Anti-Semitism Was No Sideshow to Martin Heidegger’s Thought

Feb. 24 2023

Martin Heidegger was one of the 20th century’s most important philosophers, and his ideas did much to shape existentialism and many other intellectual movements. He also was a member of the Nazi party and for a time an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler—facts that many scholars and thinkers long downplayed or overlooked, treating Heidegger’s political tendencies as separate from his core ideas or as simple cowardice in the face of external pressure. But the publication of his “black notebooks” over the past decade has shown that his commitment to Nazism, and to anti-Semitism, ran deep. Reviewing Richard Wolin’s book Heidegger in Ruins, Jeffrey Herf writes:

The depth of Heidegger’s anti-Semitism was frankly expressed in his many years of correspondence with his brother Fritz. In 1931, two years before Hitler came to power, Wolin tells us Heidegger wrote the following about Mein Kampf: “No one who is insightful will dispute the fact that, whereas often the rest of us remain lost in the dark, this is a man [Hitler] who is possessed of a sure and remarkable political instinct; . . . what is at stake is the redemption or destruction of Europe and Western Culture.” Until 2016, this document was omitted by those overseeing Heidegger’s collected works and correspondence.

As Heidegger scholars have demonstrated for many years, the philosopher placed the conventional political history of the Nazi regime into a grander narrative of “another Beginning” required to overcome a decline of “Being” since the Greeks. For Heidegger, Germany and the Germans occupied the exceptional status in that effort. The Jews, on the other hand, were “rootless” advocates of liberalism. “World Jewry,” a term used only by anti-Semites and made more famous by Nazi propaganda, was bereft of the redeeming depths of the Germans. Or, in Heideggerian terms: “The more primordial and original . . . future decisions and questions become, the more inaccessible they remain for this race [the Jews].”

He expressed these sentiments in the Black Notebooks written between 1939 and 1941—that is, during the years in which Hitler and Goebbels were denouncing “World Jewry” as “the Jewish enemy,” and first threatening then carrying out their extermination.

Heidegger believed that the Jews and their rootless rationalism were responsible for the arrival of modern technology, and he used that formulation to blame them for their own destruction.

Moreover, writes Herf, these ideas did not remain in the Ivory Tower: “A Heideggerian element can be found in Putin’s revanchist dictatorship and in Iran’s anti-Semitic theocracy.”

Read more at Quillette

More about: Anti-Semitism, Martin Heidegger, Nazism, Philosophy


In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan