+

Hannah Arendt – Lesson from Life

  • How the facts of Hannah Arendt’s life read like fiction

    Lesson from Life – Hannah Arendt

    As her friend Mary McCarthy once said, Arendt was “a magnificent stage diva”. Focusing on only one episode in Arendt’s eventful existence, Margarethe von Trotta’s dull 2012 biopic Hannah Arendt didn’t show the half of it. Time, surely, for the 12-part HBO drama series. Having read Ann Heberlein’s lyrical yet lucid On Love and Tyranny, I suggest Episode One end with the young Arendt declaring, “I can either study philosophy or I can drown myself”.

  • Raul Hilberg, the first historian to document the banality of Nazi evil, nursed a lifelong grudge against Arendt. who borrowed from and popularized his work without crediting him.

    Hanna Arendt never did the research, she popularized the idea that Nazis were primarily bureaucrats. Here is a book about the man whose research Hanna used without attribution.

    Hilberg was not happy either. After toiling for thirteen years on his book, he was being eclipsed by someone who had worked for little more than two years on hers. “Who was I, after all?” Hilberg asked bitterly in his autobiography. “She, the thinker, and I, the laborer who wrote only a simple report, albeit one which was indispensable once she had exploited it.”

  • Hannah and Her Admirers by David Rieff (Susan Sontag’s son)

    Margarethe von Trotta’s biopic of Hannah Arendt is a film about ideas that remains intellectually detached from them.
    Arendt had relied, by her own admission, on Raul Hilberg’s magisterial history of the Shoah, The Destruction of the European Jews, published in 1961. Most valuable of all to her was Hilberg’s account of the role of the Judenräte during the Shoah, and to what degree the leaders of these councils had in effect collaborated in the Jews’ extermination. Her conclusion was that had the Jews been leaderless and unorganized, there would have been chaos and misery, but nowhere near as many as 6 million would have been murdered. It was this position, far more than her thinking about the banality of evil, that had set so much of the official Jewish world against her. And while Hilberg did not agree with her, as he makes clear in a few icy paragraphs of his memoir, The Politics of Memory, he nonetheless defended Arendt publicly during the controversy.

    It is a film about ideas that remains intellectually detached from them. Despite her immense talent as a director of actors, perhaps with Hannah Arendt von Trotta is not so far from those late Rossellini films after all, and is nowhere near being as diligent or trustworthy.

    Comments are closed.