[The] ground that enabled modern technology to set free new energy in nature [is] a revolution in leading concepts . . . by which man is placed in a different world. This radical revolution in outlook has come about in modern philosophy. From this arises a completely new relation of man to the world and his place in it. The world now appears as an object open to the attacks of calculative thought, attacks that nothing is believed able any longer to resist.

        --Gelassenheit (1959), translated by John M. Anderson & E. Hans Freund

Even before his first book, in 1927, the young lecturer Heidegger was highly acclaimed. In 1933, when Goebbels called for burning books by Jews, socialists, and others, in bonfires often fed by professors and students, Heidegger swore loyalty to Hitler and, by vote of the faculty, replaced the dissenting rector at Freiburg. Always a German nationalist, Heidegger headed the movement to unite workers and students into the Party and signed orders firing Jewish professors, one of whom, Werner Brock, later an editor-interpreter of Heidegger, claimed Heidegger could do nothing else. When Hitler wanted him in Munich in 1933 and Berlin in 1935, Heidegger remained at Freiburg, and after 1934 Heidegger resigned as rector, pleading too much political influence. His fervent support of Nazis during the year he was rector was given when their power was weakest, but investigations by the French after the war cleared him of war crimes.

Among Heidegger's loyal followers, Sartre (who read Heidegger and Husserl in Berlin) was in the Resistance and a Nazi prison, and Hannah Arendt (once Heidegger's student and lover), in exile in New York, became an influential philosopher of community and justice. If some deem Heidegger the thinker of his time, others find him original but untenable. He based his thought in a concept of rooted relation he called being-there, and stood on it by staying in Freiburg, even when it meant severing thought from action.

Van K. Brock
A Conversation 1
Einführung (Deutsch)
Contents | Mudlark No. 4