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Article: I, Thou, and Us

אני, אתה, אנחנו

I, Thou, and Us

Stefan Litt

The papers of the famous philosopher Martin Buber (1878–1965) were transferred to the National Library at the end of 1965, thus helping to transform the entire archives department into a world-class institution. Buber’s archive offers a glimpse into the raw material of his monumental contribution to philosophy. For example, the treatise, I and Thou, shown here, was the cornerstone of his groundbreaking work on the philosophy of dialogue. The thousands of papers constituting the archive reveal the many sides of Buber’s personality as an outstanding researcher of Hasidism, one of the leading figures of cultural Zionism, and a public intellectual who often challenged conventional wisdom.

Around two-thirds of the archive consists of Buber’s extensive correspondence with intellectuals of his time, such as S. Y. Agnon, Albert Camus, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Theodor Herzl, Hermann Hesse, Karl Jaspers, Franz Kafka, Else Lasker-Schüler, Thomas Mann, Max Nordau, and Stefan Zweig. For Buber, exchanging letters was, evidently, a crucial way of discussing and developing ideas. Some of these interchanges lasted decades; others just emerged on specific topics. Remarkably, Buber did not hesitate to correspond with figures whose reputations were stained following anti-Semitic statements, such as German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Buber’s correspondence also contains hundreds of letters from international readers of his works and his contemplative responses.

Over the years and decades after his death, countless researchers the world over have spent time exploring Martin Buber’s complex ways of thinking, thus keeping his humanist philosophy alive and relevant.