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Distributed for Brandeis University Press


Hans Jonas

Edited and Annotated by Christian Wiese
Translated by Krishna Winston

When Hans Jonas died in 1993, he was revered among American scholars specializing in European philosophy, but his thought had not yet made great inroads among a wider public. In Germany, conversely, during the 1980s, when Jonas himself was an octogenarian, he became a veritable intellectual celebrity, owing to the runaway success of his 1979 book The Imperative of Responsibility. In the 1920s, Jonas studied philosophy with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, but the Nazi regime forced him to leave Germany for London in 1933. He later emigrated to Palestine and eventually enlisted in the British Army’s Jewish Brigade to fight against Hitler. Following the Israeli War of Independence, he emigrated to the United States and took a position at the New School for Social Research in New York. He became part of a circle of friends around Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blucher, which included Adolph Lowe and Paul Tillich.   

This memoir, a diverse collection of previously unpublished materials—diaries, letters, interviews, and public statements—has been organized by Christian Wiese, whose afterword links the Jewish dimensions of Jonas’s life and philosophy. Because Jonas’s life spanned the entire twentieth century, this memoir provides nuanced pictures of German Jewry during the Weimar Republic, of German Zionism, of the Jewish emigrants in Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s, and of German Jewish émigré intellectuals in New York. Since Memoirs was first published in 2008, interest in the work of Hans Jonas has grown among American academics in recent years.

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Table of Contents

Foreword – Rachel Salamander • Introductory Remarks – Lore Jonas • EXPERIENCES AND ENCOUNTERS • Youth in Mönchengladbach during Wartime • Dreams of Glory: The Road to Zionism • Between Philosophy and Zion: Freiburg – Berlin – Wolfenbüttel • Marburg: Under the Spell of Heidegger and Gnosticism • Emigration, Refuge, and Friends in Jerusalem • Love in Times of War • A “Bellum Judaicum” in the Truest Sense of the Word • Travels through a Germany in Ruins • From Israel to the New World: Launching an Academic Career • Friendships and Encounters in New York • PHILOSOPHY AND HISTORY • Taking Leave of Heidegger • On the Value and Dignity of Life: Philosophy of the Organic and Ethics of Responsibility • “All this is mere stammering”: Auschwitz and God’s Impotence • Didactic Letters to Lore Jonas, 1944–45, – Ammon Allred, translator • Afterword: “But for me the world was never a hostile place” – Christian Wiese • Chronology • Notes • Bibliography • Index of Names • Illustrations follow page 134

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