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The twentieth century cannot be understood without Hannah Arendt, according to the writer Amos Elon. Arendt frequently took a public position on the events of her time. She helped to popularise two terms: ‘totalitarianism’ and the ‘banality of evil’. As a political theorist, she was not bound by any particular programme or tradition in reaching her judgments. Headstrong, controversial and stimulating, she wrote about totalitarianism, antisemitism, the situation of refugees, the Eichmann trial, Zionism, the political system and racial segregation in the USA, the student protests and feminism. These topics are all still open.

Beginning on 27 March 2020, the Deutsches Historisches Museum will be showing the exhibition ‘Hannah Arendt and the Twentieth century’. Organised in themed sections on a floor area of more than 1000 m2, the narrative centres on Arendt as an intellectual and political theorist. Curated by Dr. Monika Boll, the exhibition presents a life and oeuvre that reflects the history of the twentieth century together with the questions that it asks of us today. More than three hundred objects, accompanied by historic film and photo material featuring Arendt herself, as well as interviews filmed especially for the exhibition, offer perspectives on the central question: What does it mean to make judgements?

Prof. Dr. Raphael Gross, the President of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, remarks ‘The twentieth century lies at the heart of Hannah Arendt’s thinking. She asks what the faculty of historical judgment can do after the Holocaust and she analyses the elements and origins of totalitarian rule. Her questions are often related to what she experienced in the course of her own life. They concern issues such as human rights, the rights of stateless persons, and the ability of a post-totalitarian society to distinguish between facts and opinions. Her emphatic judgments are as controversial today as her questions are relevant’.

An illustrated publication, Hannah Arendt and the Twentieth Century, will be published in German by Piper Verlag on 16 March 2020. It contains essays by Micha Brumlik, Ursula Ludz, Marie Luise Knott, Jerome Kohn, Wolfram Eilenberger, Norbert Frei, Barbara Hahn, Thomas Meyer, Ingeborg Nordmann and Liliane Weissberg, among others.