7 New Translated Excerpts on Heidegger’s Anti-Semitism

“The völkisch principle shows itself in its gigantic modern significance once one has grasped it as a variation and progeny of the domination of the sociology of society. Is it an accident that National Socialism has stamped out ‘sociology’ as a term? Why was sociology gladly pursued by Jews and Catholics?” GA 95: 161 (Überlegungen VIII, 39)

Central to Heidegger’s thought was that the social sciences abstracted and obscured the meaning of being. As to why he believed that Jews and Catholics—and not proper-Germans—had some proclivity toward these disciplines is beyond me.

“Reflection—the courage to track one’s own pre-suppositions back to their ground and to interrogate the necessity of the goals one has set. No sooner does one attempt a ‘reflection’ today than it ends in a ‘psychological’-‘characterological’-biological- typological dissection—that is, in a sterile and cheap reduction of beings and ‘life’ to a kind of ‘lived experience’ and its impulses and needs.

One finds it strange that reflection could ask beyond this, about something quite different, about being and its truth and its grounding and lack of grounds—so that reflection as self-reflection would have nothing to do with assessing the underlying grounds of lived experience; the form of this dissection remains even after one has pushed Jewish ‘psychoanalysis’ aside. This form must remain as long as one does not give oneself up as a human being with lived experiences. But until then, reflection in the thinking sense is impossible.”  GA 95: 258 (Überlegungen IX, 92)

Heidegger’s phenomenological method reveals that “life,” so long as it is pursued from an objectivizing, theoretical attitude, will remain hidden from view. It is the un-biased, pre-reflective lived moment that will reveal being to beings. Therefore, it is no quantum leap to suggest that Heidegger saw psychoanalysis as a symptom of Jewish modernity, and yet another obfuscation of being.

It is worth noting here that psychoanalysis was knocked from its inception for being too Jewish. For this reason, Freud wanted Carl Jung (an Aryan) to be the poster-child and president of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Early American sentiment on Jews in psychiatry was no different than Germany’s, or the world at large. In the 1920’s at Harvard, there was a policy to accept no more than 10-15% of the Jews who applied[4]. In 1922, the director of admissions at Yale wrote a report entitled, “The Jewish Problem,” being, too many Jews were applying to Yale. Outside of Heidegger’s philosophical quarrels with psychoanalysis, there is nothing unique or original in his distaste for it.

“One should not get all too loudly indignant about the psychoanalysis of the Jew ‘Freud’ if, and as long as, one cannot at all ‘think’ about each and every thing other than by ‘tracing’ everything as an ‘expression’ of ‘life’ back to ‘instincts’ and ‘the atrophy of instinct.’ This way of ‘thinking,’ which in advance excludes all ‘being’ whatsoever, is pure nihilism. ” GA 96: 218 (Überlegungen XIV) (1941?)

Again, the fact that Freud was Jewish is not the issue here. But it is that psychoanalysis itself, as a system for knowing and treating the human psyche, mainly by bringing what is unconscious to the conscious, is a contrivance of being in that the reduction to ‘drives’ or ‘instincts’ are placed above being itself, leaving nothing behind. For Heidegger, this would likely result in an active form of nihilism.

“Why are we recognizing so late that in truth, England is and can be without an Occidental stance? Because only in the future will we grasp that England began to erect the modern world, but according to its essence, modernity is directed to the unfettering of the machination of the entire globe. Even the thought of an agreement with England, in the sense of a division of imperialist ‘jurisdictions,’ does not reach the essence of the historical process that England is now playing out to its end within Americanism and Bolshevism, and this at the same time means within world Jewry. The question of the role of world Jewry is not a racial question, but the metaphysical question about the kind of humanity that, without any restraints, can take over the uprooting of all beings from being as its world-historical ‘task.'” GA 96: 243 (Überlegungen XIV) (1941)

Nazi propaganda fabricated the notion that Jewish financiers were the real puppet masters controlling America. Bolsheviks, according to Nazis, were also a bunch of Jews[5]. It is vague or unclear as to any other connections that Heidegger made between England, the Bolshevik’s, and America to Jews.

The last line in the paragraph above: “The question of the role of world Jewry is not a racial question, but the metaphysical question about the kind of humanity that, without any restraints, can take over the uprooting of all beings from being as its world-historical ‘task,'” seems to be the most damning of all the quotes mentioned thus far.  This is taking the groundlessness and worldlessness of Jewry to a new height. There cannot be a worse thing—given what is known about Heidegger’s philosophy—to say that being itself is “uprooted” by the very existence of Jews.

It is here that Jewishness is considered a threat to humanity itself by actively contaminating and destructing other Dasein as its “task.”  I asked Polt to offer a comment on this last line and he simply said that it’s “Ugly stuff.” Even the word task in scare quotes, noted Polt, meant that Heidegger did not even recognize the “mission” of Judaism itself as legitimate. Lastly, Polt said, “The only slightly mitigating factor is that Heidegger considers everyone to be worldless and falling short of Dasein. It’s a very bleak view.”

In Sum

As it’s been already been stated, Heidegger’s Nazism has been widely known. The quotes above are only new evidence. What one does or doesn’t do now, or how one should think toward Heidegger, is not to be answered here.

In a chapter of Rudiger Safranski’s biography on Heidegger, “Between Good and Evil (1998),” there is a chapter titled “Is Heidegger anti-Semitic?” So the short, obvious, answer is: yes, but it’s complicated. Philosophy seems to have been okay with this knowledge for the last sixty years, making the call to abandon his work from the western canon a somewhat futile effort.

But what makes the recent headlines sound somewhat conspiratorial is that, according to Polt’s paper, “The three volumes published so far comprise 1,240 pages by Heidegger. By my count, 19 passages refer to Jews or Judaism.” And Polt noted, “These references along with their context easily fit on ten pages.” That is less than one percent of the “Black Notebooks” which contain vitriol aimed toward Jews. Yet, somehow, people are turning what is a miniscule mentioning of Jews to mean that anti-Semitism is at the core of his philosophy.

Moving forward, people will continue to call for a philosophical embargo on  Heidegger, while others, still, may try to apologize for him. But for any of us who choose to use Heidegger’s work, I know I often do, then we will certainly have to reconcile with, and maybe even partly own, his troubled history.

Corrections:

1. Karl Jaspers was not Jewish, his wife was. And that is just one reason why Heidegger and Jaspers did not speak for some time.

2. Jaspers was not Heidegger’s student. They were colleagues and professional friends.

3. Husserl was never rector at University of Freiburg. He was given an enforced leave of absence as professor on April 14, 1933. Heidegger was not yet in office.


 

[1] Safranski, Rüdiger. Martin Heidegger: Between good and evil. Harvard University Press, 1999.

[2] Dermot Moran, Introduction to Phenomenology, p. 499

[3] Safranski, Rüdiger. Martin Heidegger: Between good and evil. Harvard University Press, 1999

[4] Halperin, Edward C. “The Jewish problem in US medical education, 1920-1955.” Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences 56.2 (2001): 140-167.

[5] “At the same time, the “cunning” of Bolshevist politics comes to light. The Jew Litvinov surfaces again. On his sixtieth birthday, the chief editor of the Moscow paper Izvestia, the well-known communist Radek, wrote the following sentence: “Litvinov has proved that he understands, in the Bolshevik way, how to look for comrades wherever they are to be found, if only for a time.” GA 96: 242 (Überlegungen XIV) (June 1941)

  • Sian

    Dasein is hardly a trivial or marginal aspect of Heidegger’s thought…and it is clear that the way in which he thinks it into being is underwritten and constituted by antisemitism. Dare we suggest that antisemitism is constitutive of Dasein? I think we must. I really do. What we then do with Heidegger’s thought can then be worked through and here I think I would turn to the likes of Derrida to put my feet in his footprints.

    • w.b.u

      It’s obviously not, people have engaged deeply with Heidegger’s thought for decades now, without any reference to anti-semitism.

      • Sian

        And my point, having spent a great deal of time dealing both with Heidegger’s thought and the history of German anti-semitism myself, is that that is a mistake.

        • pontyless

          Nazism is as integral to Heidegger’s work as syphilis is to Nietzsche’s.

  • Taylor Carman

    There are lots of factual errors in this article. Jaspers was neither Jewish nor Heidegger’s student (he was six years older than Heidegger), though is wife was Jewish. Husserl was never rector of Freiburg University, nor was he forced to resign, nor did Heidegger send him flowers. He was barred from using university facilities in 1933, just before Heidegger became rector, several years after he had retired. Heidegger sent flowers to Frau Husserl after having not attended Husserl’s funeral in 1938. “The Question Concerning Technology” is from the mid-1950s; 1977 is the publication date of the English translation; Heidegger died in 1976.

    • Zach Siegel

      Hi Taylor,

      Thanks for being a close reader. I appreciate that.
      At the end of the article, on page 2, you will see that I did correct a
      few of the errors you brought to light.

      However, I cited “The
      Question Concerning Technology”in 1977 because that is the copy I own
      and the copy I read. As for the bouquet of flowers anecdote, on page 254
      of Rudiger Safranski’s biography entitled “Between Good and Evil,” it
      is said that, “He got Elfride to send flowers to Husserl.” And in
      context, it is in regard to Husserl’s mandatory leave and not his
      funeral, though, I don’t doubt that Heidegger also sent flowers to Husserl’s
      wife upon his death.

      Thank you.

      • Taylor Carman

        So, why not also correct the errors about Jaspers and Husserl on page one?

        • Zach Siegel

          Those are the errors I corrected. Typically, corrections go at the end of an article.

          • Taylor Carman

            Ah, I see. Sorry.

          • Zach Siegel

            Cheers. And thanks again.

      • Christos

        Being a “close reader”? No, Taylor simply knows the facts (as I also happen to do), and the mistakes are striking. It doesn’t take close reading to discern a bad article, or a bad piece of scholarship.

  • Heidegger was an odd product of a conservative variety Catholicism where such views were unfortunately quite common during those years. It might not be the fault of his philosophy entirely:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/cosmostheinlost/2013/09/03/famous-atheists-werent-atheists-4-haidiggers-nietzschean-sideburns/

  • jorge

    Regarding “the worldlessness of Jewry,” think you got it wrong. It mainly relates to a common expression used by people of Heidegger’s generation to express that Jews did no have a country. He clearly is talking about “the errand jew,” and all the malintentioned adjectives pre-war Europeans used to apply to the Jewish people. To say that Heidegger is “de-Dasein-ing, the Jewish people” is to have one of the “the pathetic little convulsions produced by the loss of reality that afflicts us today,” as Baudrillard states. Heidegger was not denying, denigrating, of the right of Jewish people to have land and culture, he simply was saying what many people of his generation was saying: that the Jewish people did not have a land, a world, the they were “world-less,” sine-patria. It sounds more like a compassionate expression than a denigrating one.

  • d marino

    The Jews, calculated hustlers! Don’t miss the point.

  • Tobias Louw

    What should be clarified, before judgment is passed on anyone. is the concept of Semitism, and what it means. This is not at all raised, and anti-Semitism seems to have a meaning of its own. As someone said, it previously meant anyone who is critical of Jews, but nowadays it means anyone about whom the Jews are critical. If Karl Marx and Theodor Herzl can write about the Jewish question, in a critical manner, and also Adolf Hitler and Henry Ford, why not others? Why would Martin Heidegger be less entitled to his views than say Herbert Marcuse? If Heidegger was the author of the book entitled, “Israel must perish”, then surely, take such views as constituting anti-Semitism, assuming that the author insisted that the universally accepted right of all peoples to full self-determination in their own state without interference by any other element, excluded the Jewish-Semitic people.

  • John Crooked-Nose McGee

    The Jew is worldless because as an organised religion they were basically nomads wandering across the globe until the U,S, gave them modern Israel.

    “I will die, but the world will know that I was right.” -Adolf Hitler

  • Jay Rosenbergstienroth

    Read only for the Heidegger Jew-wise quotes.
    Ignored the Jew article writer’s commentary.