Hitler’s Philosophers

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From 1933, Hitler’s chosen “philosophical” manager was Alfred Rosenberg, who was tasked with defending an ideology that would destroy democracy, pluralist toleration and individual freedom. Rosenberg even fished around in Homer and Plato to support his theories of the leadership principle, arguing that these greats of ancient Greece were “proto-Nazis”. He criticised Hegel’s idea of a strong state, arguing that the Volk takes precedence. But it was from Wilhelm Marr’s book The Victory of Judaism over Teutonism (1873) that, according to Sherratt, Rosenberg drew the Nazi version of Social Darwinism. Sherratt’s chapter on Martin Heidegger, the renowned philosopher of phenomenology, is a powerful portrait of collaboration, and corruption of the best. He endorsed the sacking of his erstwhile mentor Edmund Husserl after the dismissal of Jews from the civil service and academia in 1933. Heidegger even removed his dedication to Husserl from subsequent editions of his magnum opus Being and Time. He lectured in a Nazi uniform. As late as 1942 he was still praising National Socialism and “its unique historical status”. He defended Hitler’s regime and war aims well into 1944. According to Sherratt, Heidegger’s intellectual project can be read as a “doctrine of radical self-sacrifice where individualisation is allowed only for the purpose of heroism in warfare”.

more from John Cornwell at the FT here.

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