Skip to main content

Hans and Eleonore Jonas Collection

Identifier: AR 25645

Scope and Content Note

The Hans and Lore Jonas Collection documents the personal and professional lives of the philosopher and scholar Hans Jonas and his wife Eleonore Jonas. Much of the collection also focuses on documentation of their family members, especially their parents and brothers. The collection includes correspondence, photographs, articles, official documents, notes and unpublished writing, family trees, and poetry. Since Eleonore Jonas was better known as Lore Jonas, she is referred to by that name in this finding aid.

Series I and II largely center on the personal lives and notable experiences of Hans and Lore Jonas. Biographical information on Hans Jonas will be found among the official documents of Series I as well as in the series' obituaries of him and articles that relate to him as part of awards or honors bestowed on him. His friendship with Hannah Arendt is documented in this series through their correspondence here and via the writings of Lore Jonas in Series II. Series II further documents his creative interests with his poetry and sketches of him, but also contains many of Lore Jonas's personal reflections on events in her and her family's lives.

Series III centers on the families of Hans and Lore Jonas, especially on Gustav, Rosa, and Georg Jonas and on Siegfried, Paula, and Joseph Weiner. Their papers include family members' correspondence and official documents, but also family trees for the Jonas and Horowitz families, the writings of Siegfried Weiner, and a memorial by Hans Jonas for his brother-in-law, among various other papers of members of the Jonas and Weiner families.

The collection's fourth series holds papers that pertain to Hans Jonas's professional life as a philosopher and author, including some documentation of his professional connections. Basic information on his work will be seen in his curriculum vitae and list of publications found in Series IV. The series additionally includes notes on and drafts of his written work, particularly on his concept of gnosis and the beliefs and origins of Gnosticism. Material relating to his work on ethics and technology is evidenced in a lecture he gave at the one-hundredth anniversary of a German pharmaceutical firm. Admiration of his work can be seen in the material in this series that relate to awards and honors he won, such as the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and honors from the universities of Tübingen and Bamberg, among others. Hans Jonas's professional connections can be seen in some of the correspondence in this series. Series V, which holds the collection's newspaper clippings and other articles, includes further information on the importance of Hans Jonas's professional work as well as articles on other topics.

Photographs of Hans and Lore Jonas will be found in the first series, while photographs of family members are present in Series II.

The final series of the collection contains the collection-level inventories provided by the donor of the collection. These inventories list both books and archival materials given to the Leo Baeck Institute.


  • 1916-2016
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1990


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English, with smaller amounts of Hebrew, French and Czech.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Some folders are restricted to on-site digital access due to copyrighted content.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Hans Jonas was born in Mönchengladbach, Germany in 1903, the eldest son of Gustav Jonas, owner of a textile mill, and his wife Rosa. Gustav Jonas had been the eldest son of his family, with the family business, B. Jonas, having been founded in 1815. Rosa Jonas née Horowitz was the daughter of Jacob Horowitz, the Chief Rabbi of Krefeld. Hans Jonas had one brother, Georg.

Hans Jonas grew up the only Jewish boy in his grade at school and early on evidenced a liking for poetry and interest in philosophers such as Martin Buber. As it became clear he had little interest in business, his father was content to let him become an academic. In 1921 Hans completed his Abitur (high school diploma) and began his university studies, where he would focus on philosophy, art history, and religion, including Jewish studies and world religions; he studied at the universities of Freiburg, Heidelberg, Berlin, and Marburg.

At the University of Freiburg Hans Jonas became interested in the teachings of Martin Heidegger. He spent some time at the University of Berlin focusing on Jewish studies, where he attended lectures by Eduard Spranger, Ernst Troeltsch, Eduard Mayer, and Hugo Gressman; he also attended the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, attending the lectures of Leo Baeck, Ismar Elbogen, and Julius Guttmann. He returned to study for another year in Freiburg, where he met Hannah Arendt. After Martin Heidegger moved to the University of Marburg, Hans Jonas and Hannah Arendt followed him. With Hannah he also attended the lectures of the theologian Rudolf Bultmann, for whom he wrote a paper on the concept of the knowing (gnosis) of God as expressed in the Gospel of John. Bultmann convinced him to expand on this subject as the focus of his dissertation, which he did with Heidegger as his advisor. He completed this work in 1928, receiving his doctorate from the University of Marburg, and would later use this doctoral thesis as the basis for his work Gnosis und spätantiker Geist (Gnosis and the Spirit of Late Antiquity).

At the end of 1933 Hans Jonas emigrated to London. In 1935 he arrived in Palestine, where he joined Haganah, the Jewish defense organization. In January 1938 his father, Gustav Jonas, died of cancer. His mother was unable to leave Germany.

While in Palestine, in 1937, Hans Jonas met Eleonore (called Lore) Weiner.

Lore Weiner had been born in Karlsruhe in 1915 but grew up in Regensburg, Bavaria, and was the daughter of the attorney Siegfried Weiner, who was also active in the Regensburg Jewish Community, and his wife Pauline (called Paula) Weiner née Odenheimer. Paula Weiner had a degree in political science and economics, and during World War I had worked in the Ministry of the Interior in Berlin while Siegfried served in the army. Lore Weiner attended the Müllerische Töchterschule und Neues Gymnasium in Regensburg and in 1933 left Germany for Palestine with her parents and brother Franz Joseph (called Joseph). Due to her interrupted education she found work as a housecleaner and later in childcare.

Once World War II began in 1939 Hans Jonas volunteered for the British Army. In 1943 he and Lore Weiner wed. In 1944 he joined the British army's Jewish Brigade as member of a Royal Artillery regiment, serving in Southern Italy. In July 1945 his unit was sent to Germany, where he was stationed in Venlo and had the chance to visit his hometown of Mönchengladbach. There he learned of his mother's deportation and death in Auschwitz in 1942. After the war he returned to Palestine, where he and Lore lived for a time in an Arab village, Isawiya, on Mount Scopus (today part of Jerusalem). During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949 he served in the artillery of the Israeli Army.

In 1948, during the Arab-Israeli war, Lore Jonas's brother Joseph died in a battle outside of the town of Jenin. In 1950, Siegfried Weiner returned to Germany where at first he worked for a restitution organization. In 1953 he moved to Regensburg, where he once again established himself as a lawyer. Paula Weiner died in 1960, Siegfried Weiner in 1963; both were buried in Regensburg.

In 1949 Hans Jonas accepted the Lady Davis Fellowship, a one year fellowship teaching and research appointment in Montreal, Canada. In 1951 he accepted a position teaching philosophy at McGill University's Dawson College and in 1955 he accepted a position at the New School for Research in New York City, with the family moving to New Rochelle, New York. He taught at the New School until 1976, when he became Professor Emeritus. He was a visiting professor and lecturer at several other academic institutions, including Princeton University (1958), Columbia University (1961), Harvard University (1961), and the Union Theological Seminary (1966-1967), among others. He received various awards, among them honorary doctorates from Hebrew Union College (1962), the New School of Social Research (1976), and Phillips-Universität, Marburg, Germany (1976). In 1987 he was elected a member of the Board of Directors of the Leo Baeck Institute.

In 1934 the first part of Hans Jonas's work Gnosis und spätantiker Geist was published under the title Die mythologische Gnosis (The mythological Gnosis). The war and the intervening years prevented his further work on the subject until in 1953 he was persuaded by Rudolf Bultmann and Karl Jaspers; the second part of it was published the following year under the title Von der Mythologie zur mystischen Philosophie (From Mythology to mystical Philosophy) and was dedicated to the memory of his mother. Later editions included a supplementary volume. In 1963 his interest in Gnosticism resulted in the book The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity.

Hans Jonas was a prolific author; by 1981 he had more than seventy publications in German and English, often incorporating subjects also discussed in his published books. Some of his later works related to the interrelation of philosophy and biology. These included his books The Phenomenon of Life: Towards a Philosophical Biology (1966) and Organismus und Freiheit. Ansätze zu einer philosophischen Biologie (Organism and Freedom. Approaches to a Philosophical Biology, 1973). Other later works addressed the future and advances in technology, with a focus on responsibility and ethics in its use, including the books Das Prinzip Verantwortung. Versuch einer Ethik für die technologische Zivilization (The Principle of Responsibility. An Attempt of an Ethics for the Technological Civilization, 1979) and On Faith, Reason, and Responsibility: Six Essays (1980).

Hans and Lore Jonas had three children, Ayalah Rose, Jonathan Francis and Gabrielle Ursula. Hans Jonas died in 1993, just after having returned home from a trip to Italy to receive the Premio Nonino award. Lore Weiner continued correspondence with his publishers regarding his work after his death, and in 1994 was featured in an article about her father in the German publication Die Woche.


1 Linear Feet


The Hans and Eleonore Jonas Collection provides documentation of the personal lives of Hans and Eleonore Jonas, better known as Lore Jonas, along with papers relating to the professional work and achievements of the philosopher and scholar Hans Jonas. In addition, the collection contains papers of members of the Jonas and Weiner families. The collection includes correspondence; photographs; articles and unpublished writings, including personal reminiscences and poetry; official documents; notes; sketches; speeches; and family trees.

Other Finding Aid

Item-level inventories that list donated library books as well as archival materials have been retained as part of the archival collection. They comprise Series VI.

Related Material

Related is a collection of the LBI Library, consisting of about one hundred books from the library of Hans and Lore Jonas, collected by their daughter Ayalah Jonas. Many of these are personal family books, such as those dedicated by Hans Jonas to his daughter and books she collected about him. Notable are also about ten books by Hannah Arendt given by her to her friend Hans Jonas. These include his many handwritten annotations on the books' contents and subject matter, including both margin notes and loose sheets.

Das Philosophische Archiv der Universität Konstanz also includes a collection of papers of Hans Jonas (Sammlung Hans Jonas). The Hans Jonas-Zentrum Berlin is working on a critical edition of Hans Jonas collected works which is being published under the title “Kritische Gesamtausgabe der Werke” by the publishing house Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft (WBG) in Darmstadt.

Separated Material

A videocassette (VHS) of a television episode that featured Hans Jonas has been removed to the LBI Audiovisual Collection. The episode was a production of ABC television's program 20/20, titled "Children of Yesterday," and aired on December 1, 1989.

A cake server that originally belonged to the family of Rosa Jonas née Horowitz was removed to the LBI Arts and Objects Collection. This cake server was given by Rosa to Rudolf (Rudi) Vitus, a friend in Mönchengladbach who hid her prior to her deportation. In 1945 he gave it back to Hans Jonas.

Processing Information

The collection was originally donated in three shipments with item-level inventories for each installment, and individual documents placed in sleeves that included exterior notations identifying the documents. For preservation purposes, documents were removed from the plastic sleeves during the processing of the archival collection, with copies of the identifying notes made where identification might be unclear. The inventories, which also list the donated books now housed in the LBI Library, have been retained in the collection and form Series VI.

During the archival processing similar items were grouped together in folders, series, and subseries and duplicate copies of newspaper clippings were removed from the collection. Some larger folders were further subdivided during processing.

Guide to the Papers of Hans and Eleonore Jonas 1916-2016 AR 25645
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2016
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Hans_and_Eleonore_Jonas.xml

Revision Statements

  • September 2016:: dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States