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Re-assessing the Affair

Nazism was not born in the desert. We all know this, but it has to be constantly
recalled. And even if, far from the desert, it had grown like a mushroom in the
silence of a European forest, it would have done so in the shadow of big trees, in the
shelter of their silence or their indifference but in the same soil. I will not list these
trees which in Europe people an immense black forest, I will not count the species
In their bushy taxonomy, they would bear the names of religions, philosophies,
political regimes, economic structures, religious or academic institutions. In short,
what is just as confusedly called culture, or the world of spirit.1
somewhat hysterical phrases are deployed by critics who, recognizing Heideggers
rejection of biologism, none the less wish to tar him with the brush of Auschwitz.2
It has proved next to impossible for most commentators to discuss Heideggers
politics without eventually becoming mired in polemics or apologetics.3 All too
often, a binary code obtains such that one is required to declare allegiance to either
the acolytes or the witch-hunters before one is lent an ear. In this chapter, we will
look to situate the Heidegger controversy within the context of a prevailing agenda
and concomitant set of attitudes that have come to monopolize this debate. Indeed,
we have seen the same problems that have stymied any progress in previous incarnations of this controversy emerge most recently as soon as there was the mere mention
of possibly further incriminating evidence concerning Heideggers Nazism and his
antisemitism in his notebooks from the 1930s and 1940s. The irony is that the most
vigorous clashes in this particular version of the Heidegger controversy had already
blown themselves out before the notebooks had even been published. And even
then, one almost wished to remind those involved that we hardly needed any further
evidence of Heideggers Nazism or his antisemitism. Having said as much, when
one considers the lengths that some Heideggerians have gone to in order to brush
his antisemitism under the carpet or indeed to explain it away as though it were a
trifling matter, the recent discovery of further disturbing passages from Heideggers
notebooks and some of his seminars from the early 1930s helps to delegitimize any
such efforts as hopelessly delusional. Moreover, what we also begin to see in the recent
publications is incontrovertible evidence that Heidegger was trying to make connections between not only his philosophy and his political views but with his antisemitic
prejudices as well.