Top of page

Collection Hannah Arendt Papers

About this Collection

The papers of author, educator, political philosopher, and public intellectual Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) constitute a large and diverse collection (25,000 items; 82,597 images) reflecting a complex career. The collection spans the years 1898 to 1977, with the bulk of the material beginning in 1948, three years before Arendt’s naturalization as an American citizen. The papers contain correspondence, articles, lectures, speeches, book manuscripts, transcripts of Adolf Eichmann’s trial proceedings, notes, printed matter pertaining to Arendt’s writings, family and personal materials, evidence of Arendt’s network of fellow intellectuals, editors, writers, and theorists, and documentation of her academic affiliations and courses taught.

The Library of Congress received the Hannah Arendt Papers as a gift and bequest from Arendt in various installments from 1965 to 2000. Small additions have been subsequently received, including those made by Klaus Loewald in 1981, Roger Errera in 1994, Jochen Kölsch, International Verbindungen, 2007, and Patchen Markell, 2018.

Rich in manuscripts and correspondence for Arendt’s productive years as a writer and lecturer after World War II, the papers are sparse before the mid-1940s because of Arendt’s forced departure from Nazi Germany in 1933 and her escape from occupied France in 1941. Documentation for the first part of her life includes a few notebooks and writings; several official and private records relating mainly to her divorce, family history, and emigration; and a small group of personal correspondence with her second husband, Heinrich Blücher, some of whose letters and unpublished writings can be found in the Family Papers series. Much of the material is in German and other European languages.

Born Johanna Cohn Arendt, Arendt later used her married name, Blücher, in private life. Arendt studied with Karl Jaspers at Heidelberg University, but her career was diverted from teaching and writing for more than a decade as a result of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and the subsequent censorship of teachers and intellectuals and the persecution and genocide conducted against Jews. While in France and for several years in the United States, Arendt worked as a welfare agent in charge of aiding Jews and as a journalist for various Jewish political and social organizations. Her papers document her support for the creation of a haven for Jews in the British Mandate in Palestine until 1948, when she dissented from certain policies of the new state of Israel. The collection contains copious materials documenting Arendt’s career as an author, teacher, and lecturer in the United States, her influence in academia and as a public intellectual, and her connections with other writers and thinkers in America and elsewhere in the world.

The collection was digitized in 1998-2000 through the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Initially, some digital content was limited to onsite access through dedicated work stations available only at the Library of Congress, The New School in New York City, and the Hannah Arendt Center at the University of Oldenburg, Germany. This updated digital presentation of the Hannah Arendt Papers at the Library of Congress is now available publicly online in its entirety.

Description of Series

The Hannah Arendt Papers are arranged in ten series. A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the collection is available online with links to the digital content on this site. A brief description of each series follows.

Family Papers, 1898-1975 (Boxes 1-8)
Correspondence, writings, and miscellaneous financial, business, and personal material. Subdivided under headings for Hannah Arendt and her husband, Heinrich Blücher, and arranged alphabetically thereunder by type of material or topic.

Correspondence, 1938-1976 (Boxes 8-43)
The largest portion of Arendt's papers consists of the Correspondence series subdivided under the headings of General Correspondence, Organizations, Publishers, and Universities and Colleges. The material traces Arendt's intellectual, social, and professional life from the late 1940s to her death. Though not a prolific letter writer, Arendt corresponded with men and women of letters throughout Europe and America, often for the purpose of giving a reference or arranging conference and lecture dates, but just as frequently to exchange thoughts and ideas. Her correspondents include obscure as well as renowned members of the literary and academic community, many of whom sent her manuscripts in tribute to her intellectual influence or to solicit her comments. Among the prominent individuals whose names appear in the general correspondence are poets W. H. Auden, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, and Stephen Spender; historians Joachim C. Fest and Carl J. Friedrich; and writers Alfred Kazin, Dwight Macdonald, Mary McCarthy, and David Riesman. Readers should note that Arendt often typed replies on the reverse side of the original letters that she received.

Among correspondence pertaining to organizations, publishers, and universities and colleges are occasional personal jottings from individuals who wrote in an official capacity but were Arendt's friends and acquaintances as well. Among their letters is correspondence with publishers and editors, especially Robert B. Silvers of the New York Review of Books, William Shawn of the New Yorker, and William Jovanovich of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and with Saul Bellow and other faculty members at the University of Chicago where Arendt was a professor and graduate student adviser on the Committee on Social Thought.

Additionally, the Arendt Papers include letters to and from Hanan J. Ayalti (pen name of Hanan Klenbort), Walter Benjamin, Rosalie Littell Colie, Robert and Elke Gilbert, J. Glenn Gray, Waldemar Gurian, Rolf Hochhuth, Hans Jonas, Lotte Kohler, Judah Leon Magnes, Mary McCarthy, Ruth H. Rosenau, Gershom Gerhard Scholem, Paul Tillich, Eric Voegelin, Ernst Vollrath, Anne Weil, Helen and Kurt Wolff, and many others.

  • General, 1938-1976 (Boxes 8-17)
    Letters with enclosures sent and received. Arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent and chronologically thereunder.
  • Organizations, 1943-1976 (Boxes 17-26)
    Letters with enclosures sent to and received from foundations, academic organizations, radio and television stations, and various interest groups. Arranged alphabetically by name of organization and chronologically thereunder.
  • Publishers, 1944-1975 (Boxes 26-35)
    Letters with enclosures sent to and received from publishing firms and editors of periodicals. Arranged alphabetically by name of magazine, journal, or publisher and chronologically thereunder.
  • Universities and Colleges, 1947-1975 (Boxes 35-43)
    Letters with enclosures sent to and received from faculty members and administrators of colleges and universities. Arranged alphabetically by name of institution and chronologically thereunder.

Adolf Eichmann File, 1938-1968 (Boxes 43-54)
Correspondence, reports, transcripts, notes, reviews, clippings, and related material concerning the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Arranged alphabetically by type of material or topic and chronologically or alphabetically thereunder.

The Adolf Eichmann File deals with what was perhaps Arendt's best-known and most controversial work, Eichmann in Jerusalem. Subtitled A Report on the Banality of Evil, Arendt's conclusions about the nature and character of totalitarian rule in Nazi Germany, and her interpretation of the Jewish response to the Holocaust, prompted a strenuous and often emotional debate gathered in folders containing book reviews, articles, and letters to the editors of the New York Times and the New Yorker. Also in the Eichmann files is material that Arendt collected while covering the Nazi leader’s trial in Jerusalem in 1961, including incomplete but extensive copies of English and German transcripts of the trial’s proceedings, copies of the final ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court, and several files of notes and miscellaneous background information. Drafts and other related material for Eichmann in Jerusalem are located in the Speeches and Writings series.

Subject File, 1949-1975 (Boxes 54-62)
Course material including lectures, correspondence, notes, clippings, book reviews, class lists, contracts and royalty statements, book lists, and miscellaneous printed and near-print material. Arranged alphabetically by type of material or topic.

The Subject File chiefly treats Arendt’s role as teacher and lecturer as reflected in the courses she taught at the New School for Social Research, University of California at Berkeley, and University of Chicago. Numerous lectures and seminar notes by Arendt include copies of “Kant's Political Philosophy” delivered at both the New School and the University of Chicago. Also included is material relating to Arendt’s students as well as contracts and royalties for her publications.

Speeches and Writings File, 1923-1975 (Boxes 62-85)
Printed, near-print, typewritten, and handwritten manuscripts of books, essays, lectures, and other writings by Arendt. Grouped by format and arranged alphabetically thereunder by title or topic.

The Speeches and Writings File spans the years 1923-1975. Arendt’s doctoral dissertation, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin, issued by Springer Verlag in 1929, is present in the original published version and in a manuscript of an English translation, Love and Saint Augustine. Also in this series are various drafts of lectures and chapters incorporated into Arendt’s two-volume work The Life of the Mind, published posthumously in 1978. Other book-length manuscripts include the first and final drafts of Between Past and Future; the first and final corrected copies of Eichmann in Jerusalem, with additional drafts of the German translation; and Men in Dark Times. There are also essays and lectures in the Speeches and Writings series in addition to the lectures and seminar notes in the Subject File folders designated “Courses” Research material arranged by topic is filed under “Extracts and Notes” in the Speeches and Writings series.

Clippings, 1942-1975 (Boxes 85-87)
Clippings of book reviews and miscellaneous news items concerning Arendt. Arranged alphabetically by name of publication or topic.

Addition I, 1966-1977 (Boxes 88-94)
Manuscripts, notes, and printed and near-print material relating to books and lectures by Arendt. Arranged alphabetically by format and title.

Addition I supplements the Speeches and Writings series with extensive material pertaining to the publication of The Life of the Mind, including drafts annotated by the work’s editor, Mary McCarthy. A small group of lectures is also contained in this addition.

Addition II, 1906-1975 (Boxes 94-95)
Letters, family papers, writings, and honorary degrees. Arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Addition II includes correspondence from Arendt to Heinrich Blücher and a notebook kept by Arendt’s mother recording Arendt’s development as a child.

Addition III, 1945 (Box 95)
Correspondence and notes by Arendt. Arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Addition IV, 1955-2006 (Box 95) (digital content not yet available)
Correspondence from Arendt to Ruth H. Rosenau, identification and membership cards, and a documentary film. Arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Oversize, 1930-1972 (Box OV1)
Oversize material consisting of broadsides and certificates. Arranged and described according to the series, containers, and folders from which the items were removed.

Brief Processing History

The papers of Hannah Arendt were initially organized and described in 1965 and 1967. A large group of the material received in 1977 was incorporated into the collection in 1980. Items received in 1982 were processed as Addition I. Material received between 1985 and 1997 was organized as Addition II in 1998, and material comprising Addition III was received and organized in 2000.

In December 1998, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the Library of Congress a grant to support a two-year project to digitize the Hannah Arendt Papers manuscript collection. The staff of the Manuscript Division at the Library administered the project, with assistance from the National Digital Library Program (NDLP) and in cooperation with the New School University in New York City.

The entire collection was reprocessed and the finding aid was revised in 2000. Lotte Kohler’s Hannah Arendt/Heinrich Blücher: Briefe 1936-1968 (München: Piper, 1996) was consulted during the arrangement of the correspondence between Arendt and Heinrich Blücher in the Family Papers series. An English version of Kohler's work entitled Within Four Walls: The Correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blücher, 1936-1968, translated by Peter Constantine (New York: Harcourt), was published in 2000.

The finding aid was further revised to incorporate links for materials in this digital presentation in 2021. The photographs have been transferred to the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division where they are identified as visual materials of these papers. These are not included in the online collection. (See also Related Resources).