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A systematic breakdown of the core players and ideas usurped in Nazi ideology.

British academic Sherratt (Continental Philosophy of Social Science, 2005, etc.) deconstructs the making of Hitler’s thinking, from the writing of his autobiography as a political vehicle to his “savage bowdlerization” of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and many other philosophers. Whether Hitler actually read the works he appropriated did not matter, writes the author. He plucked what he needed from this or that philosopher: From Kant, he claimed the supremacy of reason over the dogma of the church and the degradation of Judaism; from Schiller, the beloved motto: “The strong man is mightiest alone”; from Hegel, the formation of the state from ancient origins; from Nietzsche, his fantasies of an ancient Greek ideal; and so on. As a “bartender of genius,” Hitler concocted his lethal ideas about racial supremacy, the lone Romantic hero within the Bavarian natural landscape, the Jewish “enemy” and the obsession with “public health.” He needed a coterie of deputies to carry out his political fantasies, namely Alfred Rosenberg, whose job was to “destroy democracy and construct a new Nazi ideal” by infiltrating the schools and universities; and legal mind Carl Schmitt, who “enshrined Hitler’s tyranny in law.” Some of the philosophers acquiesced for the advancement of their careers—e.g., Martin Heidegger, whose affair with his student Hannah Arendt, a Jew, rendered his collaboration all the more baffling or suspect. Jewish philosophers stripped of their university positions either fled or were destroyed. Sherratt devotes one chapter to the singular resistance of one Munich academic, Kurt Huber, and another to the reckoning meted out to the collaborating philosophers at the Nuremberg Trials.

A straightforward work that only hints at the underlying questions of moral failing supported by many of these philosophical works.

Pub Date: May 21st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-300-15193-0
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2013


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