Heidegger During the War


I have been asked to discuss Martin Heidegger’s activities during World War II. It is well known that he actively supported the Nazis during the first years of their power. In 1933 he became rector of the university in Freiburg, and a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). He issued statements supporting Hitler. He engaged then (and earlier) in several anti-Semitic actions against students and teachers. He taught seminars from 1933 to 1935 in which he severely questioned liberal democracy and justified German expansion and separating Jews from the German people. Although he resigned the rectorate after a year, he remained close to leading Nazi academics, and he participated in several public events. Heidegger’s sons fought for Germany on the Eastern Front, and there is no sign that he considered leaving Germany. He never repudiated the regime or faced up to the murder of countless Jews, but he did distance himself from the Nazi’s biological racism and from some of their acolytes’ scholarly views, especially concerning Nietzsche. He published little during the war years—his major activity was teaching and lecturing—and he was forced, or allowed himself, to drop Being and Time’s dedication to his teacher Husserl, who was Jewish. His differences from the regime did not mislead the occupying authorities after the Allied victory, and they banned Heidegger from teaching for five years.

Requires Subscription PDF