Hannah Arendt

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Hannah Arendt was born in October 1906 to a Jewish family in Germany. She was educated at the University of Heidelberg and obtained a doctorate in philosophy. She described herself as a political scientist.

In the early 1930s, Arendt ran into trouble with the Nazi authorities and was arrested in 1933 for “illegal research”. Upon release she managed to escape Germany and found work in Paris. However, when France came under Nazi control in 1940, she was again arrested, this time by the French authorities as an alien. She managed to escape detention and made her way to New York, USA where she spent the rest of her life.

Arendt’s early days in New York were not easy as she had arrived with nothing and needed to learn English. Nonetheless, she started to build her career as a political thinker and writer, mainly of Jewish affairs.

In the early 1950s, Arendt started teaching in higher education and became the first woman to be appointed a full Professor at Princeton University. She wrote several books and essays, often on the themes of politics, totalitarianism and philosophy.

Among her most famous books, The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, in which she explains that dictatorship is exercised not only in the political sphere, but in all spheres, including private spheres. Eichman in Jerusalem, published in 1963, where she developed the concept of the banality of evil.

His international notoriety was sparked by her reporting on the Nuremberg trials and her descriptions of Nazi officials. Politicians and intelligentsia were waiting for those responsible for the holocaust, the concentration camps and the gas chambers to be portrayed as totally inhuman monsters. Hannah Arendt has shown on the contrary, that they are for the most part ordinary men who simply carry out orders without any ethical reflection. This meant that many humans "like everyone else" can slide into barbarism if the circumstances arise.