Author’s Note

This Biographical Essay is a fragment and outline of what I hope will be a  much more complete, book-length biography of Leo Strauss sometime in the future.

I welcome any constructive criticism or additional information.


David McBryde

Leo Strauss by David McBryde

Leo Strauss was born on 20 September, 1899,[1] in Kirchhain,[2] Hesse, Germany.[3] Strauss’s parents were Hugo,[4] who sold farming supplies,[5] and Jennie David. He also had a younger sister, Bettina.[6] He was “brought up in a conservative, even orthodox Jewish home... [where] [t]he ‘ceremonial’ laws were rather strictly observed, but [where] there was little Jewish knowledge.”[7] Further identification as a Jew came early to Strauss when refugees from the Russian Pogroms passed through his village.[8] In Easter 1905, he entered primary school in Kirchhain.[9] After preparatory education at the local People’s and Chancellorship School from 1908, Strauss entered the Gymnasium Philippinum in Marburg in Easter 1912.[10] “In the gymnasium [he] became exposed to the message of German Humanism. Furtively, [he] read Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. When [he] was 16 and [they] read the Lakhes in school, [he] formed the [youthful] plan, or the wish, to spend [his] life reading Plato and breeding rabbits, while earning [his] livelihood as a rural postmaster. Without being aware of it, [he] had moved rather far away from [his] Jewish home, without any rebellion. When [Strauss] was 17, [he] was converted to Zionism - to simple, straightforward political Zionism.”[11] He matriculated from the gymnasium in Easter 1917.[12]
Strauss started his university education from the Summer Semester 1917. However, he was conscripted into the German Army, serving as an interpreter in the occupation of Belgium.[13] This military service lasted from 5 July 1917 to December 1918.[14] Before receiving his PhD he studied at the universities of Marburg, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, and Hamburg mostly philosophy, mathematics and the natural sciences.

In 1919, “for reasons of local proximity [Strauss] went to the University of Marburg, which had been the seat and centre of the Neo-Kantian School of Marburg, founded by Hermann Cohen,”[15] “the greatest representative of German Jewry and spokesman for it,”[16] “who surpassed all other German professors of philosophy of the period 1871 and 1925 [when Martin Heidegger became a professor], by the fire and power of his soul.”[17] “Cohen attracted [Strauss] because he was a passionate philosopher and a Jew devoted to Judaism,”[18] and so he was therefore “the centre of attraction for philosophically minded Jews who were devoted to Judaism,”[19] like the young Leo Strauss. Strauss may never have met Hermann Cohen, who died in Berlin in 1918. “[The Neo-Kantian] School was in a state of disintegration [at the time of Strauss’s arrival at Marburg]. The disintegration was chiefly due to the emergence and ever-increasing power of phenomenology - an approach opened up by [Edmund] Husserl… [L]ater…”[20] “[w]hen [Strauss] was still almost a boy [22 y.o.]…[Husserl] explained to [Strauss] who at that time was a doubting and dubious adherent of the Marburg school of Neo-Kantianism, the characteristic of his own work in about these terms: ‘the Marburg school begins with the roof while I begin with the foundation.’”[21] “But also: Cohen belonged definitely to the pre-war world. This is also true of Husserl. Most characteristic of the post-war world was the resurgence of theology: Karl Barth... Wholly independently of [Karl] Barth, Jewish theology was resurrected from a deep slumber by Franz Rosenzweig, a highly gifted man whom [Strauss] greatly admired to the extent to which [he] understood him.”[22]

In 1920, Strauss, at the University of Marburg, met Jacob Klein (1899-1978),[23] a Jew born in Libau, Russia, who was studying philosophy, mathematics and physics. According to Strauss, Klein “stood out among the philosophy students not only by his intelligence but also by his whole appearance: he was wholly non-provincial in a wholly provincial environment. I was deeply impressed by him and attracted to him. I do not know whether I acted merely in obedience to my duty or whether this was only a pretence: I approached him in order to win him over to Zionism. I failed utterly. Nevertheless, from this time on we remained in contact...”[24] Hans-Georg Gadamer was similarly impressed by Klein.[25] Gadamer seems to have met Strauss at Marburg’s Library, where Gadamer was in charge of procuring the books requested by students, at around this time.[26]

“Academic freedom meant in Germany that one could change one’s university every semester and that there were no attendance requirements nor examinations in lecture courses.”[27] Summer Semester started in late April and finished in late July, the Winter Semester started in early November and finished in early February.

In 1921, Strauss went to the University of Hamburg, and completed his PhD, “On Epistemology in the Philosophical Doctrine of F. H. Jacobi”, which was supervised by Ernst Cassirer.[28] The oral examination took place on 17 December 1921.[29] Of the years that follow, Strauss later says, “I can only say that Nietzsche so dominated andbewitched me between my 22nd and 30th years, that I literally believed everything that I understood of him…”[30]

In 1922, Strauss went to the University of Freiburg-im-Breisgau for a post doctoral year, in order to see and hear Edmund Husserl. Strauss believed that he did not derive much benefit from attending Husserl’s lectures because he was “probably not mature enough, [since his] predominant interest was in theology.”[31] “[Strauss] attended regularly the lecture courses on the Social Doctrines of the Reformation and Enlightenment by Julius Ebbinghaus.”[32] “This was the first time [Strauss] heard about Hobbes in a way that caused [him] to take notice... in [Ebbinghaus’s] lively presentation, Hobbes’s teaching became not merely plastic but vital.”[33] “One of the unknown young men in Husserl’s entourage was [Martin] Heidegger. [Strauss] attended his lecture course from time to time without understanding a word, but sensed that he dealt with something of the utmost importance to man as man.”[34] Strauss was very impressed by Heidegger’s thoroughness and intensiveness of his interpretations of philosophic texts, (in particular, on one occasion, when he understood something of what Heidegger meant, his interpretation of the beginning of Aristotle’s Metaphysics). “Up to that time [Strauss] had been particularly impressed, as many of [his] contemporaries in Germany were, by Max Weber: by his intransigent devotion to intellectual honesty, by his passionate devotion to the idea of science - a devotion that was combined with a profound uneasiness regarding the meaning of science. On [his] way north from Freiburg... [Strauss] saw, in Frankfurt-am-Main, Franz Rosenzweig... and [Strauss] told him of Heidegger. [Strauss] said to him that in comparison with Heidegger, Weber appeared to [him] as an ‘orphan child’ in regard to precision and probing and competence.”[35] “Sometime later [Strauss] heard Werner Jaeger in Berlin interpret the same texts [namely, Aristotle’s Metaphysics],” and according to Strauss, “there was no comparison”;[36] Heidegger was infinitely better.

Strauss’s post doctoral years were also spent at Giessen and Marburg and Berlin, where he studied mainly history.

Sometime during the 1920s Strauss meets, on at least one occasion, with Vladimir Jabotinsky, the leader of the so-called Revisionists and a hard line political Zionist.[37]

From 1922 to 1924, Strauss participated in Rosenzweig’s Lehrhaus at Frankfurt-am-Main (the Freies Jüdisches Lehrhaus). In 1923-4 at the Frankfurt Lehrhaus Strauss led an analytical reading of Herman Cohen’s Religion of Reason.[38] Nehama Liebowitz and Strauss attended Julius Guttmann’s Berlin seminar on Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed between 1924-5.[39] In exchange for her instruction in the Hebrew text of Saadya Gaon’s The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, Strauss read with Liebowitz the Greek text of Plato’s Gorgias.[40] In 1924-5 at the Frankfurt Lehrhaus Strauss analysed Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise, exchanged classes on Plato for classes on Abravanel with Nahum Glatzer,[41] and spoke on “The Theory of Political Zionism.”[42] He also published articles in Der Jude and Jüdische Rundschau. Strauss’s 1924 article, “Cohens Analyse der Bibelwissenschaft Spinozas”, in Der Jude brought him to the attention of Julius Guttmann and secured a research position for him at the Berlin Jewish institution, Akademie für Wissenschaft des Judentums.[43] He was charged by Guttmann with research on Jewish philosophy. At the Akademie, between 1925 and 1928, he wrote his first book, Spinoza’s Critique of Religion as the Foundation of his Science of the Bible, Investigations into Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise, (dedicated to the memory of Franz Rosenzweig), which was published in 1930 by the Akademie’s publishing house. He also helped to edit the Akademie’s Moses Mendelssohn Jubilee Edition, and translated Mendelssohn’s Hebrew works for it.

In 1927, Strauss meets Gershon Scholem and they “became increasingly close.”[44]

After completing his Spinoza book, Strauss was given the task by Julius Guttmann, who acted as the chairman of the Academy, of analysing the Wars of the Lord by Gersonides (Levi ben Gershon),[45] and began by analysing Gersonides’ Teaching on Prophecy.

Gershon Scholem’s letter on Oskar Goldberg was distributed in Berlin by Leo Strauss and Walter Benjamin.[46]

In 1931, the Akademie started to experience financial trouble and so Strauss applied for a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation for the Social Sciences in Germany.[47]

Strauss’s study of Spinoza’s Biblical criticism led him to doing research on Thomas Hobbes on the one hand and to doing research on Maimonides on the other. The Hobbes research brought him into contact with Carl Schmitt. The first part of Strauss’s Hobbes’ Book was shown to Carl Schmitt. One of the last publications of Strauss was an outstanding review of The Concept of the Political, by Carl Schmitt.[48] Schmitt helped to get the article published in the same journal in which the original book had been published. Schmitt provided a professional assessment of Strauss and recommendation for a fellowship to the Rockefeller Foundation for the Social Sciences in Germany. Ernst Cassirer and Julius Guttmann also gave recommendations on Strauss’s behalf, but Strauss places the chief responsibility of receiving the fellowship on Schmitt.[49]

At the end of 1932, Strauss was in Paris, France, studying on the Rockefeller Fellowship mediaeval Jewish and Islamic philosophy. Here he married a recently widowed Jewish woman called Marie (Mirjam) Bernsohn (b. 1900 in Erfurt, Thüringen), on 20 June 1933, whom he had previously met in Berlin in 1930. Strauss thus acquires a son-in-law, Thomas (Petri).[50]

Strauss also met up with Alexandre Kojève (1902-1968),[51] whom he had met in Berlin in the late 1920s.

During a visit to France from Germany in Easter 1933 by Hans-Georg Gadamer, Strauss introduces Kojève to Gadamer.[52]

On 10 December 1932, Walter Benjamin wrote to Gershon Scholem (his letter not extant), “… but I am glad to hear that you take an interest in Leo Strauss, who always made an excellent impression on me, too.”[53]

On 10 June 1933, Strauss wrote to inform Carl Schmitt that the Rockefeller Fellowship had been awarded to him for a second year and that he intended to study at Paris for another semester and then go to England to study Hobbes in the early part of 1934. Of the local scholars, the Arabist Louis Massignon and André Siegfried made the strongest impression on him. Strauss also becomes interested in Charles Mauras, asking for a letter of introduction to him from Schmitt. Strauss saw “striking parallels” to Hobbes in Mauras’ political thought.[54]

At the beginning of 1934, Strauss and his family had moved to London, England.[55] From a postcard to Kojève (in English) Strauss tells Kojève that he finds England and the English are more congenial to him than his experience of France and the French. (He writes from a Boarding house facing the British Museum). He hopes to get a card in order to use it for his research, and is taking English lessons. By 16 January 1934, he says that having attained his borrowing card he goes “each day [to] the British Museum (half a minute’s walk) in order to study the English Hobbes-literature and the Hobbes-MSS.” And what Strauss regards as “the most important fact”: “I saw Downing Street, the seat of the greatest power of the world - much, much smaller than the Wilhelmstrasse. I had a very strong impression.”[56]

From 1928 to 1932, Strauss wrote his second book, which was on Maimonides’s Prophetology, called Philosophy and Law: Contributions to the Understanding of Maimonides and his Predecessors. It was not published until 1935, by which time Strauss was in England. It had to be published by Schocken, because by that time (1935) the Akademie’s publishing house was no longer allowed by the Nazis to publish and Schocken had taken over that task for the Akademie.[57]

On 29 March 1935 Gershon Scholem wrote to Walter Benjamin, “Any day now, Schocken will bring out a book by Leo Strauss (I devoted great energy to obtaining an appointment for Strauss in Jerusalem), marking the occasion of the Maimonides anniversary. The book begins with an unfeigned and copiously argued (if completely ludicrous) affirmation of atheism as the most important Jewish watchword. Such admirable boldness for a book that will be read by everybody as having been written by a candidate for Jerusalem! It even outdoes the first 40 pages of your postdoctoral dissertation! I admire this ethical [moral] stance and regret the – obviously conscious and deliberately provoked – suicide of such a capable mind. As is to be expected here, only three people at the very most will make use of the freedom to vote for the appointment of an atheist to a teaching position that serves to endorse the philosophy of religion. I hope I will be able to furnish you with a copy of the book once it comes out.”[58] Walter Benjamin replies, “I am also very interested in Leo Strauss’s book. What you tell me about him fits in with the pleasant image of him I have always made for myself.”[59] On 3 May 1936, Walter Benjamin writes to Scholem about the whereabouts of Leo Strauss, “Is Leo Strauss in Palestine? I have a mind to address his books in the journal Orient and Okzident… Perhaps you’ll be seeing the author; if so, can you prevail upon him to send me the books.”[60]

“Nothing will come of Palestine: Guttmann is going there.”[61]

Ernest Barker (Oxford University) becomes acquainted with Strauss and gives assistance and support.[62]

On 9 April 1934, Strauss tells Kojève, “I like this country, about which one might say what Diderot said about Hobbes: dry (the pubs close at 10 pm sharp here, and the stuff’s expensive!), austere and forceful, much more than I do France. And by contrast to the Bibliothèque Nationale, the British Museum is a place to which one enjoys going.” “I have become a real Hobbes philologist: MSS. Etc.”[63]

Strauss uncovers what he believes may well be Hobbes’ earliest writings. But he may have later changed his mind, at least about some of the essays.[64]

In 1935, Strauss relocates to Cambridge (38 Perne Road) and is associated with the Sidney Sussex College, The University of Cambridge, meets R. H. Tawney (introduced by means of a letter of recommendation by Henri Sée),[65] and finishes his Hobbes Book.

On 9 May 1935, Strauss writes to Kojève that his Hobbes Book “…[is] the first attempt at a radical liberation from the modern prejudice,” and that “The economic situation is serious. I have a grant until 1 October, which does not exceed the minimum for bare existence. It remains an open question whether it will be renewed for another year. After that it is certainly over. Where we turn, only the gods know. I have no luck, dear Mr. Kochevnikoff.”[66]

In 1936, Strauss was finally able to publish The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (Clarendon Press, Oxford). Michael Oakeshott writes a lengthy book review of it.

“The board of the faculty of the University of Cambridge gave [Strauss] a grant for the Academic year 1936/37.”[67] However, economic circumstances and the unlikely prospect of future employment forced Strauss to look elsewhere, and so “[I]n 1936 and 1937… Strauss made trips to the United States to look for a permanent position.”[68]

In the autumn of 1937, he was appointed Research Fellow in the Department of History at Columbia University, New York. Strauss left for the USA, leaving his wife and step-son behind in the UK.

Strauss “came [to the New School of Social Research, New York] in 1938 on the basis of [Harold] Laski’s strong recommendation and subsidised by fees donated from the latter’s American Lecture tour.”[69]

From 1938 to 1948 Strauss was a member of the graduate faculty, New School for Social Research, New York. Becoming in 1938 a lecturer in political science.

In 1939 his wife joins him in New York from the UK, bringing her son with her.

In September of the same year the Second World War begins.

Strauss becomes an associate professor of political science and philosophy in 1941. In 1944 he becomes a professor of Political Science and Philosophy. Concurrently: 1939-40 visiting lecturer: Hamilton College, Clinton, NY; Union College, Schenectady, NY; Middlebury College, Vt; Amherst College Massachusetts; Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

During 1941 to 1948, the bulk of Persecution and the Art of Writingwas written (published in 1952).

In 1942, Strauss’s sister, Bettina Kraus (married to Paul Kraus), dies in Cairo. Strauss’s father dies of a heart attack in Kirchhain, Germany, but Strauss does not learn of this until after the War. All of Strauss’s relatives still living in Germany were then deported to a concentration camp in 1942, and died there.[70]

In 1944, Strauss becomes a US citizen.

Paul Kraus dies in Cairo (firstly thought to be suicide, later found out to have probably been murder).

1945 World War Two ends.

Strauss and his wife adopt the four year old Jenny Ann Kraus (b. 1942) (his niece) in 1946, after the death of her father, Paul Kraus, in Egypt.

In 1948 On Tyranny was finished and published.

In 1948 the Charles Merriam Chair of Political Science was still vacant at the University of Chicago after Merriam’s retirement two or three years previously. Herman Pritchett and others “began to hear about Leo Strauss at the New School in New York. It was agreed that he should come out, and we should have a look at him. He came out in the summer of 1948. Hans Morganthau, who was acting chairman that summer, took Leo over to [Robert] Hutchins’ office and left him there. By the time he came out, a half hour later, Hutchins had appointed Strauss as a member of the department [of political science], full professor, with a salary more than anybody else in the department was getting.”[71] Strauss had recommendations from Michael Oakeshott, Ernest Barker, and R. H. Tawney. When consulted by Hutchins, Mortimer Adler and Richard McKeon gave strong recommendations for Strauss’s appointment.[72] Hutchins was faced with the task of appointing one of three applicants to the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. The applicants were: Alessandro d’Entreves, Leo Strauss, and Alfred Cobban. Edward Shils had also recommended Strauss (in 1936 Shils had read Strauss’s dissertation).[73]

From 1949 to 1973 Strauss remains a member of the faculty, University of Chicago. From 1949 to 1968, he is a professor of political philosophy.

During 1949, Martin Buber offers his position at the University of Jerusalem to Strauss after his retirement, but Strauss declines.[74] In October, Strauss delivered his six Walgreen Lectures on Natural Right and History to a public audience.

From 1949 to 1953, Strauss works on Natural Right and History (published in 1953).

In 1953 Strauss is a visiting professor to the University of California, Berkeley.[75] He was offered a tenured position there, but declined.

From late 1954 to mid 1955 Strauss accepts a position as visiting professor of philosophy and political science at the Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, Israel.[76] He also travels to Germany, to Marburg to visit his father’s grave and to Heidelberg to lecture at Gadamer’s invitation on Socrates.

From 1957 to the end of his life, Strauss’s lectures, seminars, and courses start to be audio-taped and typed up, funded by contributing students.

During 1956 Strauss suffered a “massive heart attack” according to George Anastaplo.[77] Voegelin refers to it as a “small heart attack” in correspondence with Strauss.[78]

From 1953 to 1957 Thoughts on Machiavelli was written,[79] and published in 1958.

From 1944 to 1957 What is Political Philosophy? And other Essays was written, and published in 1959.

In 1959 Strauss became the Robert Maynard Hutchins distinguished serving professor at the University of Chicago.

From 1962 to 1964 The City and Man was written, and published in 1964.

In 1963 Strauss received a Citation for Doctor of Laws from Dropsie College.

From 1964 to 1965 Socrates and Aristophanes was written, and published in 1966.

In 1965 an Honorary doctorate in Political Philosophy, University of Hamburg was awarded to Strauss. He had planned to return to Germany to receive the honour, however due to ill-health he had to decline. He also declined a job offer.[80]

In 1966 an Honorary doctorate for contributions to Jewish thought, Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati) was awarded to Strauss.

On 3 June 1967, Kojève dies of a heart attack after just having addressed the delegates to one of the negotiations of the GATT. Strauss retires from the University of Chicago at the end of this year. His last public appearance as a member of the University of Chicago was for a lecture he gave at the Downtown Centre of the university on the 1 December 1967.[81] Strauss departed shortly after this lecture for Claremont Men’s College, California.[82]

In 1968, Liberalism Ancient and Modern was published, containing mostly previously published articles and essays.

From 1968 to 1969, Strauss was a professor of political science, Claremont Men’s College, California.

In 1969 a Diploma, honorary Doctor of Laws, St. John’s University, Jamaica, New York. Citation for Doctor of Laws, St. John’s University, Jamaica, New York was awarded to Strauss.

From 1969 to 1973, Strauss was Scott Buchanan distinguished scholar-in-residence, St. John’s College, Annapolis.

During 1970 Xenophon’s Socratic Discourse was completed.

During 1972 Xenophon’s Socrates was completed.

From September to November 1971, Argument and Action of Plato’s Laws was composed, but it was not published until 1975.

From 1967 to 1973 Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, mostly composed of previously published essays and articles, was written, but it was not published until 1983.

Sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 pm on 18 October 1973, Strauss dies of pneumonia. He is buried in the cemetery of the Knesseth Israel Synagogue, Annapolis. Psalm 114 was read in the funeral service at the request of family and friends.[83]


1. Anastaplo, George, 1983, The Artist as Thinker: From Shakespeare to Joyce, Ohio, USA, Ohio University Press, Swallow Press.

2. Banfield, Edward C., 1992, “Leo Strauss,” in Shils, Edward, pp. 490-501.

3. Boar, M. A., Jewel, M. E., Sigelman, M. E. L., (eds.), 1991, Political Science in America: oral history of a discipline, University of Kentucky Press.

4. Buber, Martin, 1972-75, Briefwechsel aus sieben Jahrzehnten / mit einem Geleitwort von Ernst Simon; und einem biographischen Abriss als Einleitung von Grete Schaeder, L. Schneider, Heidelberg.

5. Deutsch, Kenneth L., and Soffer, Walter, 1987, The Crisis of Liberal Democracy: A Straussian Perspective, New York, State University of New York Press.

6. Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 1984, “Gadamer on Strauss: an Interview,” Interpretation: a Journal of Political Philosophy, volume 12, nn. 2&3, pp. 1-13.

7. Gadamer, Hans-Georg, 1985, Philosophical Apprenticeships, trans. Robert R. Sullivan, MIT Press, USA.

8. Glatzer, Nahum N., 1956, “The Frankfort Lehrhaus,” Leo Baeck Year Book, 1, London, pp. 105-122.

9. Green, Simon J. D., 1995, “The Tawney-Strauss Connection: On Historicism and Values in the History of Political Ideas,” The Journal of Modern History, 67, June, pp. 255-277.

10. Gunnell, John G., The Descent of Political Theory: The Genealogy of an American Vocation, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

11. Kohler, Lotte and Saner, Hans (eds.), 1992, Hannah Arendt/Karl Jaspers Correspondence 1926-1969, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers.

12. Korth, Hildegard, 1978, Guide to the Leo Strauss Papers, The University of Chicago Library, Department of Special Collections, Joseph Regenstein Library.

13. Lerner, Ralph, 1976, “Leo Strauss (1899-1973),” in American Jewish Year Book, pp. 91-97.

14. Lipton, David, 1978, Ernst Cassirer, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

15. Lüders, Joachim and Wehner, Ariane, 1989, Mittelhessen - eine Heimat für Juden? Das Schicksal der Familie Strauss aus Kirchhain, Gymnasium Philippinum, Marburg, Germany.

16. Mary Ann Druback,1992, Robert M. Hutchins: Portrait of an Educator, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

17. Meier, Heinrich, 1995, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: the Hidden Dialogue; including Strauss’s notes on Schmitt’s Concept of the Political and three Letters from Strauss to Schmitt, Chicago, University of Chicago, translated by J. Harvey Lomax.

18. Myers, David N., 1992, “The Fall and Rise of Jewish Historicism: The Evolution of the Akademie für Wissenschaft des Judentums (1919-1934),” Hebrew Union College Annual, vol. LXIII, Cincinnati, pp. 107-144.

19. Platt, Michael, 1987, “Leo Strauss: Three Quarrels, Three Questions, One Life,” in Deutsch and Soffer, 1987, pp. 17-28.

20. Rosenzweig, Franz, 1935, Briefe, edited by Edith Rosenzweig, Berlin, Schocken.

21. Scholem, Gershon (ed.), 1989, The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem 1932-1940, Translated by Gary Smith and Andre Lefevere, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.

22. Scholem, Gershon and Adorno, Theodor W. (eds.), 1994, The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, translated by Jacobson, Manfred R. and Jacobson, Evelyn M.

23. Shils, Edward (ed.), 1992a, Remembering the University of Chicago, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

24. Shils, Edward, 1992b, “R. M. Hutchins,” in Shils, Edward, 1992a, pp. 185-196.

25. Strauss, 1995,“Existentialism” Lecture, in Interpretation: a Journal of Political Philosophy, 1995, Spring, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 303-318.

26. Strauss, Leo and Löwith, Karl, 1988, “Correspondence,” in Independent Journal of Philosophy, vol. 5/6, pp. 177-192.

27. Strauss, Leo, 1936, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis, Oxford, England, Clarendon Press.

28. Strauss, Leo, 1959, What is Political Philosophy? And other Essays, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

29. Strauss, Leo, 1983, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

30. Strauss, Leo, 1991, On Tyranny, Revised and expanded edition, Victor Gourevitch and Michael S. Roth (Eds.), The Free Press, New York.

31. Strauss, Leo, 1996, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Meier, Heinrich, Vol. 1, Die Religionskritik Spinozas und zugehörigen Schriften, Stuttgart, Germany.

32. Strauss, Leo, 1997, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Meier, Heinrich, Vol. 2, Philosophie und Gesetz - Frühe Schriften, Stuttgart, Germany.

33. Strauss, Leo, and Green, Kenneth Hart, (ed.), 1997, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity, New York, State University of New York Press.

34. Strauss, Leo, and Voegelin, Eric, 1993, Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence Between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964, Peter Emberley, Barry Cooper (trans. & eds.), University State University Press, University Park, Pennsylvania.

35. Udoff, Alan, (ed.), 1991, On Leo Strauss’s Thought: Towards a Critical Engagement, Colorado, Lynne Rienner Publishers.

36. Various Authors, 1976a, American Jewish Year Book, volume 76.

37. Various Authors, 1976b, Essays in Honor of Jacob Klein, Annapolis, Maryland, St. John’s College Press.


[1] Lebenslauf published in Strauss, 1997, page 298, and Strauss’s Birth Certificate is found in the Standesamt Kirchhain reprinted in Lüders and Wehner, 1989, page 15.
[2] Kirchhain, a small village about 8 kilometres east and slightly north of Marburg. Cf. Strauss and Green, 1997, page 312, “[Kirchhain]… a very small German town, not to say a village.” (Transcription corrected from audio recording of lecture).
[3] Hans-Georg Gadamer, 1984, page 8 “Hesse, the province from which Strauss hailed, was known for its anti-Semitism in the early decades of this century.”Cf. on the contrary fn. 8.
[4] Lüders and Wehner, 1989. Banfield, 1992, page 493, “Once, illustrating the thought that a man’s demeanour may be an artefact of a bargaining strategy, [Leo] Strauss told how as a boy he watched his father deal with the peasants who came to his office to sell their grain. The merchant held a newspaper before his face while a peasant stood first on one foot and then on another before him. After a rather long wait he suddenly lowered the paper and announced the price in a take-it-or-leave-it tone.” Cf. Anastaplo, 1983, page 262-263, “Such playfulness as Mr. Strauss could exhibit was, I suspect, inherited, for another story he liked to tell was of a prank played by his father upon a travelling business man who used to stop in their German town. The traveller was known as a prodigious eater—and among his feats was that of feasting upon an omelette of a dozen eggs. On one occasion, the elder Strauss paid the innkeeper to put, unannounced, two dozen eggs in the omelette. The traveller ate and ate and ate but simply could not finish what had been served him. He was heard to lament, as he pushed his plate away, ‘I am not the man I was.’”
[5] Leo Strauss’s grandfather, Meyer Strauss, opened a business in Kirchhain, which dealt in grain, feed, fertilisers, and later possibly also cattle. Hugo inherited his father’s business. For extensive coverage of Strauss’s family history cf. Lüders and Wehner, 1989.
[6] Lüders and Wehner, 1989.
[7] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 459-460.
[8] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 312-3, “… going very far back into my childhood. I believe I was about five or six years old in some very small German town, not to say a village, when I saw in my father’s house refugees from Russia, after some pogroms which had happened there, women, children, old men, on their way to Australia. At that time it could not happen in Germany. We Jews there lived in profound peace with our non-Jewish neighbours. There was a government, perhaps not in every respect admirable, but keeping an admirable order everywhere; and such things as pogroms would have been absolutely impossible. Nevertheless this story which I heard on that occasion about pogroms in Russia made a very deep impression on me, which I have not forgotten until the present day. It was an unforgettable moment. I sensed for a moment that it could happen here. That was overlaid soon by other pleasing experiences, but still it went to my bones, if I may say so.” (Transcription corrected from audio recording of lecture). As for the “other pleasing experiences,” we can only guess.
[9] Lüders and Wehner, 1989, page 11.
[10] Lebenslauf published in Strauss, 1997, page 298.
[11] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460. On rabbits cf. Ralph Lerner, 1976, page 91 “…. It was a question to be settled by religious law whether to indulge the young Leo Strauss’s passion for raising pet rabbits.”
[12] Lebenslauf published in Strauss, 1997, page 298.
[13] Lebenslauf published in Strauss, 1997, page 298 and anecdote: “Strauss, age sixteen, feigned appendicitis to escape conscription but, unfortunately for him, in the operating room a doctor found that his temperature was normal. He was sent to Belgium as an interpreter. [Years later,] In Chicago, Mrs. Strauss kept a small framed sepia photograph of the soldier, looking like a nice boy, on display in their living room.” Banfield, 1992, page 493.
[14] Lebenslauf published in Strauss, 1997, page 298.
[15] Strauss, 1983, page 167.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Strauss, 1959, page 242.
[18] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460.
[19] Strauss, 1983, page 233.
[20] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460.
[21] Strauss, 1983, page 31.
[22] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460.
[23] “Jacob Klein was born in 1899, in Libau, Russia. His education was begun in Lipetsk, and continued in Brussels from 1912-1914 and then in Berlin. After graduating in 1917 from the Friedrichs Realgymnasium in Berlin, he studied at the universities of Berlin and Marburg/Lahn, his subjects being philosophy, physics, mathematics. In 1922 he received the PhD at Marburg under Nicolai Hartmann. In the years that followed, he continued studying in Marburg and Berlin, chiefly physics, mathematics and ancient philosophy. […] The first part of [Greek Mathematics and the Origin of Algebra] was the thesis for Habilitation, which would have taken place at the university of Berlin in October 1932, had it not been for the change in the political situation in Germany at that time. […] In 1934-35, Jacob Klein was a university professor in the history of Mathematics at the University of Prague. From 1935-7 he was a fellow of the Moses Mendelsohnn Stiftung zur Forderung der Geisteswissenschaften. On 1 April 1938, Jacob Klein arrived in New York.” Various Authors, 1976b, page i.
[24] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460.
[25] “Today [1977] I can still see before me the long seminar table in the Haus an Plan and recall my astounded attention when a young student with a very tender, soft, almost girlish voice brought up a few clever things about Nietzsche in Nicolai Hartmann’s seminar. That was Jacob Klein, with whom I subsequently became friends and who later made an international reputation for himself in the field of Greek philosophy and mathematics.” Gadamer, 1985, page 17.
[26] Gadamer, 1984, page 1-2, “[Gadamer first met Strauss] In 1920 or there abouts. He himself never studied at Marburg [while Gadamer was there], but his home town (Kirchhain) was only a few miles away and he sometimes used our library, of which I was the so-called ‘administrator,’ that is to say, the person in charge of procuring the books requested by students. Our budget was not very large, but the library was a good one. Those initial encounters still stand out in my memory. He was short and I was tall. I especially recall that little look of his: furtive, suspicious, ironic, and always slightly amused. We had a common friend, Jacob Klein, who alerted me to the fact that Strauss harboured certain misgivings about me. Not that I had anything against Jews – I doubt whether he ever thought that – but he must have sensed in me the typical arrogance of a young student who is proud of his success. He was probably right. After that, I was very careful not to offend him, knowing how sensitive he was. We were on good terms and talked now and then but otherwise had few relations with each other. Our first real acquaintance came much later…” For this later acquaintance cf. footnote 52.
[27] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460.
[28] Lebenslauf and PhD itself in Strauss, 1997. According to Gadamer in Gadamer, 1983, page 5 “Hamburg, originally founded as a maritime institute, had only recently grown into a full university. The city, which was wealthy, poured a lot of money into it. It had Bruno Snell and Cassirer, the greatest scholar to come from the School of Marburg [sc. of Neo-Kantianism]. Cassirer was a voracious reader with a phenomenal memory. He was elegant, reserved, and very kind, but one would hardly describe him as a powerful personality. He had neither Heidegger’s dramatic quality nor Hartmann’s talent for reaching young people.”
In 1970, Strauss referred to his Ph.D. thesis as a “disgraceful performance” (Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460), however this may have been due to Jacob Klein already having referred to his own Ph.D. as “not worth the paper on which it was written”, Strauss and Green, 1997, page 458.

According to the accompanying Lebenslauf, “Ich bin jüdischen Glaubens” (I am of the Jewish Faith).

[29] Lebenslauf published in Strauss, 1997, page 298.
[30] Strauss to Karl Löwith, 23 June 1935, page 183 of Strauss and Löwith, 1988.
[31] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 460-461.
[32] Strauss and Green, 1997, page461.
[33] Strauss and Green, 1997, page453.
[34] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 461.
[35] Strauss, 1995, page 304.
[36] Ibid.
[37] cf. Strauss and Green, 1997, page 31 “I was myself (as you might have guessed) a political Zionist in my youth, and was a member of a Zionist student organisation. In this capacity, I occasionally met Jabotinsky, the leader of the Revisionists. He asked me, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Well, we read the Bible, we study Jewish history, Zionist theory, and of course, we keep abreast of developments, and so on.’ He replied, ‘And rifle practice?’ And I had to say, ‘No.’ Which was a very big inconsistency on our part.’” (Transcription corrected from audio tape).
[38] Glatzer, Nahum N., 1956, page 116.
[39] Udoff, Alan, 1991, page 26-27.
[40] Ibid.
[41] Platt, Michael, 1987, page 28.
[42] Franz Rosenzweig to Ernst Simon, 6/12/24 in Rosenzweig, 1935, page 1007.
[43] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 4.
[44] Scholem 1989, page 24.
[45] Strauss and Green, 1997, page 4.
[46] Scholem, Gershon and Adorno, Theodor W., 1994, Benjamin to Scholem, 14 February 1929, “And then I hope to be of some use regarding your extraordinary letter about [Oskar] Goldberg. Encouraged by the great success I had reading it to Hessel, I passed it on to someone you are sure to know, Dr. [Leo] Strauss of the Jewish Academy, to be copied and further distributed in partibus infidelium. I won’t deny that he awakens my trust and I find him sympathetic. I will soon intercept him once again at the state library, at which time I hope to get his reports from the theatre of war”, page 347. About a month later, Strauss seems to present at the great Heidegger/Cassirer debate in Davos, Switzerland and so is missing from Berlin. Benjamin to Scholem, 15 March 1929, “[Leo] Strauss, whom I mentioned previously, has disappeared from sight. But I will send out a warrant for his arrest since he took with him an extensive bibliography on the nature of the fairy tale. This may advance the cause of your Goldberg letter, which is also still in his possession.” Ibid. page 349.
[47] Udoff, 1991, page 13.
[48] Published in 1932.
[49] Letter from Strauss to Carl Schmitt, 10 July 1933, in Meier, Heinrich, 1995, page 127.
[50] Lüders and Wehner, 1989.
[51] Aleksandr Vladimirovitch Koscheffnikow was born in Moscow on 11 May 1902. He was the son of a well known psychiatrist, Alexei Kozhevnikov, the god-son (eldest half-brother) to W. Kandinsky, the famous painter.
1917 Russian Revolution.

Arrested by the Cheka for selling black market soap, and narrowly escapes execution. Released with the help of influential family friends. He becomes a convinced communist. When denied the possibility of further education, he decided to cross the Polish border with a friend. In was place briefly in a Polish prison as a suspected spy. Reaches Germany, where he sold smuggled family jewellery to support himself.

He studied philosophy at Heidelberg and Berlin, and received his doctorate in 1926 under Karl Jaspers on the religious philosophy of Vladimir Soloviev. He also attended classes by Jaspers, Husserl, and Heidegger. In the years that followed he travelled extensively in Italy studying art history. In 1928, Kojève arrived in Paris to study Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. During the 10 years or so following his departure from Russia, Kojève had been supported by a wealthy uncle. When his uncle’s business went bankrupt in 1930, Kojève was forced to find a living. In 1933, Kojève takes over classes on Hegel from Koyré who leaves to teach at Cairo.

From 1933 to 1939, he lectured on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. Kojève’s auditors (not all necessarily enrolled) include such outstanding intellectuals and scholars as: Raymond Aron, Georges Bataille, Alexandre Koyré, M. Merleau-Ponty, B. Parain, Jacques Lacan, Raymond Polin, Raymond Queneau, Rogert Caillais, Pierre Klossowsky, Pierre Uri, Robert Marjolin, André Breton, Gaston Fessard S.J., Tran Duc Thao, Hannah Arendt (briefly, while passing through Paris). Following the defeat of France, Kojève was demobilised from the army. In 1941, he went to Marseilles, which was then part of Vichy France, with the hope of leaving Europe for the USA. In 1944, he joined the Resistance and risked his life in trying to convince a troop of Tartars not to fight with the Nazis. His resistance group was called “Combat.” He did not serve in the Maquis, the armed resistance. After the war, he was persuaded by a former student, Robert Marjolin, to join the Ministere de L’Economie et des Finances. In the course of his work he travelled to North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Japan. Strauss would send his best students to Paris, to received instruction from Kojève. In 1957, Kojève travelled to Germany, and visited Carl Schmitt there. In 1963, Kojève played an important part in the GATT negotiation of the Kennedy Round. On a trip to Germany in 1967, he spoke to radical students there and told them that the best thing that they could do would be to learn Greek. Kojève died in Brussels on 3 June 1968, following an address to the members of the Common Market. He was a chevalier of the legion of Honour.

[52] Gadamer, 1985, page 74, “At Easter 1933 we made our first foreign visit (and the last we would make for a long time) to Paris, with the little money we could get together and were allowed to take. I mention this trip because of two meetings. The first was with Leo Strauss, whom I often saw. He was in Paris as a Rockefeller fellow, and of course, he would not return to Germany. At that time he was working on his Hobbes’ book, which he later sent me, thereby continuing a good intellectual communication that the war would abruptly cut off. I would not see him again until 1954 in Heidelberg, but after that I would often meet him in the United States. The other meeting was with Alexandre Kojève, who at that time still called himself “Koscheffnikow.” He was a wonderful story-teller and socialite. Also, an experience that had much to say was a visit to the cinema in Paris. In the “News of the Week” was shown a gymnastic festival with a well organised parade. It did not have anything to do with the Nazis, but it had an overwhelmingly comical effect on the French, no doubt because they were not yet able to imagine how masses of people can be organised. With the French it was still called – that was funny for us – le nudisme allemand. How harmless these misunderstandings all seemed, grotesquely being rehearsed at precisely the moment – Easter 1933 – when the new political “style” of Hitler and the art of organising the masses were finding their unmistakable voice.” And Gadamer, 1984 page 2, “…in 1933, when I availed myself of the opportunity to travel abroad. Germany was undergoing another radical change and no-one was allowed to take more than 300 marks with him. For me that was a small fortune and, to that extent, hardly a restriction. But it was nevertheless a warning. I was bright enough to see that before long we would not be allowed a single penny for such purposes. I went to Paris. Strauss was there on a Rockefeller grant and we spent a very pleasant ten days together. Among other things, he introduced me to Kojève and took me to a Jewish Restaurant. We talked a good deal about the situation in Germany and the French reaction to it prior to Hitler’s coming to power. One day we went to the movies. The newsreel contained a segment entitled ‘German Nudism’, which turned out to be a report on a recent athletic event. The ‘nudism’ referred to was that of the athletes clad in sports attire! The event had the aspect of a military parade – as you know, we are masters of organisation – and the participants looked a bit like robots. The French, who were still unaccustomed to these things, found it ludicrous that human beings should be so completely regimented. The whole theatre immediately burst into laughter. All of this was totally new to me who, as a young teacher with no travelling allowance, had never been outside of Germany.”
[53] Scholem, 1989, page 24.
[54] Meier, Heinrich, 1995, page 127-128.
[55] Banfield, 1992, page 494, “When he embarked for England Strauss carried with him the German manuscript of his book on Hobbes. It was wrapped in waxed canvas so that, if the ship sank, what he had to say about Hobbes would survive.”
[56] Strauss, 1991, page 223.
[57] Myers, David N., 1992, page 134-135.
[58] Scholem, 1989, pages 156-7.
[59] Ibid. 20 May 1935,page 161.
[60] Ibid. (translation changed) Scholem replies on 6 June 1936, “Leo Strauss doesn’t live in Palestine, but rather has spent the last 2 years in England, in Cambridge. Which means I don’t come into contact with him, I’m sorry to say.”
[61] Ibid., page 224. Sometime between 16 January 1934 and 9 April 1934.
[62] “I have watched the production of Dr. Strauss’s work, and I know the difficulties with which he has had to contend. I will not dwell upon them; I will only say that a knowledge of them adds to my admiration of the success which he has achieved in spite of them.” Pages ix-x of the first edition of the Hobbes Book, and cf. “I have to thank Professor Ernest Barker, who read the manuscript of the present study and made very helpful suggestions, and to whose kindness and interest it is primarily due that I was able to continue my work.” page xvii of the first edition, Strauss, 1936.
[63] Strauss, 1991, page 225.
[64] cf. review of R. Polin, in Strauss, 1959, page 195, “The most satisfactory section of Polin’s study is his critique of the attempt to trace in Hobbes’s writings a development from an early recognition of “honour” as “aristocratic virtue” to a later rejection of this principle [which is what Strauss himself did in his Hobbes book]. That attempt was occasioned by the observation that Hobbes may have been responsible for the thoughts expressed in Horae Subsecivae, i.e., by the consideration of a problem which is still unsolved.”
[65] Simon Green, 1995, Page 256.
[66] Strauss, 1991, page 231.
[67] Korth, 1978, quoted with permission of the University of Chicago Special Collections.
[68] Korth, 1978, quoted with permission of the University of Chicago Special Collections.
[69] Gunnell, John G., 1993, page 176.
[70] Lüders and Wehner, 1989.
[71] M. A. Boar, M. E. Jewel, L. Sigelman, 1991, page 111.
[72] Mary Ann Druback, 1992, page 174.
[73] Shils, 1992 page 494.
[74] Buber, 1972-75, pages 234-5.
[75] Letter to Voegelin, 23 June 1953, published in Strauss and Voegelin, 1993. It was a Summer Course; Strauss came back to Chicago early in September.
[76] Cf. Anastaplo, 1983, pages 269-270, “He did travel to Israel. I do not believe he ever made it to Athens and its Acropolis. He did get as far as the Piraeus [the sea-port of Athens], on a voyage between Israel and the United States. But he was too ill to travel up to the city and had to settle for a view of Athens from its port… Mr. Strauss did walk the streets of Jerusalem and feel at home there. Fellow Jews can remember him standing in front of his apartment at 7:30 in the morning, with his fuel can in hand, waiting for his regular allotment of neft from a horse-drawn wagon. This was a physical discipline which he seems to have looked forward to and which it would have been unthinkable to expect of him in the Chicago that served as his Athens.”
[77] Anastaplo, 1983, page 255.
[78] Strauss and Voegelin, 1993, page 102, 3 June 1956. And Strauss letter to Kojève, 4 June 1956, “I myself am just recovering from a coronary thrombosis…” Strauss, 1991, page 263.
[79] Banfield, 1992, page 494, “…when writing his book on Machiavelli, he employed a student assistant who had been an Army cryptographer.”
[80] Strauss, 1991, page 313, “I almost came to Europe this Spring: I had accepted an invitation from Hamburg for the 1965 S<ummer> S<emester>, but then had to cancel it for reasons of health. I should have liked to see with my own eyes how things are developing in Germany. From intelligent young Germans I got the impression that the development exhibits a certain parallelism to 1830 and ff: a turning away from German speculation (in the twentieth century, away from Heidegger) toward Western positivism (that is to say, American social science).”
[81] Anastaplo, 1983, page 259-261.
[82] Anastaplo, 1983, page 261, “[Strauss] came back to the city [Chicago] only once more, on the train which took him from California to Annapolis in 1969. A spontaneous champagne party greeted him, his wife, adopted daughter (an orphaned niece), and son in law at the rail road station between trains.”
[83] Udoff, 1991, page 14.