Hitler's Philosophers Yvonne Sherratt

Publication date:
15 Feb 2013
Yale University Press
328 pages: 235 x 156 x 29mm
16 b-w illus.
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Hitler had a dream to rule the world, not only with the gun but also with his mind. He saw himself as a "philosopher-leader" and astonishingly gained the support of many intellectuals of his time. In this compelling book, Yvonne Sherratt explores Hitler's relationship with philosophers and uncovers cruelty, ambition, violence, and betrayal where least expected—at the heart of Germany's ivory tower.

Sherratt investigates international archives, discovering evidence back to the 1920s of Hitler's vulgarization of noble thinkers of the past, including Kant, Nietzsche, and Darwin. She reveals how philosophers of the 1930s eagerly collaborated to lend the Nazi regime a cloak of respectability: Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, and a host of others. And while these eminent men sanctioned slaughter, Semitic thinkers like Walter Benjamin and opponents like Kurt Huber were hunted down or murdered. Many others, such as Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt, were forced to flee as refugees. The book portrays their fates, to be dispersed across the world as the historic edifice of Jewish-German culture was destroyed by Hitler.

Sherratt not only confronts the past; she also tracks down chilling evidence of continuing Nazi sympathy in Western Universities today.

Yvonne Sherratt was educated at Cambridge University, and is a former fellow of Corpus Christi College. She most recently taught at New College, Oxford. She is author of Adorno's Positive Dialectic and Continental Philosophy of Social Science.

'In Hitler’s Philosophers, Yvonne Sherratt describes the fatal intersection of politics and ideas during the Nazi era. She draws neat biographical sketches of Heidegger ('Hitler’s Superman'), of lesser figures, like Krieck and Bäumler ('Collaborators'), and of Carl Schmitt ('Hitler’s Lawmaker'), the influential legal philosopher and keen Nazi who defined the concept of dictatorship and explored the limits of liberal democracy and the rule of law'. Ian Brunskill, The Wall Street Journal, Europe

'Yet how does one explain why civilized people who do not merely have the capacity for thought, but whose life is thinking, embrace evil? In her new book Hitler’s Philosophers Yvonne Sherratt explores among other things, this conundrum … It is, in the end, a peculiarly unedifying story, though exceptionally well told'. Simon Heffer, Standpoint

'Sherratt describes Hitler’s philosophers as being concerned with “a terrible secret: the story of how philosophy was implicated in genocide.' It is a good description of a fascinating, disturbing and necessary book'. John Gray, The Belfast Telegraph