Hannah Arendt’s interview and the analogies between the Jewish and Hazara experience

Nicole Valentini
2 min readOct 16, 2021

On September 16, 1964, the philosopher Hannah Arendt sat for a one-hour-long interview on German TV with the journalist Günther Gaus. The topics addressed by Arendt and Gaus, included personal memories, the Holocaust, philosophy, identity, Jewishness, and the experience of migration.

Even if for historical and cultural reasons it’s hard to compare situations involving different people and countries, it’s undeniable that as communities subjected to displacement and genocide, both Jewish and Hazara people share some important analogies. These analogies are highlighted in this interview, and they can be summarized in few important points:

1. Identity

“If one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew. Not as a German or a world citizen. Or as an upholder of human rights.” And again:

“I don’t believe I have ever considered myself a German,” said Hannah Arendt. (21:11) “In the sense of belonging to the people as opposed to being a citizen”.

As Hannah Arendt never considered herself a German, many are the Hazara who reclaim their Hazara identity over the Afghan one. Hannah Arendt was confronted by Jaspers on this idea and in the same way, Hazaras have often been accused to bring disunity in an already disunited country.

Yet it’s not difficult to grasp the weight of this feeling. A feeling that is rooted in a history of discrimination and persecution.

2. The role of intellectuals

“The problem did not lie in what our enemies did. But in what our friends did. Among intellectuals, coordination (with Nazism) was the rule. After that, I did not want to have anything to do with the intellectuals. The worst part is that some of them believed in Hitler. They invented ideas about Hitler. I found that grotesque.”

Many intellectuals did the same with the Taliban, writing reports, articles and giving interviews aimed at providing alternative ideas about the Taliban. As much as many intellectuals “invented ideas about Hitler” many invented ideas about the Taliban, claiming change where there wasn’t any.

The reality was already there but for many, it became clear only when these elements came to power.

3. What remains

“Do you miss the Europe that existed before Hitler? How do you see Europe now? What has been lost forever?” asks Gaus during the interview.

“I don’t long for that. The language. The language is what remains.”

Most of Hazara speak Hazaragi and Farsi, the latter a language that the Taliban would like to erase, after the statues, after the houses, and thousands of lives. Because as Hannah Arendt knew very well, after the language nothing remains.

The full interview is available here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma5RqKdUQ8Q&t=557s

--

--