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political world

The Portable Hannah Arendt (Penguin Classics)

jan peczkis|Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hannah Arendt covers many topics in this volume [Review based on 2000 Edition]. This includes various political philosophies and philosophers, the history of German Jews, the unfolding Holocaust, the similarities between Soviet Communism and German Nazism, and much more. She believes that government-forced racial desegregation in the USA violates the freedom of association. She compares it to forcing Jews in Jewish-only vacation resorts to associate with non-Jews. (p. 238)

5.0 out of 5 stars Includes Hannah Arendt's Clarification of Her Assessment of the JUDENRATs (Jewish Councils Under the Nazis),
Arendt is most remembered for her analysis of the Eichmann trial, and this book contains an extract from her EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM, including her unsparing criticism of the JUDENRATs (JUDENRAETE). (pp. 348-on). Editor Peter Baehr describes the furious reaction of part of the Jewish community to Arend't conclusions. For instance, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith) issued condemnatory memorandums of her. (p. xxvi).

In a 1963 letter to Gershom Scholem, Hannah Arendt defended her condemnation of the Jewish Councils, and rejected the argument that the desperate situation facing Jews exculpated their collaboration with the Nazis against other Jews. She wrote, (quote) I have made my own position plain, and yet it is obvious that you do not understand it. I said that there was no possibility of resistance, but there existed the possibility of DOING NOTHING. And in order to do nothing, one did not need to be a saint, one needed only to say: "I am just a simple Jew, and I have no desire to play any other role." Whether these people or some of them, as you indicate, deserved to be hanged is an altogether different question. What needs to be discussed are not the people so much as the arguments with which they justified themselves in their own eyes and in those of others. Concerning these arguments, we are entitled to pass judgment. Moreover, we should not forget that we are dealing here with conditions which were terrible and desperate enough, but which were not the conditions of concentration camps. These decisions were made in an atmosphere to terror but not under the immediate pressure and impact of terror. These are important differences in degree, which every student of totalitarianism must know and take into account. These people had still a certain, limited freedom of decision and of action. Just as the SS murderers also possessed, as we now know, a limited choice of alternatives. (unquote). (p. 394; Emphasis is Arendt's).
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