Your Non-Shocking News of the Day

Stop the presses. Martin Heidegger was an anti-Semite:

For decades, controversy has marred the legacy of Martin Heidegger, whose theories and complicity with the Nazi regime led many to brand him an anti-Semite.

Yet there was never a smoking gun in the late German philosopher’s expansive work, an explicit pejorative reference to Jews or Judaism as such. Heidegger admirers and critics battled over certain passages, concepts, and personal anecdotes. But neither side could issue unequivocal evidence to put to rest the long-running feud.

This, however, may change with the publication in March of Heidegger’s “black notebooks,” a kind of intellectual diary he kept during the 1930s and 40s. Officially the new material is under embargo until publication, but leaked excerpts, as well as statements by Peter Trawny, the collection’s editor, seem to illustrate beyond a doubt that Heidegger harbored anti-Semitic convictions during the Nazi dictatorship.

[. . .]

The new material “is something very surprising, something we’ve never seen before,” says Mr. Trawny, director of the Martin Heidegger Institute at the University of Wuppertal. The scholar was chosen by the Heidegger family to edit the three volumes of the leather-covered black notebooks.

“In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Heidegger was very angry,” says Mr. Trawny. By then, he says, the philosopher realized that both Nazi ideology and his own philosophical mission, which was predicated on a national revolution and Germany’s dominance in Europe, were going to fail. “In this anger, he makes reference to Jews, including some passages that are extremely hostile. We knew that he had expressed anti-Semitism as private insights, but this shows anti-Semitism tied in to his philosophy,” says Mr. Trawny.

The editor says Heidegger’s references to a controlling “world Jewry” and to a collusion of “rootless” Jews in both international capitalism and communism are essentially the logic that informs the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous, early 20th-century, anti-Semitic forgery that claims to show a Jewish conspiracy for global domination. “He doesn’t say he’s read The Protocols,” says Mr. Trawny, “but that’s not necessary to share a certain kind of anti-Semitism with the Protocols. Nazi propaganda was full of exactly this kind of anti-Semitism.”

Amazingly, some Heidegger defenders continue to try to argue that their man wasn’t so bad, and that the quotes are taken out of context–which goes to show, of course, that nothing in the world will convince them that Heidegger was an anti-Semite. If resisting reality were an Olympic sport, these folks might be shoo-ins for the gold.

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