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Heidegger, History and the Holocaust

Our aim in this chapter is to demonstrate that the way this controversy has
unfolded reflects a kind of victors morality and a collective strategy of self-deception
concerning the Second World War and the Holocaust. The controversy itself, I believe,
needs to be set against the backdrop of a series of sedimented attitudes concerning the
Holocaust and National Socialism. The victors morality which motivates and distorts
the perspective of certain commentators who have looked to pass final judgment
on Heideggers work for scholars and readers outside of philosophy betrays a set
of inveterate prejudices which seem to point to a worrisome trend concerning the
terms of reference that have been settled on when it comes to the Second World War.
Historians such as Victor Farias, intellectual historians such as Richard Wolin, not to
mention the more sensational example of Emmanuel Faye, are prime exponents of the
kind of commentary which is symptomatic of precisely the critical sclerosis which has
set into our Western attitudes concerning the Second World War and Nazi Germany.
As Lewis Coser writes in his preface to the English edition of Jngers The Peace (under
the pseudonym of Louis Clair):
Modern man has a fatal propensity for attempting to free himself from his own
feelings of guilt, his own anxieties and terrors, by projecting them onto some
scapegoat, some incarnation of absolute evil, which he burdens with all the
sins, all the shortcomings that he cannot face within himself. The Jews were
made to assume this burden for the Nazis; for the addicts to the Stalin myth, the
trotskyites are the scapegoat; and for many an otherwise liberal and normal
American, this role has of late been assigned to the German a sort of corporate
entity, an amalgamation of all that is hateful and despicable.4

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In the latter stages of this chapter, we shall gloss a possible intersection between
Heideggers account of technology and the Holocaust in terms of a philosophical
response a possibility, moreover, which has been routinely rubbished or precluded
hitherto and this in turn shall pave the way for a detailed analysis of this possibility in Chapter 2. In pointing to the tenability of such a project, we are again
resisting the agenda of those commentators who insist that no such dialogue with
Heideggers later philosophy on technology, for example, is possible. This blinkered
intransigence when it comes to what I contend is a latent possibility in Heideggers
thought again reinforces the suspicion that many critics are so completely yoked
to a continually reinforced referential framework concerning the Second World
War and the Holocaust that they distort and derail debates such as this one with
melodramatic appeals to the gallery. Or, equally unhelpful, they look to shape
things in order to fit pre-arranged schemes and maintain the unquestioned
ascendancy of the status quo.