Skip to main content

Heidegger and the Myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy

In 2014, the first three volumes of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks—the personal and philosophical notebooks that he kept during the war yearswere published in Germany. These notebooks provide the first textual evidence of anti-Semitism in Heidegger’s philosophy, not simply in passing remarks, but as incorporated into his philosophical and political thinking itself. In Heidegger and the Myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy, Peter Trawny, the editor of those notebooks, offers the first evaluation of Heidegger’s philosophical project in light of the Black Notebooks.
While Heidegger’s affiliation with National Socialism is well known, the anti-Semitic dimension of that engagement could not be fully told until now. Trawny traces Heidegger’s development of a grand “narrative” of the history of being, the “being-historical thinking” at the center of Heidegger’s work after Being and Time. Two of the protagonists of this narrative are well known to Heidegger’s readers: the Greeks and the Germans. The world-historical antagonist of this narrative, however, has remained hitherto undisclosed: the Jews, or, more specifically, “world Judaism.” As Trawny shows, world Judaism emerges as a racialized, destructive, and technological threat to the German homeland, indeed, to any homeland whatsoever. Trawny pinpoints recurrent, anti-Semitic themes in the Notebooks, including Heidegger’s adoption of crude cultural stereotypes, his assigning of racial reasons to philosophical decisions (even undermining his Jewish teacher, Edmund Husserl), his endorsement of a Jewish “world conspiracy,” and his first published remarks on the extermination camps and gas chambers (under the troubling aegis of a Jewish “self-annihilation”). Trawny concludes with a thoughtful meditation on how Heidegger’s achievements might still be valued despite these horrifying facets. Unflinching and systematic, this is one of the most important assessments of one of the most important philosophers in our history.


“Nobody knows Heidegger’s texts from 1933 to 1945 as well as Trawny does nor has done more to establish guidelines on how they should be read. Only Trawny, at this point, has offered the kind of sustained interpretation of the anti-Semitic passages in Heidegger’s Black Notebooks that we need if we are to determine for ourselves just how far his thought is compromised by these revelations. In the present book, he shows in precise and rigorous ways the specific challenges that these passages present to those readings of Heidegger that attempt to minimize the role his association with National Socialism should play in the assessment of his thought.”

Robert Bernasconi, Penn State University

“A failure in one part of the system can suggest a failure everywhere. And so, earlier this year, in a book called Heidegger and the Myth of a Jewish World Conspiracy, Trawny asked the inevitable question: could Heidegger’s philosophy as a whole be ‘contaminated’ by Nazism? . . . I find myself agreeing with Trawny. It’s impossible to disavow Heidegger’s thinking: it is too useful, and too influential, to be marginalized. . . . You don’t spend years working your way through Being and Time because you’re idly interested. You do it because you think that, by reading it, you might learn something precious and indispensable. The Black Notebooks, however seriously you take them, are a betrayal of that ardency. They make it harder to care about—and, therefore, to really know—Heidegger’s ideas. Even if his philosophy isn’t contaminated by Nazism, our relationship with him is.”

Joshua Rothman | New Yorker, on the German edition

“The goal of this book is not to impugn Heidegger, but rather to persuade Heidegger’s devotees that his anti-Semitic remarks matter…Trawny’s own bottom line—‘whoever will philosophize with Heidegger must be clear about the anti-Semitic implications of certain specific traits of his thought’ (English 94; German 132)—hits the mark.”


Table of Contents

Preface to the English Translation

Introduction: A Thesis in Need of Revision

The Being-Historical Landscape

Types of Being-Historical Anti-Semitism

The Being-Historical Concept of “Race”

The Foreign and the Foreign

Heidegger and Husserl

Work and Life

Annihilation and Self-Annihilation

After the Shoah

Attempts at a Response

Afterword to the German Second Edition

Afterword to the German Third Edition




Name Index

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press