For decades students of philosophy have quarreled over Heidegger's involvement with the Nazis. Was it just a "flirtation", as so many scholars - especially French scholars - have insisted? Totally irrelevant to his philosophy? Or is there a fundamental affinity between Heidegger and Nazi ideology? Now, with the final release of Heidegger's Schwarze Hefte - "The Black Notebooks" - we have the definitive answer.
The Black Notebooks contain Heidegger's thoughts on contemporary history and philosophy between 1931 and 1946. They are not just incidental jottings, for Heidegger, who mapped out the sequence for publication of his Collected Works, saved the Black Notebooks for last. They would be his final word. Unfortunately for Heidegger apologists, they show him to be an unrepentant anti-Semite who embraced a mystical, racist concept of "das Volk."
Heidegger scholar and CUNY professor Richard Wolins has written a devastating review of the Black Notebooks:
With the publication of the Black Notebooks, what has now become indubitably clear is that racial prejudice against non-Germanic peoples—the English, the Russians, the French, the Americans, and, especially, the Jews—lies at the very center of Heidegger’s philosophical project. It is inseparable from the Volk-concept that he had embraced already in Being and Time (1927) and that he continued to exalt throughout his lectures and seminars of the 1930s. Heidegger’s belief in the ontological superiority of the German Volk underwrites his political view that inferior peoples may be justly persecuted in the name of “the history of Being,”
Heidegger welcomed the "National Revolution" of the Nazis which would lead to a "“a total transformation of our German Dasein" - Dasein in Heideggerian parlance referring to "being-in-the-world". And further: “The metaphysics of Dasein must deepen itself in a manner consistent with its inner structures and extend to the Metapolitics ‘of’ the historical Volk.” As Heidegger makes clear in the Black Notebooks, the Germans are the only true "historical Volk" - as heirs to the Greeks. What sets Germans apart is their inherent Bodenständigkeit - a rootedness to the soil - which, of course the "cosmopolitan" Jews lacked completely.
Jews, in their rootlessness, also carried the contaminant of evil modernity, with which they infected England, the Soviet Union and the United States:
Heidegger believed that the Soviet Union, America, and England, as embodiments of Machenschaft, were expressions of the spirit of “World Jewry”—“a human type whose world historical goal is the uprooting of all beings from Being.” According to Heidegger, the problem with Machenschaft “is that it leads to total deracination, resulting in the self-alienation of peoples.” He continues: Whereas “World Jewry which is everywhere ungraspable, does not need to resort to arms”—since, presumably, it has stealthily infiltrated all global centers of power— “conversely, we Germans sacrifice the most racially gifted representatives of our Volk.” In other words, according to Heidegger, “World Jewry” had everything to gain from World War II without having wagered a thing.
Heidegger never visited America. But in his eyes Amerikanismus was, next to das Weltjudentum ("World Jewry") the greatest force of evil in the world.
Heidegger’s fears about the planetary spread of “Americanism,” coming from a land that he characterizes simply as the “site of catastrophe” (das Katastrophenhaft), are never far from view in this period. “With Americanism” he says, “nihilism attains its zenith.” The Americans embrace “the condition of nothingness [Nichtigkeit]” as “their future, since with the appearance of ‘happiness’ for everyone, they destroy everything.” Of course, Heidegger never made the slightest effort to investigate America—its politics, its culture, and its intellectual dispositions—since the standpoint of “history of Being” already tells him all that he needs to know.
But surely Heidegger could not have been aware of the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis. Surely he embraced just the ideals of the Nazis- not their actual practices. Right? In fact, Heidegger was greatly encouraged by the 'barbarism" of the Nazis:
National Socialism is a barbaric principle. Therein lie its essence and its capacity for greatness. The danger is not [Nazism] itself, but instead that it will be rendered innocuous via homilies about the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. (from the Black Notebooks)
Heidegger remained a member of the Nazi Party until 1945, and after the war refused to renounce the Nazi regime.