Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times

by Anne C. Heller,
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 13, 2015

In the 1950s, Hannah Arendt, a refugee from Nazi Germany, was a highly acclaimed public intellectual. Critics praised her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951) as an extraordinarily incisive and influential account of the conflict between civilization and barbarism in the 20th century. In 1961, Ms. Arendt covered the war crimes trial of Nazi SS Officer Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker. Two years later, the publication of “Eichmann in Jerusalem” created a firestorm. Many readers were infuriated by Arendt’s claim that Eichmann was a “terribly and terrifiably normal” bureaucrat, a shallow, stammering embodiment of “the banality of evil,” who, except for ordinary diligence in seeking personal advancement, “had no motives at all.”

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