An Intellectual and Political Portrait
Age Range: 1889 - 1976
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 An exhaustive, fascinating examination of the controversial role played by Heidegger in the early years of the Nazi regime. Heidegger (1889-1976) has been regarded as one of the greatest German philosophers of the century--but controversy has swirled around his role in the betrayal of the German universities, particularly in 1933, when he was rector of the University of Freiburg (where author Ott teaches economic and social history). Ott's careful dissection of the archival evidence leaves little doubt that the philosopher aspired to transform the universities into Nazi institutions that he would then lead. Heidegger's writing, as well as his actions in a number of hitherto obscure episodes, suggests the degree of his commitment to Nazism: ``The FÅhrer himself and he alone is the German reality, present and future, and its law...Heil Hitler!'' So Heidegger said at Hitler's inauguration--but the Nazi Party, ready to use celebrities such as Heidegger but not willing to entrust them with any power, gave the leadership of the universities to reliable party mediocrities. With that rebuff, the philosopher's enthusiasm for Nazism seems to have ebbed, although, in the latter part of WW II, he was still telling a pupil that the only worthy life for a German was a life at the front. Ott admits that the view of Heidegger as Nazi hasn't gone unchallenged: Gerhard Ritter, a member of the 1944 bomb plot to kill Hitler, testified that the philosopher ``was secretly fiercely opposed to National Socialism after 30 June 1934....'' Such testimony, plus a number of passionate adherents helped to rescue Heidegger from the humiliations of the immediate postwar period, after which his reputation reached new heights. A curious combination of scholarship, exactness, and disorganization: a difficult but rewarding read for those not students of the period.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 0-465-02898-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993


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