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Arendt, Hannah.

From the Dreyfus Affair to France Today.


"The Prelude To Nazism Was Played
Over The Entire European Stage"
Arendt, Hannah. From The Dreyfus Affair To France Today. New York: Conference on Jewish Relations, 1946.
8vo.; occasional pencil ticking throughout; brown printed stapled wrappers; spine lightly chipped, with tape reinforcement.         
First edition, a rare off-print from Essays on Antisemitism, where the piece first ran; the offprint conforms to that found in the anthology.
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was born in Hanover, Germany to an old Jewish family from Konigsberg. As a philosophy student she met two philosophers who shaped her early thinking: the existentialist Karl Jaspers, and Martin Heidegger, her tutor with whom she had an affair. Briefly arrested by the Nazis in Germany in 1933, just a few years after completing her doctoral dissertation on St. Augustine's concept of love, Arendt fled to Paris where she worked with Jewish refugees. In 1940 she married Heinrich Blucher, an art historian; that same year she completed her first book, Rachel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess, which was not published until 1957. As the Nazis encircled Paris, she and her husband escaped to New York, where Arendt wrote for Aufbau, the German émigré paper. She established herself as an important political thinker with The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), a penetrating analysis of the historical roots of 20th-century fascist ideology. The following year she became the first female professor at Princeton University. Sent by The New Yorker to Jerusalem to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Arendt published in 1963 Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, arguing that Eichmann was a cog in a mechanism of culpability which implicated even Jews. Her last, most personal book, The Life of the Mind, was published posthumously in 1978.
From The Dreyfus Affair To France Today is a little-known but pivotal essay in which the 40-year-old Arendt attempts to provide an explanation for the perceived "shift" in late 19th-century Europe's attitude toward the Jewish population:
While the Dreyfus affair in its broader political aspects belongs to the 20th-century, the Dreyfus case, the various trials of the Jewish captain Alfred Dreyfus are quite typical of the 19th-century, when men followed legal proceedings because each instance afforded a test of its greatest achievement, the complete impartiality of the law... The wrong done to a single Jewish officer in France was able to draw from the rest of the world a more vehement and united reaction than all the persecutions of German Jews a generation later... Not the mere trials but the Dreyfus affair in its entirety offers a foregleam of the 20th-century... It was not in France, however, that the true sequel to the affair was to be found. The Third Republic succumbed to the deep-rooted evils of the 19th-century which won political significance first in France, while their tremendous power of destruction first broke out in Germany. The reason that France fell an easy prey to Nazi aggression is not far to seek. Hitler's propaganda spoke in a language long familiar and never quite forgotten. ( 176-180)
A prescient work in which Arendt tackles adeptly the concepts that would occupy her for the balance of her career. Though nowhere designated, this rare offprint came out of the files of Harold Rosenberg, best known for his foundational works on abstract expressionism. Arendt first met Rosenberg-the art critic, intellectual, and man about town who was the long-running critic for The New Yorker-in the early 1950s. Like Arendt, Rosenberg was a Jewish thinker obsessed with understanding, analyzing and contextualizing modern society. It was rumored that Arendt and Rosenberg engaged in an affair in the Spring of 1960 (Between Friends: The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy 1949-1975, edited by Carol Brightman, NY: Harcourt Brace, 1995, p. 70). If so, it was a fleeting one, punctuating a long-standing friendship: the two remained close until Arendt's death at 69 in 1975.

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