“A marvelous mind” Hannah Arendt’s FBI file

“She is described as being very positive, dominating, enthusiastic, and an eloquent speaker.”

Written by Conor Skelding

“She is a small, rotund, stoop shouldered woman with a crew-like haircut, masculine voice and a marvelous mind. She is described as being very positive, dominating, enthusiastic, and an eloquent speaker, and as being about fifty years of age.”

Such was the description a suspicious tipster passed to the FBI of Hannah Arendt in 1956. Per a two-page memo from the Los Angeles office to Director Hoover, the man’s daughter had studied under Professor Arendt at the University of California at Berkeley and “changed her thinking completely.”

The disturbed father’s warnings came five years after Arendt published “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” and nearly twenty years before the political theorist and essayist passed away in 1975.

An agent summarized, “Mr. [Redacted] advised he felt that Hannah Arendt was very dangerous to the best interests of this country […] Mr. [Redacted] advised that from all the information he had been able to gather, he could not say that Hannah Arendt was a Communist, but stated she was advocating a totalitarian philosophy in her political courses.”

The man was convinced that Arendt’s tutelage “influenced his daughter to go to Europe.”

In response, New York wrote Hoover’s office that this “non-specific complaint” did not warrant “any active investigation,” and apparently closed the file.

This is interesting, given Hoover’s close surveillance of other intellectuals.

Read through the full file embedded below, or on the request page.


Image via Hannah Arendt Center