Heidegger’s Nazism

A review of Victor Farías’
Heidegger and Nazism (1987)


This one’s from the archives. I stumbled across it today while trying to dig up another file. Upon rereading it, I was surprised to see that I still agree with most of the sentiments it conveys. Of course, there are some bits that annoy me that I’d like to change, but I’m going to post it as is. Don’t be too hard on me; it’s from 2006.

Very little can be written concerning Victor Farías’ polemical Heidegger and Nazism which has not already been extensively discussed. Since its release in French translation in 1987, the book has been the subject of furious criticism, defended by an army of staunch advocates while simultaneously decried by a host of equally resolute detractors. For both extremes this work merely provided a pretext for debate. The battle lines had for the most part already been drawn: the response on either side to its publication was generally automatic. More judicious commentators have since been able to appreciate the truly groundbreaking revelations of Farías’ study, at the same time recognizing its severe limitations. The question of an author’s reasons for conducting this sort of investigation must inevitably arise, after all, given the controversial nature of the issues at stake. This was no small undertaking on his part. The painstaking archival process by which Farías gathered his data was carried out systematically over the course of several years. This no doubt casts some suspicion on his motives. Moreover, the striking lack of ambiguity in his results (which invariably implicate Heidegger as a loyal Nazi all along), combined with a number of questionable arguments and characterizations he makes, only serves to damage the integrity of his otherwise impressive research. So what might then be salvaged from Farías’ contentious analysis? The reader might proceed with cautious reservation, acknowledging the disturbing discoveries it relates while sifting out its more dubious insinuations.

Brief memorandum circulated by Heidegger addressing the students at Freiburg, 1934

Brief memorandum circulated by Heidegger
addressing the students at Freiburg, 1933

We shall begin by examining the general methodology of the text. The technique Farías employs throughout in assessing Heidegger’s thought is primarily external. That is to say, the book does not look to excogitate the subtle nuances and abstractions of Heidegger’s philosophy from within. Instead, Farías devotes most of his attention to relatively minor documents (memos, speech transcripts, personal correspondences, etc.). Continue reading