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Hitler had a dream to rule the world, not only with the gun but also with his mind. He saw himself as a "philosopher-leader" and astonishingly gained the support of many intellectuals of his time. In this compelling book, Yvonne Sherratt explores Hitler's relationship with philosophers and uncovers cruelty, ambition, violence, and betrayal where least expected—at the heart of Germany's ivory tower.
Sherratt investigates international archives, discovering evidence back to the 1920s of Hitler's vulgarization of noble thinkers of the past, including Kant, Nietzsche, and Darwin. She reveals how philosophers of the 1930s eagerly collaborated to lend the Nazi regime a cloak of respectability: Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, and a host of others. And while these eminent men sanctioned slaughter, Semitic thinkers like Walter Benjamin and opponents like Kurt Huber were hunted down or murdered. Many others, such as Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt, were forced to flee as refugees. The book portrays their fates, to be dispersed across the world as the historic edifice of Jewish-German culture was destroyed by Hitler.
Sherratt not only confronts the past; she also tracks down chilling evidence of continuing Nazi sympathy in Western Universities today.
Horkheimer, Max (1895–1973) Important Jewish-German philosopher, founder of the Frankfurt School. Huber, Kurt (1893–1943) Conservative German philosopher and musicologist, member of the White Rose, executed by the Nazis. Husserl, Edmund (1859–1938) Jewish-German philosopher, Heidegger’s mentor, later betrayed by him to the Nazis. Jaspers, Karl (1883–1969) German psychiatrist and philosopher with Jewish wife, fired from his job by the Nazis. Kant, Immanuel (1724–1804) Enlightenment thinker,
well as from one another. . . . Instead of vain plans to make this people moral . . . I prefer to give my opinion on the origins of this peculiar constitution of a nation of traders . . .15 Kant’s ideas were deeply damaging, not only because he became known historically as the greatest thinker of the Enlightenment but also because he was famed as the greatest moralist. This philosophical grandee, the cornerstone of authority, provided a legitimate basis deep within European culture for the
takes on the rhythm of a man chopping wood in the distant forest.’17 Heidegger loved nature. In order to dwell on the riddles of his forebears such as Kant, he had a wooden cabin especially constructed for himself high up in the mountains in Todtnauberg. He often retreated to write there, without electricity and with water pumped from the nearby well; he called it ‘die Hütte’. Over the years, Heidegger produced many of his most famous writings in this hut, from his early lectures to his final
houses, and occasionally a begged or borrowed apartment across Paris or in other European cities. He sometimes found shelter with friends such as Bertolt Brecht, staying with him in exile in Svendborg, Denmark, and he also managed to spend a short but precious time with his ex-wife Dora Sophie and beloved son Stefan when they were safely ensconced in San Remo, Italy. During the mid-1930s Benjamin also managed to eke a living from his writings. These included a few last publications for the
Sunset Boulevard. The Adornos’ lives were interlinked with these iconic émigrés, not only socially but also domestically. For instance, when they moved house in California they had a very distinguished man to help them arrange their furniture. Adorno recounted in a letter to his mother: Mumma, my animal, So we moved house smoothly, without incident and very comfortably, without even a gramophone record or a glass being damaged; and the packers were perfectly charming. . . . The plans enclosed