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Hitler's Philosophers Hardcover – May 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

In Hitler's Philosopher's, Yvonne Sherratt—a researcher at Oxford University—unpacks the history of the intellectual toleration of Hitler's crimes. Sherratt is plainly concerned that the Western university harbors far too much sympathy with Nazi philosophers and political theorists. This claim will surprise many, especially parents paying $55,000 a year to universities that supposedly tolerate Nazi ideas. Yet to size up the true proportions of the threat we must ask: What is a Nazi idea? What was Hitler's philosophy? And what is the chilling evidence that Hitler's philosophy is now meeting with approval among the educators of a new generation? —Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

Review

“A brilliantly conceived work of genuine scholarship. . . . Fascinating and important.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
(Publishers Weekly 2013-04-16)

"A powerful portrait of collaboration, and corruption." —John Cornwell, Financial Times
(John Cornwell Financial Times)

“Fascinating. . . . Describes the fatal intersection of politics and ideas during the Nazi era."—The Wall Street Journal
(The Wall Street Journal)

"Sherratt has done a superb job in showing how significant philosophers . . . betrayed their duty to humanity, and how scores of insignificant philosophers sold their souls for professorial chairs."—Andrew Roberts, Commentary Magazine
(Andrew Roberts Commentary Magazine)

"Sherratt’s focus on people…is also one of the book’s strengths. The stories she presents of the philosophers who fled Germany – Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt – are rich and moving, sometimes amusing and at times unexpected."—John Gray, The Independent
(John Gray The Independent)

"…a moving account of Kurt Huber, mentor to the White Rose resistance movement"—George Steiner, Times Literary Supplement.
(George Steiner Times Literary Supplement)

"Her book's strongest contribution is its overview of Hitler's self-conception as the 'philosopher-Führer'—his 'astonishing' 'identification with great German philosophers.' . . . her accounts—drive the bleak picture home."—The Chronicle (The Chronicle)

"Cultural historians will be absorbed by this study of the easy adoption of the Nazi meme among a coterie of intellectuals who might have been expected to know better. Useful as part of philosophy or ethics curricula."—Library Journal
(Library Journal)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151930
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #980,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Yvonne Sherratt is a writer and academic. Hitler's Philosophers is her latest book:
`a fascinating, disturbing and necessary book...' JOHN GRAY, INDEPENDENT, LONDON
It is a fascinating subject... 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"). WALL STREET JOURNAL.
`Her book's strongest contribution is its overview of Hitler's self-conception as the "philosopher-Führer"--his "astonishing" "identification with great German philosophers. ...her accounts--drive the bleak picture home' THE CHRONICLE
`a powerful portrait of collaboration, and corruption.' JOHN CORNWELL, FINANCIAL TIMES, LONDON
`Hitler's Philosophers...is a sobering and disturbing tale', ALASDAIR PALMER, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, LONDON
`The chapters on Jewish German thinkers are...compelling. Her book is a useful reminder of the depths to which supposedly civilised people can sink when confronted with the temptations of power' SUNDAY TIMES, LONDON
`...a moving account of Kurt Huber, mentor to the White Rose resistance movement' GEORGE STEINER, TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
`exceptionally well told..., Dr Sherratt provides compelling studies of the philosophers who fled or died rather than play along with Hitler' SIMON HEFFER, STANDPOINT MAGAZINE
`A thoughtful thought-provoking book.' (Timothy W. Ryback, author of Hitler's Private Library: The Books that Shaped his Life).

Yvonne has a PhD from King's College, Cambridge. She is a former fellow of Corpus Christi College and most recently taught at New College, Oxford. She contributes to the BBC History Magazine, History Today and the Times Literary Supplement as well as giving talks at the Southbank Centre and various radio shows. Her previous books include Adorno's Positive Dialectic and Continental Philosophy of Social Science.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cowley on February 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a flawed book on an interesting subject. Sherratt covers the alleged interest of Hitler in philosophy; the activities of Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt and some lesser ideologues; and the activities of opposition activists and thinkers, on one of whom she has written at more length in Adorno's Positive Dialectic (2002).

The chapter on Hitler relies on the propagandistic Hitler Speaks of Hermann Rauschning from 1940; the edited memories from the 1950s of Ernst Hanfstaengel, a plausible raconteur who knew Hitler in the 1920s and early 1930s; and Hitler's indirectly recorded Table Talk: Secret Conversations. None of these sources were acknowledged by Hitler as genuine. She endorses Rauschning on the basis of a quote from Hugh Trevor-Roper who likened Rauschning's Hitler to the Table Talk, but she does not cite the evidence of Rauschning's historical fraud uncovered by Wolfgang Hänel (see Hermann Rauschnings Gespräche mit Hitler: eine Geschichtsfalschung. Ingolstadt, Zeitgeschichtliches Forschungstelle, 1984) and others. In contrast, an account of Hitler that relies on Hitler's own book, speeches, interviews and articles is Rainer Zitelmann's Hitler: The Policies of Seduction. Sherratt's analysis, being based in large part on forgeries or secondary sources, is in comparison untrustworthy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ARose on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was eager to get my hands on this book, and so it's tough to admit, but I'm really disappointed. The author manages to survey huge amounts of information, without telling the reader much of anything. Especially if you're an academic interested in seriously studying the Third Reich and philosophy, this book doesn't deliver. For anyone who knows much of anything about Hitler or the Third Reich, the book is obnoxiously redundant and shares a number of pointless details. I understand she's trying to write in an accessible style, but the copious details about things like the architecture of the lane in which Hitler walked and the seriously unnecessary details about what Heidegger's affair with Arendt was like are obnoxious. They take up valuable pages that should have been devoted to more in depth analysis. Much of the book feels like a casual summary, and so manages to pique your interest in a number of places, but leaves you feeling like you should have just invested in buying and reading two or three actual studies of the subject matter. The book also relies quite a bit on secondary sources.

That being said, if you're not an academic, but just someone casually interested in learning about Hitler and the philosophers of Germany at the time, the book is an easy read, informative (on basic topics), and has an extensive bibliography to guide you to further reading if you so desire.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ernest C Benson on January 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found the relationship between Marin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt to be extremely interesting. Some may know all about it but it was new to me. I never knew much about Walter Benjamin. He mentored Heidegger and then was betrayed by him. Its very sad.
Heidegger is considered to be a brilliant philosopher and was apparently without a conscience. He made a perfect Nazi philosopher.
The book is very readable. I recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really a 3.75. Great back ground for the thinking of what was going on in Nazi's mind. Verdict out on what I thought was it's conclusion: German philosophers were the basis for total development of German mindset prior to WWII.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Massimo Pigliucci on September 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hitler will likely forever be a source of fascination, just like any other source of great evil in history. This book, however, takes an unusual look at what may appear as a side story within the overall drama of the Third Reich, one that nonetheless had consequences for real human beings, as well as for our understanding of the relationship between academia and political power. Philosophers like to style themselves as gadflies speaking truth to power (and often they are, just think of Socrates, the original gadfly). But the story of Hitler's philosophers told by Yvonne Sherratt is much more complicated. Some did bravely oppose the "Fuhrer's" lunacy (and paid a high price for it, like Kurt Hubert and Walter Benjamin), while some actively endorsed it and took advantage of it to further their careers (most obviously Heidegger), while still others where more ambivalent at least for some time during their lives (Hanna Arendt). Certainly Hitler didn't need philosophers to achieve his immediate goals, but he did need to reshape the whole way the German nation was thinking if he wanted to establish a new course for it that would last centuries. Fortunately, he failed abysmally.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By SLIMJIM on April 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I’m glad that Yale Press published this. When I first saw this book I knew I had to read it for two reasons: As someone who enjoys intellectual history, this book will no doubt touch on the ideas and philosophy that influenced Hitler (or to be more charitable, it would point out the ideological capitals Hitler used to persuade people to his policies). Secondly, we see an increase in the last fifteen years of historical works addressing the question of how did a mad man managed to lead a civilized people towards barbaric policies with the focus of the complicity of various institution, from the Pope, the church, scientists, social sciences and the universities. In the same vein, this works show the intersection of philosophy/philosophers with Hitler/Nazism. The book definitely fulfilled the initial reasons for why I wanted to read the book.
The author divided the book into two parts. The first section focused on Hitler and philosophy, and on the philosophers who collaborated with the Nazi’s ideological vision. The second section concentrated on German philosophers that the Nazi opposed. It is a big endeavor the author pursued since each section of the book can easily be the focus of a book-length treatment.
Chapter one was a mini-ideological biography of Hitler and what philosophers he liked and who and what influenced him. I appreciated the chapter’s focus of the early years of Hitler before political opportunism seasoned his rhetoric and when he was passionately frank about what he believed during the lowest point of his life in a German prison. The author worked through materials not only from Hitler’s writing and speech (he tend to brag about his intellectual prowess) but also sources from early supporters and friends.
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