Meeting of the Minds
STRANGER FROM ABROAD:
Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger,
Friendship and Forgiveness.
By Daniel Maier-Katkin.
W.W. Norton. 384 pp. $26.95
Since 1982, when Elizabeth Young-Bruehl published Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, it has been widely known that Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger had an affair. He was Germany’s leading philosopher of existentialism; she was a German Jew and one of his most promising students at the University of Marburg during the 1920s. But the winds of history blew their lives in different directions. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Arendt fled to France, then the United States. Heidegger joined the Nazi Party and became the rector of Freiburg University, where he dismissed Jewish faculty. Though he resigned after one year, he remained a member of the Nazi Party and supporter of National Socialism.
In 1951, Arendt published The Origins of Totalitarianism, and quickly came to be viewed as one of the most brilliant political philosophers of her era. A year earlier, during her first trip to Germany since she had fled, Heidegger had visited her hotel. Afterward, she wrote, in her characteristically visionary style, that it was “the confirmation of an entire life.” Whether they resumed their sexual relationship remains unclear, but until her death in 1975, they corresponded and sometimes saw each other when she was in Germany. She assiduously helped translate and promote his work in the United States.
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Michelle Sieff is a research fellow at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism. She is writing a book on the ideology of the modern human rights movement.more from this author >>
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