On the Heidegger Hoax

Richard Wolin

Los Angeles Review of Books


“tributes to Heidegger’s prodigious achievements are question-begging in one crucial respect: they neglect to consider what we are actually reading when we read Heidegger”

“A closer examination of the publication history of Heidegger’s texts reveals that, for decades, his philosophical legacy has been willfully and systematically manipulated by a coterie of well-disposed intimates and disciples”

“Toward the end of his life, Heidegger entrusted editorial responsibility for the supervision and publication of his manuscripts not to experienced scholars but instead to acolytes and relatives who, as a rule, possessed limited professional competence—persons whose overriding concern was the preservation of the “Master’s” reputation rather than respect for inherited editorial norms.”

“In light of Hermann Heidegger’s pivotal role as the administrator of his father’s literary estate, it is worth pointing out that he has consistently maintained ties to politically dubious, far-right political circles”

“in 2014, when, following publication of the Black Notebooks, a heated controversy erupted over the philosopher’s antisemitism, Hermann, seeking to calm the waters, gave an interview to Sezession, a Neue Rechte (New Right) publication”

Sezession’s publisher, the Saxony-Anhalt–based Institut für Staatspolitik, which is also under federal surveillance, functions as the AfD’s unofficial think tank. The Institut convenes semi-annual “summer academies” that double as gathering places for a variety of militant far-right youth groups”

“As he remarked at one point during the interview with Sezession, “My father was critical of ‘world Jewry’ without being an antisemite. After Auschwitz, it has become impossible to make this distinction, although anyone who was alive during the 1930s readily understands its meaning.” What seems to have escaped Hermann’s attention is that the expression “world Jewry” (Weltjudentum)—which conjures the image of a “Jewish world conspiracy”—was itself a lexical mainstay of Nazi race thinking”

“Hitler himself frequently had recourse to it in Mein Kampf and other writings. Truly a shame that Auschwitz, among its various pernicious aftereffects, fundamentally ruined things for well-meaning critics of “world Jewry” like the Heideggers!”

“The lack of professional standards that has repeatedly compromised the administration of Heidegger’s Nachlass, or literary estate, has provoked accusations that the Collected Works edition was, in effect, being run as a “family business.””

“Heidegger scholar Theodore Kisiel lambasted the Gesamtausgabe (GA) as an “international scandal of scholarship,” insofar as the editorial procedures deviated considerably from accepted scholarly standards”

“The University of Siegen philosopher Marion Heinz, who edited GA 44, lamented that the willful neglect of professional guidelines has generated editorial pandemonium”

“the fourth installment of these notebooks, Anmerkungen I–V (Remarks), which covers the years 1942–48, had inexplicably gone missing”

“the saga of the errant “Vietta notebook”—a high-stakes game of literary-philosophical “fort/da”—was merely the tip of the iceberg: one of numerous editorial irregularities afflicting the Black Notebooks

“Also inexplicably missing was volume I, Winke und Überlegungen (Hints and Reflections)”

“Another low point in this tragicomic editorial saga occurred in 2015, when Gesamtausgabe publisher Vittorio Klostermann, in a desperate gambit to bolster waning public confidence in the edition’s integrity, felt compelled to circulate a memorandum requesting that editors who were aware of additional textual irregularities step forward in order to stave off further embarrassment”

“As Klostermann explained, the press had received “numerous inquiries as to why Martin Heidegger’s anti-Jewish enmity [Judenfeindschaft] had not surfaced in earlier Gesamtausgabe volumes.””

“Klostermann underlined the severity of the metastasizing editorial debacle, warning that “[e]very additional discrepancy that third parties are able to point out risks placing the publisher […] on the defensive and could potentially damage the reputation of the Gesamtausgabe as a whole.””

“Klostermann concluded with an appeal that targeted editors who were responsible for volumes from the Nazi period, requesting that they come forward with any information they might have concerning “questionable deviations from the authorized copies of Heidegger’s manuscripts, be it a question of omissions or transcription errors.””

“In 2022, Klostermann revealed that it had been necessary to “pulp” two Gesamtausgabe volumes in their entirety and replace them with new editions, in order to correct the various omissions and falsifications. He also acknowledged that the press had posted corrections to no fewer than 26 volumes on its website.”

“The controversies that have haunted the publication of Heidegger’s work are significant, insofar as they concern not merely occasional and understandable editorial lapses but instead suggest a premeditated policy of substantive editorial cleansing: a strategy whose goal was to systematically and deliberately excise Heidegger’s pro-Nazi sentiments and convictions”

“As Heidegger scholar Otto Pöggeler observed appositely, “Heidegger is like a fox who sweeps away his traces with his tail.””

“Given these views, it is little wonder that, in recent years, Heidegger’s thought has found such favor among proponents of the transatlantic “New Right”: dubious disciples such as Russia’s Aleksandr Dugin, France’s Alain de Benoist, the AfD’s Björn Höcke, and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon”

“Heidegger’s hypocrisy in the aforementioned cases was twofold. First, although he repeatedly insisted that his lectures and treatises from the Nazi era were being published verbatim—without substantive interventions or alterations—the preceding examples suggest that, as a rule, this policy was honored more often in the breach than in the observance”

“Second, Heidegger’s discourse was punctuated by polemical indictments of the “Enlightenment,” “liberalism,” and “modernity,” but when it came to Nazism’s genocidal excesses, he remained uncharacteristically silent”

“in one of the few cases where Heidegger deigned to discuss the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Question,” he cynically characterized the Holocaust as an act of “Jewish self-annihilation.” By making this accusation, Heidegger, in keeping with a widely held antisemitic prejudice, insinuated that, since the Jews were the leading “carriers” of modern technology, they had effectively died by their own hand at Auschwitz and the other sites of industrialized mass murder”

“Heidegger’s incessant condemnation of the ontological-historical link between “world Jewry” and modern “technics” strongly suggests that his celebrated Technik-critique, as elaborated in “The Question Concerning Technology” and related essays, was impelled by a deep-seated, ideologically driven aversion to “Jewish materialism”—by racially motivated fears concerning the corrosive cultural consequences of “world Jewry” as purveyors of, as Heidegger once put it, “empty rationality and calculability.””

“Heidegger’s antisemitic animus was prefigured by a letter he wrote to his wife Elfride in 1920, in which he openly characterized himself as a “spiritual antisemite.””

“Whether Heidegger overcame these prejudices later in life is extremely doubtful”

“After the war, he bemoaned in the Black Notebooks a “conspiracy” purportedly initiated by “world journalism” (Weltjournalismus) to keep Germany in a condition of fealty vis-à-vis the Western Allies”

“When, in 1986, Hans-Georg Gadamer—Heidegger’s star student—was queried about his mentor’s postwar ideological leanings, he avowed that “Heidegger remained sufficiently a Nazi after the war that he was convinced that world opinion was totally dominated by Jews.””

“Writing in the German newsweekly Die Zeit, Adam Soboczynski wondered aloud whether the escalating list of editorial omissions and falsifications were merely signs of a much bigger campaign—part of a systematic effort on the part of Heidegger’s literary executors to whitewash his prodigious National Socialist sympathies.”

“In 2014, the public belatedly learned that, 16 years earlier, Peter Trawny and Hermann Heidegger had teamed up to suppress Heidegger’s avowal, in The History of Beyng (1938–40), that “[i]t would be worthwhile inquiring into world Jewry’s predisposition to planetary criminality.””

“To accuse “world Jewry,” circa 1939, of “planetary criminality”—shortly after the anti-Jewish pogroms of Kristallnacht and following Hitler’s infamous prophecy of January 30, 1939, that, should a new world war erupt, the result would be the “annihilation of world Jewry”—is tantamount to “eliminationist” antisemitism at its purest”

“Here, the hazards and pitfalls of allowing the Gesamtausgabe to be run as a “family business” emerge clearly and undeniably”

“In his 2014 book Heidegger and the Myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy, Trawny, seeking to defuse the antisemitic implications of Heidegger’s dictum, suggested that the “planetary criminals” the philosopher had in mind were not the Jews, but instead the “rulers of the totalitarian states […] Hitler and Stalin.””

“The only problem with this argument is that Hitler and Stalin are nowhere mentioned in the text itself. Moreover, Trawny overlooked the fact that, whereas Heidegger’s texts are suffused with denunciations of “Bolshevism” and “Americanism,” when it came to National Socialism’s genocidal transgressions, he remained uncharacteristically reticent”

“Ultimately, Trawny’s effort to portray Heidegger as a prescient critic of “totalitarianism” was little more than a diversion or smoke screen”

“In the final section of The History of Beyng (“Koinon: Out of the History of Beyng”), Heidegger forcefully condemned “communism” as the culmination or apogee of “machination” and the “forgetting of Beyng.””

“It is important to note that, in the remarks just cited, Heidegger’s excoriation of “communism” as the ne plus ultra of technological “ruination” was entirely consistent with his antisemitism. This is true insofar as Heidegger, along with other Nazi critics of “Jewish Bolshevism,” viewed communism as a part of a Jewish “plot” to achieve “planetary domination.””

“Thus, in The History of Beyng, Heidegger’s inquiry concerning “world Jewry’s predisposition to planetary criminality” culminated in his inculpation of “communism” as a manifestation of “Jewish Bolshevism,” whose representatives he regarded as the “leading planetary criminals.””

“However, since Heidegger’s unsettling assertion was suppressed by the philosopher’s literary executors, the true extent of his antisemitic convictions was concealed from the public until quite recently.”

“The editorial manipulation of Heidegger’s texts was intended to deflect critical attention from the fraught nexus between the “History of Being” (Seinsgeschichte) and the “Politics of Being” (Seinspolitik) in his oeuvre”

“the public has for decades been presented with a misleading, politically sanitized image of Heidegger’s Denken, a bowdlerized version in which traces of his profascist political allegiances have been extensively airbrushed”

“for the foreseeable future, generations of students encountering Heidegger’s work for the first time will be exposed to editorially doctored, politically cleansed versions of his thought”

“Equally dishonest is the fact that, in the increasingly voluminous secondary literature on Heidegger’s work, the web of editorial deception I have described is rarely mentioned. For were it acknowledged, it would risk exposing a concerted and deliberate policy of textual manipulation that, by camouflaging Heidegger’s troubling ideological loyalties, has sought to suppress essential questions concerning the intellectual and moral integrity of his work”

“Recent reports have confirmed that, following Hermann Heidegger’s death in 2019, the legacy of the Collected Works edition as a Heidegger “family business” will endure. Consequently, in keeping with an established tradition, Hermann Heidegger’s youngest son, Arnulf, was named as the new executor of the philosopher’s literary estate”

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