Watch Hannah Arendt In Conversation

Hannah Arendt was one of the most significant and profound political thinkers of the twentieth century. Recently the German director, Margarethe von Trotta, has produced a film about her, centring on the period when she wrote her book on the Eichmann trial originally commissioned, extraordinarily enough, by that great magazine, the New Yorker.

The film is due to be shown at the Jewish International Film Festival on November 3 in Sydney and November 12 in Melbourne with the support of the Goethe Institut, following which panels will discuss the film and the ideas contained in Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem. (For details [email protected]  and [email protected]

In preparing for this discussion I came upon a truly remarkable interview with Hannah Arendt on German television conducted by Gunter Gaus (now available with English sub-titles). The interview took place in 1964 at a time when Arendt was the subject of a vicious international campaign because of her Eichmann book. Arendt talks in the interview about her early engagement with philosophy, the position of Jews in Germany before the Nazi victory, the ways in which the Nazi victory moved her from philosophy to political theory, her early political activities as an exile,  the impact on her of learning, when in the United States, about the Nazi campaign to destroy the Jewish people in its entirety, of her relations with post-war Germany, of the meaning of her friendship with the German philosopher, Karl Jaspers and, finally, about the controversy swirling around Eichmann in Jerusalem. 

Arendt had been one of the central influences on my life and on the life of many of my friends. Yet nothing has brought me closer to an understanding of her noble character than this interview. I could not recommend it more highly. 

Robert Manne

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Robert Manne

Robert Manne is emeritus professor of politics and vice-chancellor’s fellow at La Trobe University. His most recent books are The Mind of the Islamic State and On Borrowed Time.

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