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Heidegger on World Jewry in the Black Notebooks

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heideggerwalkinghispathTranslated by Greg Johnson

Translator’s Note:

“The locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks.” — Proverbs 30:27.

The following is a draft translation of the five passages (so far) in Martin Heidegger’s Black Notebooks mentioning Jews. They appear in the third volume of the Black Notebooks, published as vol. 96 of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe. Also included are the German originals. 

This translation is presented for discussion, and I would be delighted with constructive criticism. Our regular commentator Petronius has already made some significant corrections, for which I am grateful. 

The talk of “decision” (Entscheidung), “decision regions” (Entscheidungsbezirke), and “Be-ing” (Seyn) belong to Heidegger’s “being-historical” thinking, which tries to get outside the metaphysical tradition and grasp the transformation of hegemonic interpretations of Being down through history, eventuating in the modern scientific/technological interpretation of Being as transparent to human understanding and available for manipulation, which here Heidegger calls “calculation” (Rechnung) and “machination” (Machenschaft). In his later writings he refers to this interpretation of being as the “essence” of  technology.

Heidegger’s account of world Jewry is consistent with his overall “anti-humanism.” Humanism is the idea that human consciousness is “behind” history, meaning that history and culture can ultimately be understood as the products of conscious thought and deliberate action. For Heidegger, however, history is “behind” human consciousness, meaning that human consciousness is shaped by forces like language, traditions, and practices that we can never fully make conscious and thus remain inscrutable and outside of our control.

Thus for Heidegger, the origin of modernity is ultimately a contingent “Ereignis” — which in ordinary German means “event” and for Heidegger also has the sense of “enthrallment” — which can neither be comprehended or controlled. It simply seizes us as a historical destiny.

A crude form of humanism is the conspiratorial theory of history, which is based on the assumption that whatever happens is intended to happen, i.e., it is the result of conscious planning and deliberate action. Since Heidegger rejects this premise, he also rejects such anti-Semitic conspiracy theories as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as naively humanistic in their understanding of history. 

Heidegger does not, however, deny that human thought and action play important roles in history. But he believes that they are not the ultimate forces. Thus Heidegger does not deny that the Jewish community world-wide actively pursues its perceived collective interests. But he does believe that Jewish policies are not the cause or explanation of modernity, but instead that modernity arises from deeper, broader, and ultimately inscrutable forces.

Heidegger sees the rise of Jewish power — in both Anglo-American capitalism and Bolshevism — as a product of the Jews’ unique adaptation to the spirit of modernity, which is an age of rootlessness and calculation. Jews, therefore, appear to be both subjects and objects of the modernization process. Primarily they are objects, since history is ultimately outside of human control. But since world Jewry is already characterized by rootlessness and calculation,  it is capable of accepting the “world-historical task” of driving modernity toward its consummation: a rootless, homogeneous, technological mass society, which will ultimately ensnare and destroy the Jews as well. So, in the end, they are objects as well.

Heidegger’s anti-humanist interpretation of the historical role of Jewry is similar in some respects to Savitri Devi’s. Although Savitri Devi adhered to the Traditionalist cyclical view of history, while Heidegger did not, they agree that the historical process is outside human control. Like Heidegger, Savitri Devi also believes that organized Jewry is, in a sense, the people chosen by history to bring about the consummation of the modern age, which is the Dark Age (Kali Yuga) in the Traditionalist cycle, and that the Jews as well will ultimately be liquidated by the forces they seek to control.

I.

Die zeitweilige Machtsteigerung des Judentums aber hat darin ihren Grund, das die Metaphysik des Abendlandes, zumal in ihrer neuzeitlichen Entfaltung, die Ansatzstelle bot für das Sichbreitmachen einer sonst leeren Rationalität und Rechenfähigkeit, die sich auf solchem Wege eine Unterkunft im “Geist” verschaffte, ohne die verborgenen Entscheidungsbezirke von sich aus je fassen zu können. Je ursprünglicher and angfänglicher die künftigen Entscheidungen und Fragen werden, um so unzugänglicher bleiben sie dieser “Rasse.” (So ist Husserls Schrift zur phänomenologischen Betrachtung unter Absetzung gegen die psychologische Erklärung und historische Verrechnung  von Meinungen von bleibender Wichtigkeit – und dennoch reicht sie nirgends in die Bezirke wesentlicher Entscheidungen, setzt vielmehr die historische Überlieferung der Philosophie überall voraus; die notwendige Folge zeigt sich alsbald im Einschwenken in der neukantischen Tranzsendental-philosophie, das schliesslich einen Fortgang zum Hegelianismus im formalen Sinne unvermeidlich machte. Mein “Angriff” gegen Husserl ist nicht gegen ihn allein gerichtet und überhaupt unwesentlich – der Angriff geht gegen das Versäumnis der Seinsfrage, d.h. gegen als Wesen der Metaphysik als solcher, auf deren Grund die Machenschaft des Seinden die Geschichte zu bestimmen vermag. Der Angriff gründet einen geschichtlichen Augenblick der höchsten Entscheidung zwischen dem Vorrang des Seinden und der Gründung der Wahrheit des Seyns.) (GA 96, p. 46)

Translation

Jewry’s temporary increase in power is, however, grounded in the fact that Western metaphysics, especially in its modern development, furnishes the starting point for the diffusion of a generally empty rationality and calculative ability, which in this way provides a refuge in “spirit,” without being able grasp the hidden decision regions on its own [rationality and calculative ability are not able to grasp these regions by their own means].The more originary and primordial the prospective decisions and questions, the more they remain inaccessible to this “race.” (Thus Husserl’s writing on phenomenological observation while dismissing psychological explanation and historical settlement of opinions is of lasting significance — and yet it goes nowhere near the regions of essential decisions, but rather presupposes the historical tradition of philosophy throughout; the necessary consequence is reflected immediately in the swing to neo-Kantian transcendental philosophy that eventually makes a progression to a Hegelianism in formal sense inevitable. My “attack” against Husserl is not directed against him alone and indeed inessentially — my attack goes to the neglect of the question of Being, i.e., the essence of metaphysics as such, on the ground of which the machination of beings can determine history. The attack grounds a historical moment of the highest decision-making between the primacy of beings and the grounding of the truth of Be-ing.)

II.

Original

Die Juden “leben” bei ihrer betont rechnerischen Begabung am längsten schon nach dem Rasseprinzip, weshalb sie sich auch am heftigsten gegen die uneingeschränkte Anwendung zur Wehr setzen. Die Einrichtung der rassischen Aufzucht entstammt nicht dem “Leben” selbst, sondern der Übermächtigung des Lebens duch die Machenschaft. Was diese mit solcher Planung betreibt, ist eine vollständige Entrassung der Völker durch die Einspannung derselben in die gleichgebaute und gleichschnittige Einrichtung alles Seinden. Mit der Entrassung geht eine Selbstentfremdung der Völker in eins – der Verlust der Geschichte – d.h. der Entscheidungsbezirke zum Seyn. (GA 96, p. 56)

Translation

The Jews, with their marked talent for calculation, “live” longer than anyone by the principle of race, which is why they are resisting its consistent application with utmost violence. The establishment [Einrichtung] of racial breeding [eugenics] does not stem from “life” itself, but from the overpowering of life through machination [technology]. What it pushes forward with such a plan is the complete deracialization of all peoples by clamping them into a uniformly constructed and tailored establishment [Einrichtung] of all beings. At one with de-racialization is the self-alienation of peoples – the loss of history – i.e., the decision regions of Be-ing. (GA 97, p. 133)

III.

Original

Daher kann sich auch beider [der imperialistisch-kriegerischen und der menschheitlich-pazifistischen Denkweise] das “internationale Judentums”  bedienen, die eine als Mittel für die andere ausrufen und bewerkstelligen – diese machenschaftliche “Geschichts”-mache verstrickt alle Mitspieler gleichermassen in ihre Netze–

Translation

Thus, both [the imperialistic-bellicose and humanitarian-pacifistic way of thinking] can be used by “international Jewry” to proclaim and accomplish one as a means for the other [their common end of a rootless, leveled, homogeneous, technological mass civilization] — this machinational “history”-making entangles all players equally in their webs —

IV.

Original

Auch der Gedanke einer Verständigung mit England im Sinne einer Verteilung der “Gerechtsamen” der Imperialismen trifft nicht ins Wesen der geschichtlichen Vorgangs, den England jetzt innerhalb des Amerikanismus und des Bolschewismus und d. h. zugleich auch des Weltjudentums zu Ende spielt. Die Frage nach der Rolle des Weltjudentums is keine rassische, sondern die metaphysische Frage nach der Art von Menschentümlichkeit, die schlechthin ungebunden die Entwurzelung alles Seienden aus dem Sein als weltgeschichtliche “Aufgabe” übernehmen kann. (GA 96, p. 243)

Translation

The idea of an understanding with England in terms of a distribution of imperialist “prerogatives” misses the essence of the historical process, which is lead by England within the framework of Americanism and Bolshevism and at the same time world Jewry to its final conclusion. The question of the role of world Jewry is not racial, but the metaphysical question of the type of humanity that can accept the world-historical “task” of uprooting all beings from Being.

V. 

Original

Die Weltjudentum, aufgestachelt durch die aus Deutschland hinausgelassenen Emigranten, ist überall unfassbar und braucht sich bei aller Machtenfaltung nirgends an kriegerischen handlungen zu beteiligen, wogegen uns nur bleibt, das beste Blut der Besten des eigenes Volkes zu opfern. (GA 96, p. 262)

Translation

World Jewry, incited by emigrants allowed to leave Germany, is pervasive and impalpable, and even though its power is widely spread, it doesn’t need to participate in military actions, whereas all that remains to us is to sacrifice the best blood of our own people.

 

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20 Comments

  1. Joe O'Leary
    Posted April 16, 2015 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    The bits you quote from Heidegger are quite anodyne (and a well-known French Jewish philosopher tells me he feels so too). I don’t think open-minded left or liberal thinkers are going to be dragged into some rightist swoon by this.

  2. Julia
    Posted April 3, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Do you have a citation for translation III?
    Have you translated any other passages? any from GA 94 or 95? I’m a college student studying philosophy. I am working on a long paper about the black notebooks in context with his other work. Your translations are really good and thanks for providing the page number where the passage can be found.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      It is GA 96, p. 133. Thanks for your kind words.

      I am working my way through GA 97, and I plan to write something on it in May.

  3. Jaego
    Posted April 2, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Nothing in what he said contradicts The Protocols. His analysis just goes deeper. They are true on the level on which they were written. He said “they calculate” and the Protocols goes into detail about how they do so. Perhaps he didn’t believe they were a transcript of an actual meeting? That doesn’t take away from their value as an imaginative work. Of all people he should understand the limitations of “just the facts” and the different layers of truth.

  4. Vick
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for these translations and for the commentary.

    There’s something liberating and exciting about seeing Heidegger transform and move definitively from the world of brilliant but controversial thinkers into the netherworld of thinkers too brilliant to ignore, but who speak taboo, illegal, unthinkable ideas. While I think that there will be a slow but steady attempt to exclude his thought and his name from the canon, I think this will only make Heideggerian thought sexier and more enticing. He’s not at all a villainous figure, but if they want to make him into one, then there are far worse fates.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted April 1, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      The more I read in the Black Notebooks, the more I am convinced that Heidegger wanted them published last in his collected works because they are so political, viz. politically incorrect, even beyond the Jewish bits, and I think that Heidegger wanted to insure that scholars and publishers were maximally invested in his work — whole careers are built on Heidegger scholarship, and Heidegger books in German and in translation are economically very important for publishers all around the world — that by the time the Black Notebooks appeared, it would be impossible simply to drop him. Heidegger will be like Nietzsche or Pound: an intellectual giant that the Left simply cannot ignore or dismiss to they have to find ways to denature or apologize for this thought.

  5. Vidar
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the translation, Greg, this is very interesting. Some of Heidegger’s thoughts here remind me of Julius Evola.

  6. Jaego
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    “The ‘task’ of uprooting all beings from Being” – that really gets to the essence of it, doesn’t it? We must become like weeds, hard to get rid of because of the many roots, both old and deep and new and shallow but becoming deep. Perhaps kudzu? The Oaks of our Being are too easy to spot, use, and/or cut down.

  7. Walter
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    These translations are quite true to the German original; they convey in English the same concepts and ideas as in German. I see at this point one difference in my and Dr. Johnson’s understanding in the translation, and it is a difficult passage I stumbled over upon reading it the first time yesterday: In paragraph 2 the word “Machenschaften”. In German it means usually the same as in English the word “machinations” or “plots”, a secret will at work with intent towards a certain outcome; in Dr. Johnson’s translation the word “technology” in brackets after the first choice “machinations” suggests the alternative meaning of the natural or self-immanent course of things that follows from the penetration and domination of life through technology, which I think Heidegger didn’t mean -although with Heidegger’s sometimes circularly self-referential vocabulary, “Machenschaften” could mean “the things that are made” (“machen” = to make, “Machenschaft” “the thing made” (with a critical, negative twist in that notion, if used in this sense), i.e., technology or a situation, too. I think he did mean “plot” or “machination” and thereby the concept of separation.
    This is a difficult sentence, and I a curious about other readers’ perception.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted March 31, 2014 at 1:56 am | Permalink

      Thanks but they are much improved by Petronius. I am afraid I have allowed my German to get rusty, but the Black Notebooks are such compelling reading that I feel I will be getting back into better form.

      Putting “technology” in brackets is my gloss, for Heidegger’s later discussions of technology and the technological world-view are the successors of his discussion of calculation and machination. Heidegger is using “Machenschaft” to mean both calculation/planning/plotting and manufacture.

      It is typical of Heidegger to use words with double senses. The best example is Ereignis, which means event but which he also “hears” as er-eignen (to appropriate, to take hold) and er-aügen (to behold), which I think can be captured best with the English “enthralling,” as in an “enthralling story” or “enthralling performance,” a spectacle that captivates the beholder.

      • Walter
        Posted April 2, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your answer. You make a compelling case for reading Heidegger, which I have not done so far. One reason was his playing with words and their secondary or conceivably secondary meaning, which I found quite contrary to the clarity of a Schopenhauer or Nietzsche. However, the very fact that he was a seer of 20th-century reality, past, present and future, and that he is now being moved from “controversial” to illegitimate in the eyes of the manipulators and grand beneficiaries of the 20th century human effort makes it absolutely necessary to know what he said.

  8. Jaego
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    People aren’t capable of tragedy anymore, at least in the West. Women especially will try to “bright side” having a retarded child until they finally feel or at least express they are glad about it. As Hitler said, Christianity ultimately leads to this. I like to think that’s not true but it definitely is once it is contaminated with Liberal Humanism. By itself it is able to accept affliction and the mysteries of fate.

  9. Petronius
    Posted March 30, 2014 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    It seem to me that Bardèche in “What is Fascism?” offers a similar critique of the “machination”-like process of NS racial engineering….

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted March 31, 2014 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      Whenever I find critiques of eugenics on the Right, I suspect the presence of a reactionary religious obscurantism — namely Christian notions of soul-body dualism, freedom of the will, the dignity of the human person, and the jealous authority of the church demanding the complete subordination of sex, reproduction, and family life to anti-biological values — trying to ward off the implications of naturalism by casting it in the most dystopian Brave New World/Abolition of Man terms — or in the most brutal Spartan terms. But I am not buying.

      Eugenics is not a sinister product of modern science (or “scientism”). It is ancient, traditional, crunchy, folksy, and common-sensical: the application of time-tested methods of improving animal and plant stocks to human breeding. It is the only known way to make sure that our children are smarter, healthier, and more attractive than we are, and what kind of parent would not wish that? Eugenics does not require that we kill or sterilize or be mean to ill-favored people. It just requires that we encourage greater reproductive success among the best-favored. (And one can offer tempting positive incentives to some to undergo sterilization or otherwise restrict their fertility.)

      • Petronius
        Posted March 31, 2014 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        I think Lewis and Huxley were absolutey right. Heidegger as well would disagree with you; in a modern mass age, enforced by the state, using technology, eugenic measures certainly add up to “machination” and “calculation”. There is nothing “crunchy” or ancient about it anymore. What Bardèche was critisizing about NS race politicis was the narrow scheme they had of race, the biological machinery process with which it was applied.

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted March 31, 2014 at 1:45 am | Permalink

          Totalitarian eugenics is totalitarian. Yet non-totalitarian eugenics is quite conceivable. Altering and mutilating human beings to fit a pre-existing system is totalitarian. Creating a system that is subordinated to the prefection of mankind is quite another thing.

          Correct me if I am wrong, but NS eugenics was largely a matter of encouraging highly select groups to have large families. Nothing sinister about that alone.

          I think that one could practice eugenics in a fashion consistent with modern liberal sensibilities by simply offering positive incentives for some to breed and others not to breed. Indeed, our current societies do just that, but with dysgenic rather than eugenic outcomes. Every society whether by action or intention has dysgenic or eugenic incentives in place. Once one accepts that inevitability, the only real question is how to make the incentives eugenic rather than dysgenic.

          • Greg Johnson
            Posted March 31, 2014 at 2:15 am | Permalink

            Yes, that is true. I have pointed out in a number of places that it is misleading to treat Fascism/NS as well as Communism as species of the genus “totalitarianism,” since Fascism/NS was far less intrusive into daily life than Communist regimes — or liberal regimes today, for that matter. But totalitarianism certainly did exist in the Communist world, and still does in North Korea.

      • Eugenics
        Posted March 31, 2014 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        The following video is a condensation of one participant’s involvement, Neil, in Michael Apted’s long-run documentary series, Seven Up, which tracked the lives of a dozen people from the age of seven (in 1963) to most recently 56 (in 2012). Neil is an interesting character whose sunny childhood showed no portent of the mental troubles he was to endure later in life. He is a lucid thinker and although a Greg Johnson, learned in the ways of wisdom, would surely see reason to reproach him on several points, he would also agree with many of his comments about the socially debilitating aspects of modern life. At the 19:22 mark Neil, here 28 years of age, demonstrates awareness of the role heredity has played in his mental condition and forswears having children of his own on the basis of this understanding. I was touched by his humility here. It’s worth watching a few minutes of the video prior to the 19:22 mark to get a feel for the man first. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBS3_G7NhHg

        A eugenic culture would, I like to think, extend its compassion to a man in Neil’s condition, particularly in light of his decision to forgo siring offspring on the basis of his desire to prevent future suffering, rather than on a more selfish basis of children hampering his ability to enjoy earthly pleasures. Neil in this case can be said to have made a ‘eugenic decision.’ A eugenic culture would encourage eugenic thinking and reward eugenic decisions. Over time, eugenic decisions could come to enjoy the status of natural wisdom that ‘recycling’ now enjoys among lefties and environmentalists. Coercing people into eugenic decisions will be seen as the bad old days.

        (In the sidebar of youtube selections when viewing this video a suggested video shows up of a documentary of a two-headed identical twin girl. I could only glance at it briefly and then turn away in disgust. I have very little stomach for such freakish unfortunates. Even mere spastics make me distinctly uncomfortable. While I am very grateful that there are people in this world who are willing to dedicate their lives to caring for them, surely it would be better that such people are not born at all.)

        • Greg Johnson
          Posted March 31, 2014 at 2:52 am | Permalink

          A very useful example. A eugenic culture would indeed regard this man to be as admirable as better-favored people who do pass on their genes. Everybody has something to contribute, either through eugenic reproduction or the eugenic decision not to reproduce.

      • Tom
        Posted March 31, 2014 at 4:43 am | Permalink

        Greg: I think you overlook how the nature of being remains a genuine question for Heidegger, and it does not conceal a cryptic religious or metaphysical position, whereas your prescription of naturalism as against Christianity or humanism clearly follows from metaphysical and value disputes related to the belief that human beings can finally determine the nature of being.

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