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Obituaries

Jeanne Hersch; Swiss Philosopher

June 08, 2000

Jeanne Hersch, 89, Swiss philosopher whose work grappled with the nature of freedom. A follower of German existentialist Karl Jaspers, she was one of the first women to be appointed a professor at a Swiss university. She was born in Geneva in 1910 and began studying under Jaspers in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1932, shortly before Adolf Hitler's rise to power. Nazism and other totalitarian ideologies "so permeated the atmosphere that you had to breathe them in from morning to evening, literally poisoning every breath," Hersch said of life in Germany at that time. She became active in the Swiss socialist party but opposed communism. She was a professor at the University of Geneva from 1956 to 1977. Concurrently, from 1966 to 1968, she served as the first director of the philosophy division of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Hersch was a member of UNESCO's executive commission from 1970 to 1972. Among her published works were "The Right to Be a Man," "Ideologies and Reality" and "The Power of Freedom," as well as French translations of and commentaries on Jaspers' works. On Monday in Geneva.

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