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Two titans of twentieth-century thought: their lives, loves, ideas, and politics. Shaking up the content and method by which generations of students had studied Western philosophy, Martin Heidegger sought to enoble Man’s existence in relation to Death. Yet in a time of crisis, he sought personal advancement, becoming the most prominent German intellectual to join the Nazis.
Hannah Arendt, his brilliant, beautiful student and young lover, sought to enable a decent society of human beings in relation to one other. She was courageous in the time of crisis. Years later, she was even able to forgive Heidegger and to find in his behavior an insight into Nazism that would influence her reflections on “the banality of evil”—a concept that remains bitterly controversial and profoundly influential to this day.