We don’t like to be called “refugees”: Hannah Arendt in Paris

With this cinematic meditation on Hannah Arendt’s Paris years, We Refugees Archive pays tribute to its eponym. Arendt’s essay “We Refugees” sprang from her experiences as a refugee in Paris.

Hannah Arendt was a Jewish German-American political theorist and publicist.

After being detained by the Gestapo for several days in 1933, she fled to France and worked there, among other things, in Zionist organizations that helped Jews to escape. In 1937 she was deprived of German citizenship, which made her a stateless person for almost 14 years. After she was imprisoned for several weeks in the French internment camp Gurs, she managed to escape from there as well. In 1941 Arendt came to the USA, where she spent the rest of her life and was granted US citizenship in 1951. In her first years in New York, she worked as a publicist, editor and contributor to several Jewish magazines (including “Der Aufbau”) and organizations (including the Commission on Jewish Cultural Reconstruction). Under the impression of the experience of flight and arrival that she and other European Jews had had, she also wrote the essay “We Refugees” in the Menorah Journal in 1943.

From 1953 to 1967 Arendt taught as a professor at Brooklyn College in New York, at the University of Chicago and at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Archival Footage:

March of time – outtakes – Jewish Refugees in Paris, accessed through United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives & Records Administration

Sightseeing in Paris; World’s Fair 1937; Cherbourg, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Ann Major

Invasion of France, accessed through United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Bundesarchiv

Excerpts from:

Arendt, Hannah, 1942; Anders, Günther: Schreib doch mal hard facts über dich. Briefe 1939 bis 1975, Texte und Dokumente, München 2016. pp. 27-29.

Arendt, Hannah, 1943: We Refugees, Menorah Journal.

Script: Afsaneh Salari

Camera: Joëlle Abou Chabké

Text: Miriam Schulz

Narration: Anna Kuch

Sound Design and Mix: Hirad Alavifad

Edit: Afsaneh Salari

Original Music: Taha Amadeh

Animation: Saba Nasiri

Accordion: Yvan Navai

Translation: Miriam Schulz

Featuring: Abu Zubier Md Mirtillah, Kareema Al Asadi, Azhar Al Bu Salih

Special Thanks: Hamedreza Izadpanah, Souad Nanaa, Patrick Navaï, Sylvie Navaï, Hoda Siahtiri, Sepand Saedi