German philosopher Martin Heidegger is considered by many to be one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. His works have influenced everyone from Jean-Paul Sartre to the theologian Paul Tillich. He is most readily associated with phenomenology and existentialism. Recently-released writings might shed light on whether was he also a fervent Nazi and anti-Semite. In addition, new questions are being raised on what influence Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party played on his masterpiece treatise Being and Time (1927) and other works.
The publication of three new volumes of “never released” work of philosopher Martin Heidegger is titled Black Notebooks. The release of Black Notebooks is the “smoking gun” connection linking Heidegger to the fascist followings of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, according to Berlin-based writer Paul Hockenos. According to Hockenos, these new volumes leave little doubt that Heidegger was a fervent anti-Semite during the Nazi era. Before his death in 1976, Heidegger personally directed when his unpublished works would be released. The Black Notebooks are expected to be released later this month in Germany.
Martin Heidegger was born on September 26, 1889 in the small village of Messkirch, Germany. Raised Roman Catholic, his father was an official with the village church. Heidegger studied at the University of Freiburg and began teaching there in 1915. He served as a Private in the First World War, but never left Germany. His philosophical development began when he read Brentano and Aristotle. From there he proceeded to engage deeply with Kant, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Out of such influences Heidegger’s masterpiece Being and Time was born. Being and Time is hailed as one of the most significant texts in contemporary European philosophy.
In 1933 Heidegger joined the Nazi Party and held the elected position of Rector of Freiburg University. Diverging accounts during the Hitler era paint Heidegger as either an enthusiastic Nazi or as an obedient, academic offering, token acceptance of Nazi policy, who clandestinely conducted an underground campaign of resistance. The correct answer may lie in the release of the Black Notebooks.
University of Wuppertal professor Peter Trawny has said that the Black Notebooks contain actual references by Heidegger to “world Jewry” and “a collusion of rootless Jews in both international capitalism and communism.” Tawny states Heidegger’s anti-Semitism must be directly related to his philosophy.
It is well documented and established that Heidegger had adulterous affairs with two woman of Jewish ancestry. Hannah Arendt and Elizabeth Blochman were both left-wing leaning students that attended his classes. He helped Blochman flee from Germany prior to World War II and resumed contact with both of them after the war. In the 1950’s Arendt became famous for her criticism of totalitarianism. She actually coined the term “banality of evil” in describing Nazi concentration camps.
Following World War II Heidegger faded into relative obscurity. In 1946 French military authorities deemed that he was unfit for teaching or participating in any university activities due to his association with the Nazi party. Heidegger spent much of the rest of his life at his vacation home in Todtnauberg, which was nestled on the edge of the Black Forest. He thought the seclusion of the forest was the ideal environment to engage in philosophical thought.
By John J. Poltonowicz