Obligation and Libido

Hannah Arendt in Wiesbaden, 1949-1950

  • Shlomit Steinberg (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


The article focuses on Arendt’s stay in Germany between late 1949 and early 1950. It discusses her attempts to conduct a thorough survey and find the best solution (beyond Germany) for the books, archival materials, Judaica artifacts and works of art looted by the Nazis from Jewish communities and private collections which were upon their discovery stored by the US army in central collecting points since 1945. It reflects on these four winter months in Arendt’s life as revealed through her official reports to her superiors in New York and in her personal correspondence with her husband Heinrich Blücher and her close friends, hoping to shed new light on a hitherto less familiar chapter in the life of this fascinating and controversial woman. During these months, Arendt paid several visits to her former PhD instructor Karl Jaspers in Basle. She also harbored a more clandestine wish to meet another former university professor of hers – the controversial philosopher Martin Heidegger. Between 1924 and 1926, Arendt and Heidegger had conducted a secret love affair when she was his student at the university of Marburg. By 1949, Heidegger, a member of the NSDAP since 1932, was forbidden from teaching at university. He was considered tainted by this affiliation by many of his former friends, colleagues and former students. While some biographers of Arendt discussed her reunions with her former teachers in light of her personal and intellectual personae, little attention was given to the link with her important mission for the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR). This was most likely due to the difficult personality of Arendt which was “flattened” after the 1960ies through the prism of her writing about the Eichmann trial while other different aspects of her public activity in the field of restitution were either forgotten or completely ignored.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt; Wiesbaden; JCR (Jewish Cultural Reconstruction); Karl Jaspers; Martin Heidegger


Hannah Arendt, Wiesbaden, JCR (Jewish Cultural Reconstruction), Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger