and action and thus reveal who he is. The wall-like law harbors and encloses public political life much like a fence hedges in a piece of property and protects the privacy of the household living there (HC 64). Without the intangible "wall" of law, a public realm could not exist and endure. As the American poet laureate, Robert Frost, reminds us, "Good fences make good neighbors."


I said earlier that Arendt had an extraordinary capacity for new friendships, also later in her life, a capacity she herself sometimes seems to have been surprised about. One of her new friends was Randall Jarrell, with whom she had business lunches while he was living in New York in 1946 and working as book-review editor for the Nation. 36 In the same year, Anne-Marie Meier-Gräfe, "whom Hannah Arendt had met in Paris," introduced her to Hermann Broch. Hannah Arendt marked their friendship by writing a review of Broch's The Death of Vergil. Soon after his book, The Sleepwalkers, appeared, she wrote an essay, "The Achievement of Hermann Broch," for the Kenyon Review (1949), followed by an introduction to the two volumes of his essays published in 1955, and a portrait of Broch after his death in 1951. Arendt admired Broch's literary work. She called him a "reluctant poet" whose novella, "The Servant-girl Zerline", one of the eleven novellas in The Guiltless, she adjudged to be "perhaps the finest love story in German literature." 37 What is perhaps more interesting is that her overt disagreement with Broch's understanding of freedom is openly expressed in her Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) as well as her The Human Condition (1958). 38 "Broch", she writes, "never believed that [the] political sphere, in which man acts outwardly and is engaged by the machinery of the outside world, could be brought to order by categories which were political in origin." 39 "Politics," according to Broch, "is the mechanics of the external bustle". 39a For Arendt, politics means the very opposite: the sense of politics is freedom, is a mode of being. "As a mode of being," it " can unfold its full virtuosity" only "together with the public space." It is Arendt's opinion that we find the clearest articulation of "a freedom experienced in the process of acting, and nothing else" in the Greek polis. 40 It was the ancient Greeks who understood that the "end or raison d'être [of politics] would be to establish and keep in existence a space where freedom as virtuosity can appear." 41

But this difference of opinion in no way affected Arendt's friendship with Hermann Broch, as the letters the two exchanged between 1946 and 1951 illustrate. I will not go into this correspondence because the reader has the published edition, 42 as well as the edited correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, another of Arendt's new friends. This is not the case with the American author, Alfred Kazin. Arendt met him when she was working for Schocken Books. In fact, she wrote him a letter in April 1947 referring to his "excellent review of Kafka in the Herald Tribune" as a reason for suggesting a "lunch appointment." Kazin's name had been linked with Arendt's in 1944 when the Magazine Digest, Jewish Contemporary Record, had branded both as "prime examples of 'the trend of self-excoriation manifesting itself in times of sorrow and frustration'." 43 Arendt received this criticism for her review of Stefan Zweig's autobiography. She admired Kazin's review of Kafka because he understood "that Kafka's genius was due to his ability to see 'in his private and contemporary agony that part of all of us which is more real than the public reality' and thus, to accept 'his torment as a guide to the human condition." She was also impressed by Kazin's "understanding of the philosophical content of this work as 'man's search for his own meaning'." But it wouldn't be Arendt, if she didn't at some point, or on some small detail, disagree, asking him "why, for Heaven's sake, do you think this was a 'Czech genius'?" and then citing to him the facts about Kafka, that he was "born in Prague as a Jew, (…) never wrote a word in the Czech language, but, as (Kazin) (knew) always in German", concluding "whoever may claim him, and I guess we Jews should, if it is a matter of nationality, the Czechs will hardly be able or willing to do so." 44 At any rate, Arendt and Kazin met, and for the next two decades maintained a mutual interest in each other's life and work, often touched by humor. To give you an example or two of this, I will quotefrom their unpublished corresondence. When Kazin sent Arendt his book about modern American prose literature, On Native Grounds, she thanked him by telling him that she had "been reading it every day at breakfast (when she [was] in her most antagonistic mood)", and that she never before "learnt so much about this country with so great delight." 45 Kazin, on his part, replied that he "at first (…) was insulted," asking himself whether he could be "that readable?" Because that would mean: "Then I can't be sound!" But "then (he) reflected that after all, a solid German education represents something that we here just don't get. For myself, since I begin the soul-tearing task of putting words together after breakfast, I try at that meal to be as frivolous and brainless as possible. Any morning you may find me staring at the Lord and Taylor ads in yesterday's Times, or figuring out the number of square yards that have to be seeded in the garden." 46 This humorous play on the European-American opposition finds a responsive partner in Arendt's sense of comedy. In 1951, she went to Yale for Hermann Broch's funeral, telling Kazin afterwards: "Broch's death as all things earthly had also its very comical aspects. Nobody, not his brother or his son or his 'best friend' knew that he was married. Tableau! When I arrived with this news, two of the widows were already in each other's hair, a third was expected, a fourth was being prepared, etc. Since Rilke's death, I [would] guess [that] no such funeral [ever] took place. And all this in Yale and among our dear puritans - - who by the way behaved themselves very well. I had only to remind the head of the German department of his vast knowledge of biographies of poets. He said then: Oh yes, but you know this was the first whom I knew personally - - and started to understand just everything." Arendt's commentary: "The Americans had at least the somewhat soothing illusion that this was almost normal in European behavior, for a poet at least, whereas the Europeans, without any such illusions - - - - Well, this however, we both, i.e., Broch and I, are going to survive beautifully." 47

Let me come back to Kazin's remark about Arendt's "solid German education." Part of this education was her profound knowledge and love of literature, and this, one could say, across national borders. We have already noted that she admired Kafka and wrote an article about him, as she did about Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Hermann Broch, Walter Benjamin, the German-Jewish "literary critic" who was her close friend during the Paris years as a refugee, and finally about the Danish story-teller Isak Dinesen 48 as well as about Bertolt Brecht. When she was working for Schocken Books, she met Randall Jarrell, who "had come to New York to edit The Nation's book section. 49 What attracted him "not just to (her)" or to her and her husband "but to the house," so Arendt, was "the simple fact that this was a place where German was spoken." It was, Arendt tells us, the "folk element in German poetry that he loved and recognized in Goethe and even in Hölderlin and Rilke."50 Hannah Arendt on her part owed to him, "whatever [she knew] of English poetry, and perhaps of the genius of the [English] language. 51 Jarrell did the "englishing" of the five short articles she contributed to the Nation, including her reviews of Hermann Broch'sThe Death of Vergil." 52

"Poetry," we read in The Human Condition, "whose material is language, is perhaps the most human (…) of the arts." Condensed and "transformed into memory," poetry "actualizes the essence of language." 53 Arendt often quoted poets in her texts. 54 There was a mutual interest in poetry between her and Randall Jarrell. While she guided his reading of "her favorite poets – Goethe, Rilke, Heine and Hölderlin, (…) he read to her so that her still very uncertain ear could hear the rhythms and meters of English." 55 He also introduced her to the modern English-language poet, W. H. Auden, who became another of her late friends and who reviewed Arendt's The Human Condition for Encounter. 56 When it is true that "the essence of who somebody is – can come into being only when life departs," (H C 193), and when it is also true that it is the storyteller who narrates what "must necessarily be hidden from the actor himself" (HC 192), then Arendt's portrait of Auden after his death, written with the "sad wisdom of remembrance," 57 paints him as "an expert in the infinite varieties of unrequited love, among which the infuriating substitution of admiration for love must surely have loomed large." 57a Hannah Arendt believed "that illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth." 58



From 1955 on, the Rockefeller Foundation, which in particular provided grants to "scholars doing research on problems in the field of international relations",59 regularly asked Hannah Arendt for her opinion about a number of applicants, encouraging her to give her "frank judgement of the research proposal and, if possible, also of the applicant's capacity of imaginative and original scholarship". 60 At times, Hannah Arendt took the initiative and turned the Foundation's attention to potential candidates such as the American philosopher, Glenn Gray, who in 1960 published a book on his experiences in the Second World War, "The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle." Arendt wrote an introduction to the second edition of Gray' s book, where her distinction between "comradeship" and "friendship" contains in a nutshell her belief in the necessity of walls for human life. She understands that Gray's book is about "friendship and comradeship, about courage and recklessness, about sensuality and the 'surge of vitality', about 'inhuman cruelty' and 'superhuman kindness' (…) as simultaneously present in the same person (…), and at the end about conscience, the very opposite of ecstasy, since conscience means "to set oneself against others and with one stroke lose their comforting presence."61 She agrees with Glenn Gray that "while comradeship wants to break down the walls of self, friendship seeks to expand these walls and keep them intact." 62 Her recommendations for the Rockefeller Foundation as well as the just quoted introduction to Gray's book belong, I want to stress, to the Hannah Arendt who had established her reputation in the American intellectual world with the publication of The Origins of Totalitarianism 63 in 1951, at that point in time where, as Alfred Kazin put it, "Hannah was on her way". 64


Let me, therefore, as a final point of my tale, sketch another of Arendt's activities, this time concerning her entry into the American academic world. Arendt, I mentioned this at the beginning of my lecture, in the early forties wrote biweekly columns for the German newspaper, Aufbau. In October 1942, she told Gurian that she had been asked to speak about the Dreyfus-case at Brooklyn College.65 One month later, she asked him to write a "letter of recommendation" for the "Board of Higher Education" of Brooklyn College, which had invited her to give a series of lectures about "Dictatorship in Modern European History."66 Brooklyn College, like Columbia University and the New School for Social Research, opened their teac hing programs to refugees, who made little money but at least "had a teaching forum".67 The twenty years between 1942, when she gave her first lecture at Brooklyn College, and 1962, when John U. Nef, the chairman of the Committee on Social Thought invited her "on behalf of the University of Chicago to become a member of the Committee on Social Thought," 67a are filled with lecturing duties at various colleges and universities, among them Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Connecticut, Goucher, and Haverford College, and the universities at Berkeley and Princeton. I can't go in detail into this here and now, but I want to mark one lecture series in particular, because I think it is part of the preliminary work for her book on The Human Condition. What I have in mind is a series of thirteen lectures, entitled "Authority and Freedom,"67b that she gave in 1953 at New York University, and for which the University provided an honorarium of $ 75 per lecture.67c In preparation for her lectures, Arendt writes the following notes to herself: "Modern World: Labor force. Unskilled. Elimination of pain and effort makes fabrication possible in the form of labor. The transformation of work into labor and of use objects into objects of consumption. The society of jobholders, unprotected by anything but force of laboring." The notes for the following lecture start with the question: "What are the chances for body politic: laboring identical with loneliness as work with isolation. Action and speech which establish contact and thereby the web of human relationships pushed into the background. Shrinking of the political sphere." "Development of human personality illusionary because where could it appear and show itself [?]. Without activities that are there for their own sake." 67d This is precisely the realm that she highlights in The Human Condition (1958), the realm for the activities of speech and action that "are there for their own sake." "Authority and Freedom" became the title of one of her articles, published in various versions in English as well as in German. Last but not least, this article belongs first of all to her search for a new conceptualization of politics.

But then, it can also be read as an illustration of Arendt's intellectual and public presence in America as well as in Europe. In September 1955, at the conference "The Future of Freedom", sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, she gave a speech entitled "The Rise and Development of Totalitarianism and Authoritarian Forms of Government in the Twentieth Century." She published the reworked version both in English and in German journals and collections [in the Review of Politics, ("Authority in the Twentieth Century"), in Der Monat, ("Was ist Autorität?"), in Between Past and Future, as well as in Nomos, the Yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy (What was Authority?). 67e ] After my own research journey, it now seems to me that Arendt's interest in this topic can be traced back to 1951. At that time she worked as the "executive director of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction Organization, which had been established in 1948 to locate and restore missing Jewish books, manuscr ipts, and cultural artifacts." 67f In September 1951, the "Twelfth Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion," which was held in New York City under the programmatic title, "Freedom and Authority," lists Arendt as one of the participants.67g

I could go on telling you more of my research journey, and of course, more about Arendt's successful lecturing and teaching career, which would then include the several honorary degrees that she received 67h. But I must stop here, because I want to at least mention that I have not yet said very much about her simultaneous activities in Europe, e.g., about her articles in German journals like Die Wandlung, 68 or her visits to Karl Jaspers, and, of course, Martin Heidegger, not to forget her lecturing abroad and the lectures and interviews that were broadcast by German radio stations. 70 But I hope that I have given you a picture of how the Jewish-German refugee, Hannah Arendt, in the beginning forced by life' s necessities, entered the American public realm, and succeeded precisely in what she in her political reflections would call creating a "second life" which man has "in the sphere that is common to him and his fellowmen."80

In this sphere, judgments of taste, according to Arendt, are not at all arbitrary, because "wherever people judge the things of the world that are common to them, there is more implied in their judgment than these things." In other words, "by his manner of judging, the person also discloses himself to some extent, what kind of person he is, and this disclosure, which is involuntary, gains in validity to the degree that it has liberated itself from merely individual idiosyncrasies."71 Arendt, who later in her life became so successful, never forgot the freedom of human life, and that includes the unpredictability of success as well as of failure. When she in 1975 reread Auden's poems she wrote: "What made him a great poet was the unprotesting willingness with which he yielded to the curse of 'vulnerability to human unsuccess' on all levels of human existence – vulnerability to the crookedness of the desires, to the infidelities of the heart, to the injustices of the world."72 I want very much to finish my talk with one of the poems that for Arendt made Auden a great poet:


"Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise."73

0 For an excellent presentation of politics see Gregory D. Sumner, Dwight Macdonald and the politics Circle, Cornell University Press 1996.

1 "Public Rights and Private Interests", 104.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid. 106.

5 Hannah Arendt to Gertrud and Karl Jaspers, December 25, 1950, in: Hannah Arendt -Karl Jaspers. Correspondence 1926 - 69, 159.

6 John U. Nef, "Philosophical Values and American Learning, Review of Politics, Vol. 4, July 1942, No.3, 257-270, "Philosophical values and the Future of Civilization, Review of Politics, vol. 5, April 1943, No. 2, 156-176.

7 There is no English translation of La Nation, the Library of Congress has the 1944 French copy.

8 Arendt to Gurian, 20. Januar 1943, Arendt-Papers, Library of Congress, Arendt's review of Maritian's Ransoming the Time, New York 1941, written under the title "Ein christliches Wort zur Judenfrage (This Means You)" for Aufbau, 5. Juni 1942, in: Hannah Arendt, Vor Antisemitismus ist man nur noch auf dem Monde sicher, 63-65, and Arendt's reference to Maritain in "What is Authority?" In: Between Past and Future, New York: Viking Press 1968, 291.

9 Arendt, "The Nation", in: Essays in Understanding, 208. Originally in: The Review of Politics, VIII/1, January 1946.

10 George W. de Villafranca to Arendt, November 8, 1962, Library of Congress, Arendt Papers 018032.

11 T. C. Mendenhall to Arendt, 2 March 1966, Arendt papers 018025.

12 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt. For Love of the World, Yale University Press 1982, 164.

13 Other Jewish periodicals Arendt contributed articles to were Menorah Journal  (Winter 1943 "We Refugees", 69-77, Autumn 1943, "Portrait of A Period", (Review of Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday, 307-314), Contemporary Jewish Record (Concerning Minorities, Vol. VII, August 1944).

14 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 168.

15 The articles are written between 1941-1945 and published in book form by Marie Luise Knott "Hannah Arendt. Vor Antisemitismus ist man nur auf dem Monde sicher, München, Zürich 2000.

17 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 184.

18 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 99.

19 Rahv to Arendt, September 9, 1944, Arendt-Papers, Blatt 030973.

20 Philip Rahv: "The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Joseph K. In: Southern Review, 5 (1939-40), 174-185. See Terry A. Cooney: The Rise of the New York Intellectuals Partisan Review and Its Circle, The University of Wisconsin Press: Madison 1986, 216.

21 Harold Rosenberg, another friend of Hannah Arendt, "maintained that Wilson couldn't be any good if he didn't like Kafka."

22 "… would be delighted to have it." William Philipps to Hannah Arendt, February 18, 1958, Library of Congress, Arendt-Papers, Blatt 030972. "The Crisis in Education" was then published in Partisan Review 25 (1958), No. 4.

23 Irving Howe to Hannah Arendt, September 7, 1958, Library of Congress, Arendt Papers, Blatt 030015.

24 Irving Howe,"'The New Yorker & Hannah Arendt", Commentary Vol. 36, number 4, 319.

 25 In her first letter from February 21, 1945 Arendt makes two commentaries, one about Macdonald's article on Greece, which appeared in the January number, the other on "Meyer Schapiro's Note on Max Weber". Dwight Macdonald Papers, Box 6, Folder 98.

26 Dwight Macdonald, politics, February 1944, 6.

27 Letter from Arendt to Macdonald, June 6, 1947.

28 Letter from Macdonald to Arendt, January 5.

29 Letter from Arendt to Macdonald, August 16, 1951.

30 Arendt, "On Humanity in Dark Times: Thoughts about Lessing, in: Men in Dark Times, Harcourt Brace & World, New York 1968, 14.

31 Letter from Macdonald to Arendt, August 30, 1967, Dwight Macdonald Papers, Box 6, Folder 98.

32 All quotations are from Politics (1944-1949), Volume 1, 1944, with an Introduction by Hannah Arendt, Greenwood Reprint Corporation, New York 1968. Alfred Kazin described Dwight Macdonalds one-man magazine, politics, in the following words: ", from my point of view, was a refreshing contrast to the petty egotism and dogmatism of those intellectuals who had grown up inside the radical movement. Macdonald's capacity for dissent from the majority point of view, his almost physical resistance to war slogans, made him oppose particularly the liberals indictment of Germany as a whole, the silly conceit and even sillier optimism of the New Dealers as world regulators. In addition to this, he had the humility to present to his readers, who certainly needed some fresh ideas, the insight of European witnesses (and victims) of totalitarianism: Simone Weil, Bruno Bettelheim, Nicola Chiaromonte, Victor Serge, Albert Camus. See Alfred Kazin: "Old Revolutionists: Dwight Macdonald", in: Alfred Kazin, Contemporaries, Boston/ Toronto, 401.

33 Arendt, Introduction into Reprint of politics, 4.

34 Letter from Arendt to Macdonald, June 6, 1947.

35 Nicola Chiaromonte: "Remarks On Justice", in: politics, No. 3, May-June 1947, 89.

36 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 190.

37 Arendt, "Hermann Broch", in: Men in Dark Times, 113.

38 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 279.

39 Arendt, "Hermann Broch", in: Men in Dark Times, 135.

39a Concerning Arendts opinion about some of Brochs intellectual and political views see also the letters she and Blücher exchanged during summer and autumn 1946. Within Four Walls. The Correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blücher 1936-1968, ed. by. Lotte Köhler, Hartcourt, Inc. New York, 2000, 78ff.

40 Arendt, "Freedom and Politics: A Lecture, in: Chicago Review, spring 1960, Vol. 14, Nr. 1.

41 Ibid.

42 Hannah Arendt, Hermann Broch, ed. By Paul Michael Lützeler. Frankfurt am Main : Jüdischer Verlag, 1996.

43 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 196.

44 Arendt to Kazin, April 10, 1947.

45 Arendt to Kazin, August 4, 1948, Kazin Papers, The New York Public Library.

 46 Kazin to Arendt, 28 August 1948, The Library of Congress, Arendt-Papers 007915.

47 Arendt to Kazin, June 28, 1951, Kazin-Papers, The New York Public Library.

48 Isak Dinesen alias the Danish Baroness Karen Blixen "married her cousin" and "used him to start a new life in East Africa before the outbreak of the First World War Arendt, Isak Dinesen, in: Men in Dark Times, 108.

49 Arendt, "Randall Jarrell, in: Men in Dark Times, 263.

50 Ibid. 264.

51 Ibid.

52 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 191.

53 Julia Kristeva, Hannah Arendt, Columbis University Press New York 2002, 71.

54 One example is the the quotation of the French poet René Char in the preface of the collected essays "Between Past and Future: "Notre Héritagen' est précédé d'aucun testament –'our inheritance was left to us by no testament." Between Past and Future. Eight Exercises in Political Thought. The Viking Press, New York 1968, 3. Others are Isak Dinesen, "all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them " (HC 175), Dante, "in every action what is primarily intended by the doer is the disclosure of his own image (ibid.) , Rilke (HC 168) and Goethe, "Pain arises anew, lament repeats Lifes labyrinthine, erring course. ("On Humanity in Dark Times", 21.)

55 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 191.

56 W. H. Auden, "Thinking What We Are Doing, Encounter 69, June 1959, 72-76.

57 Arendt, "Remembering Wystan H. Auden. Who Died in the Night of the Twenty-Eighth of September, 1973", The New Yorker, January 20, 1975.

57a Arendt, "Reflections. Remembering Wystan H. Auden, Who died in the Night of the Twenty-eighths of September, 1973", The New Yorker, January 20, 1975, 40.

58 Arendt, Men In Dark Times. Preface, ix.

59 Letter by the Rockefeller Foundation to Hannah Arendt, October 8, 1965, Blatt 013845.

60 Among Arendts evaluations were"the Committee of International Relations at Notre Dame University" (see Kenneth W. Thompson, Rockefeller Foundation to Hannah Arendt, January 31, 1955, Blatt 013885), Robert A. Graham 's project, researching the "Vatican Diplomatic Policy in World War II", and Eric Voegelin's "professional qualifications" (Kenneth W. Thompson to Hannah Arendt, April 5, 1956, Blatt 013886)

61 Arendt, "Introduction to The Torchbook Edition", in: J. Glenn Gray, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle, New York: Harper & Row, 1967, xi.

62 Ibid.

63 David Laskin, Partisans, Simon & Schuster, New York 2000, 220.

64 Kazin: Writing Was Everything, 129.

65 Arendt to Gurian, 26. 10. 42, Arendt-Papers, Library of Congress.

66 Letter from Arendt to Gurian, 24. 11., Arendt-Papers, Library of Congress.

67 Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, 180.

67a Letter to Arendt, November 5, 1962, Committee on Social Thought, Box 2, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

67b Arendt-Papers, Blatt 017184, Library of Congress.

67c William Gruen to Hannah Arendt, 8 June 1953, Arendt-Papers, Blatt 017138, Library of Congress.

67d Arendt-Papers, Blatt 017184, NYU Nov. 1953, Library of Congress.

67e See Ursula Ludz, 282, 283, 289.

67f Within Four Walls, 99.

67g Nef-Papers, Box 11, The University of Chicago Library.

67h Letter from Thomas C. Mendenhall to Arendt, March 14, 1966, Arendt-Papers, Blatt 018024, Library of Congress.

68 In 1946 and 48 her Kafka-article, her essays on "Organized Guilt" and "Concentration Camps"; "Organized Guilt" was first published in Jewish Frontier, "Concentration Camps" in Partisan Review 15 (1948).In 1949 the German translation of "The Rights of Man: What are They?", originally in Modern Review 3 (1949).

70 Norddeutscher Rundfunk to Arendt, 29. Mai 1958, Arendt-Papers, Blatt 004569, Library of Congress.

71 Arendt, "The Crisis in Culture", Between Past and Future, 223.

72 Arendt, "Reflections. Remembering Wystan H. Auden, Who died in the Night of the Twenty-eighths of September, 1973", The New Yorker, January 20, 1975, 45.

73 Ibid.