The more we learn about Heidegger, the worse it gets. A book of the correspondence between the philosopher and his brother Fritz has just been published in Germany under the title Heidegger und der Antisemitismus (“Heidegger and Anti-Semitism”). The letters, in the words of Adam Soboczynski and Alexander Cammann, writing in the LARB, "expose him as a bona fide, unrepentant anti-Semite. They also show that — in contrast to prevailing beliefs — the Freiburg professor was politically well informed, and was an early and passionate supporter of National Socialism."
As early as the tail end of 1931, the 43-year-old Heidegger sent his brother a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf for Christmas, praising the future dictator’s “extraordinary and unwavering political instincts.”...
On April 13, 1933, Heidegger writes enthusiastically:
It can be seen from one day to the next how great a statesman Hitler is becoming. The world of our people and the Reich finds itself in a process of transformation, and all those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart for action will be swept along and put in a state of extreme excitement....
The opprobrium Martin Heidegger directs at Jews in the letters may have been typical of the widespread anti-Semitic discourse and conspiracy theories of the time. As early as 1916, he complained to his future wife of the “Jewification of our culture and universities,” against which the “German race” must “summon inner strength” to “rise up.” Still, in the case of Heidegger, such baseness is particularly abhorrent; not only were his famous academic instructor Edmund Husserl and his student and lover Hannah Arendt Jewish, but so were many other students that sat with him in his classes, including Karl Löwith, Herbert Marcuse, Leo Strauss, Jacob Klein, Elisabeth Blochmann, Hans Jonas, and Werner Brock, his last assistant prior to 1933. Complaining about his growing workload on April 13, 1933, Heidegger explains coldly: “three Jews are disappearing from my department.”...
Just like National Socialism itself, the war was, for Heidegger, a battle in defense of the “Occident” and “German-ness” against the “great threat” posed by “Bolshevism” and “Americanism” (Jan. 29, 1943). On June 7, 1942, the philosopher still wonders why “our propaganda” doesn’t reveal “Americanism in all of its excesses.” Ultimately, he was left befuddled: “What the Weltgeist (world spirit) has in store for the Germans is a mystery. Just as murky is why it is using the Americans and Bolsheviks as its servants” (Jan. 18, 1945).
After the end of the war, Heidegger stayed true to this victim mentality, both in regard to his country and to himself. On July 23, 1945, he writes of “KZ-people” — presumably referring to concentration camp survivors who were housed in Heidegger’s apartment — as being “not so nice,” just like the situation at his university, where “everything is dreadful and worse than during Nazi times.” The postwar expulsion of Germans (from regions east of present-day Germany) exceeds, Heidegger argues in April 1946, “all organized criminal atrocities” prior to 1945. And the Jews? “I find a Heinrich-Heine-Street to be completely unnecessary, because it makes no sense in Messkirch,” Heidegger writes to his brother Fritz on July 31, 1945. The newly published letters show clearly that it can no longer be denied: the case of Martin Heidegger has been both a scholarly and moral disaster in Germany’s intellectual history.
I'm not sure why it should be a scholarly and moral disaster particularly for Germany's intellectual history. There's a strong case for arguing that it was in France, in particular, and later in America, that Heidegger influence was most pronounced. He's the godfather of "theory", after all - of the movement of much 20th century philosophy away from the business of clear and critical thought towards the logorrhea of modish and purposefully obscure jargon-ridden nonsense, so beautifully punctured by the Sokal hoax. Derrida, for instance, saw deconstruction as a concept inherited from Heidegger.
Jonathan Glover on Heidegger: how the obscurity of Heidegger's thought helped to conceal how second-rate his thinking was.
More on the French connection, and why, unlike Gottlob Frege for instance - one of the founders of the discipline of philosophical logic, and a rabid antisemite to boot - Heidegger's work is not so easily separated from his political views.
Richard Wolin, on a similar theme, providing a definitive response to those who've tried over the years to claim that Heidegger's anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathies can somehow be separated from his philosophy.
And again: why Jonathan Ree - co-founder of Radical Philosophy, that home of critical theory in the UK, and frequent contributor to the LRB - fails in his attempt to detach Heidegger from his Nazi roots:
Rée explains why he finds Heidegger so important: because of his critique of the "imperious dehumanising movement of western modernity". But when you're keen, as so many of our modern critical thinkers are, to analyse the shortcomings of modern western society, it's perhaps wise not to base your analysis on the works of a thinker who saw enemies in world Jewry and British democracy, and the answer in National Socialism.
Finally, how Heidegger's thought lends itself to obscurantist anti-Western strains in both Russia and Iran.