Seminar on Stalinism: Hannah Arendt Invited by Zbigniew Brzezinski (1972)

For years, Zbigniew Brzezinski ran the Columbia University Seminar on Communism. On April 26, 1972 Professor Hannah Arendt (New School of Social Research) spoke on “Stalinism in Retrospect.” Members Present: Byung-joon Ahn, Joseph Maier, Seweryn Bialer, William E. Odom, Paul Borsuk, Grant Pendill, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jaan Pennar, Lenard Cohen, Alexander Rudzinski, Bogdan Denitch, Jane Shapiro, Felice Gaer, Sophia Sluzar, Charles Gati, David Wilson, Ki-shik Han, Alexei Yakushev, Russell Hardin, Sharon Zukin, Janos Horvath, Peter Ludz.

Professor Arendt explained that Nadezhda Mandelstam tells us details that we did not know, it is true—but that we hardly would have dared to hope were true: namely, that there must have been a certain number of people who at no time changed their values.17 At no time did such people believe that history moves forward, sacrificing victims in its inexorable path. These people did know what was and was not a crime even during that period. Professor Arendt reflected on how very difficult it must have been to “keep such integrity of one’s own mind” during those years. Other may have doubted during those years, but Nadezhda Mandelstam never doubted, Professor Arendt explained—she knew. She was able to distinguish among what she believed, what she had to do, and what was simply lying. Professor Arendt described “Hope Against Hope” as “one of the great human documents” of the century. The book is all the more remarkable, she continued, because this woman is not an artist; she is not a writer; “she is only a great moral personality.”

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