I am reading How Green Were the Nazis?: Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich, edited by Franz-Joseph Brüggemeier, Marc Cioc, and Thomas Zeller (Ohio University Press, 2005). It’s a disturbingly fascinating work.
One of the essays is Thomas Rohkrämer’s “Martin Heidegger, National Socialism, and Environmentalism,” which takes up the long-running (and occasionally vicious) arguments about Heidegger’s Nazism: To what extent was he a Nazi? To what extent did his National Socialist politics follow from or otherwise cohere with the rest of his philosophy?
Rohkrämer has this to say early on:
‘“Martin Heidegger? A Nazi, of course a Nazi!” On a purely factual level, this exclamation by Jürgen Habermas is fully correct. Contrary to what Heidegger and Heideggerians have long maintained, historical research has demonstrated beyond doubt Heidegger’s early enthusiasm for National Socialism. Heidegger sympathized with the Nazis before 1933, he actively maneuvered to become rector, he publicly joined the Nazi Party on May Day, and the ceremony around his Rectoral Address included Nazi flags and the singing of the “Horst Wessel Song.” While Jews and political opponents were removed from the university (like his teacher Edmund Husserl) or even forced to flee the country (like his intimate friend Hannah Arendt), Heidegger showed his enthusiastic support for the destruction of the Weimar Republic and for the new regime. He praised the Führer principle for the university sector, while striving to attain such a position for himself. In speeches and newspaper articles he identified himself with Hitler’s rule, going so far as to state in autumn 1933 that “the Führer himself and alone is and will be Germany’s only reality and its law.” He not only approved in principle of the Nazi cleansing, but also tried to use the new regime to destroy the academic careers of colleagues, for example by initiating a Gestapo investigation.’ (pp. 172-173)
Rohkrämer then has a nicely nuanced discussion of Heidegger’s later moving away from Nazism in several particulars — though never in principle. He also points out that Heidegger was very much not alone among philosophers in embracing the Nazis:
“Association with National Socialism was also widespread among philosophers. While twenty philosophy professors were forced out of their positions, about thirty joined the Nazi Party in 1933 and almost half became party members by 1940. Moreover, it was not only, as many have assumed, ‘life philosophers’ or radical Nietzscheans who supported the Nazis; the rival schools of neo-Kantians or ‘value philosophers’ also had adherents who made the same political decision for very different reasons.” (p. 171)
Given Heidegger’s towering presence in the landscape of 20th-century philosophy and “deep ecology” environmentalism, How Green Were the Nazis? is an important book.