The Fuhrer's Fuhrer, Martin Heidegger, Heildelberg 1933

Presented with the kind permission of Jeffrey Van Davis

About this documentary:

Martin Heidegger is considered by many to be the most profound thinker of the 20th Century.

His magnum opus, Being and Time, was published in 1927 and had the equivalent impact on philosophy that Einstein’s theory of relativity, published in 1906, had on physics; and Freud’s theories of personality, published in 1902 had in the field of psychology.

What Heidegger did was to overturn the whole history of philosophical thought that went back 2,500 years to the Greeks and re-examine the question of being and to challenge the whole of Western Metaphysics that prevailed up to his time.

He went back to the Pre-socratics, specifically Heraclites, to begin to redirect the path of thinking, to redirect the years of philosophical inquiry in order to put us back “on the right track.”

A student of Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, at the University of Freiburg Germany, Heidegger would break with his great mentor and charge forth into a new direction, building on phenomenology, but going his own quite original way.

His wish was to make philosophy the Queen of the Sciences.

Heidegger’s monumental task would have a powerful impact on 20th Century philosophy and influence some of the century’s most important thinkers — Jean Paul Sartre, Karl Jaspers, Jacque Derrida, Karl Löwitz, Hans Jonas, Michel Foucault, Hans Georg Gadamer, Richard Rorty, Herbert Marcuse, and Hannah Arendt.

In May of 1933, Germany’s most famous philosopher, joined the Nazi Party and became the first Nazi Rector of a German University.

He enthusiastically supported the new revolutionary movement in Germany and made known his admiration for Adolf Hitler and his desire to be the philosopher of the Nazi revolution, to be the Führer of the Führer.

Although one of the most influential thinkers of our time, much of Heidegger’s philosophy is shrouded in confusion and controversy. His support for National Socialism poses some serious questions about Heidegger’s thought in particular and philosophy in general. Was he a profound thinker or was he a petty bourgeois from the province whose thought sprang from the Blut und Boden of the humble origins of his arch-conservative Catholic youth? Or both?

We now know that Heidegger’s “flirtation” with Nazism was actually a life-long commitment propelled by ideas in his own philosophy.

In his “Introduction To Metaphysics” published in 1953, one cannot fail to notice his incriminating insistence on the intrinsic “saving power and greatness” of National Socialism.

More scandalous than his backing of Hitler, however, was his silence about the Holocaust.

Karl Jaspers and Herbert Marcuse made attempts to get Heidegger to refute his Nazi past.

In 1947, like the poet Paul Celan, Marcuse travelled to Heidegger’s hut in Todtnauberg in the Black Forest, against the advice of his fellow German-Jewish émigrés, in search of a “single word” of repentance.

Heidegger refused to respond.

Many scholars have displayed dangerous failures of political judgement by promoting uncritically Heidegger’s thought. This film offers an extraordinary response and radical challenge to Heidegger’s rejection of democracy and his support of Nazism.

In the 1976 interview with Der Spiegel, Heidegger reiterated his distaste for democratic society, his aversion of things modern, his complaint about hardships he had to suffer, yet he was able to live in a villa in Freiburg from 1945 till his death in 1976 in relative peace and comfort under the protection of the new democratic Germany.

One only has to think about the millions who died in World War II, a war started by the Nazi regime he openly supported, and one’s patience with his petulance begins to grow thin.

His final words of despair in Der Spiegel interview make it clear that he had no faith in democracy or for that matter liberal democratic government of any kind.

The only hope? There is none. “Only a God can save us.”

Featured in this film …

  • Kardinal Karl Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz
  • Alfred Denker, Heidegger Biographer
  • Hugo Ott, Freiburg University
  • Victor Farias, Free University of Berlin
  • Tom Rockmore, Duquesne University, USA
  • Richard Wolin, City University of New York, USA
  • Ted Kisiel, Northern Illinois University, USA
  • Rainer Marten, Freiburg University
  • Emmanuel Faye, University of Paris
  • Bernd Martin, Freiburg University
  • Iain Thomson, University of New Mexico, USA
  • Jürgen Paul, Dresden University
  • Silke Seemann, Freiburg University
  • Rangvi Wesendonk
  • Axel Graf Douglas, Schloss Langenstein

Some of the topics covered in the documentary …

  • Heidegger’s concept of Being and the “turning” from Dasein to Sein
  • His humble beginnings and staunch Catholic education.
  • The Rectorship and his denunciation of teachers such as Nobel Prize winner Staudinger. His enthusiasm for Gleichschaltung of Frieburg University.
  • His highly manipulative love affair with Hannah Arendt.
  • His relationship to Edith Stein.
  • His refusal to give a word of reconciliation to Paul Celan who visited him in his hut at Todtnauberg.
  • The denazification process and his refusal to recant his support for Hitler.

Jeffrey van Davis, Filmmaker, Writer, Jazz Drummer