banality between the sheets: sucking on being

It has to be remembered that in the pecking order of European jewry before WWII, Germany was the absolute top of the hierarchy.There was no secular educational infrastructure to speak of in the East.  The brethren from the Eastern ghettos were markedly of an inferior caste, morally and genetically as perceived from the learned centres of Germany. Arendt was not so much anti-semitic as some claim, as rather guilty of middle-class insecurity in keeping and advancing her position. The abstactions of the ivory tower in Weimar and the postulations of the sages in some backwater of Poland could provide for a more incongruous juxtaposition of Jewish identity. She was basically using Heidegger to maintain status and distinction and was willing to overextend her case in order to be heard above the noise. She wanted to be the one administering last rites to Eichmann, helping him gulp a half bottle of wine before reciting some nonsensical phrases in his own personal kaddish. Beat poetry for the Fuhrer.

Edith Birken. Rosenbaum:But leaving Heidegger out of the equation is becoming ever more difficult. Not only did Arendt have an affair with him when she was an 18-year-old student about half his age, before Hitler took over, but despite his public exaltation of the Fuhrer, despite his firing Jews once he became rector of Freiburg University. We now know that she later resumed some kind of warm relationship with the brownshirt philosopher (yes, it turns out he often wore one to his lectures). Read More: image:

“No person who knows about love and passion will consider Arendt’s forgiveness of Heidegger unusual,” she said. “Americans have great difficulty understanding passion. When I discuss ‘Anna Karenina’ with my students, they can’t understand why Anna gives up a loving husband, a beautiful home and a wonderful child for this jerk of an officer. I tell them to read ‘Manon Lescaut’ or D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Women in Love.’ Then they understand. Love is irrational. There is nothing we can do about it.” Read More:

Blood and soil and cleaning up a little semen that escaped. Its evident there is no banality of evil. The absurdity of asking a death camp survivor if the experience was banal. If Martin Buber can be considered the most genial philosopher, then Arendt is the darker, Janus faced antidote, one marked by an absence of transparency and motives that are shifting and ambiguous. Leo Strauss or the grandmother of the neo-cons?

SHE was 18; he was 35. She was a Jew in Germany in the 1920′s; he would become a Nazi. She showed him, in Elzbieta Ettinger’s heated prose, “how to love ardently and not feel it a sin”; he showed her his mind — the mind of a philosopher whom she would later call “the uncrowned king of the empire of thought.” She was Hannah Arendt and he was Martin Heidegger, and the story of what she called their “star-crossed” love is as appalling as any that Shakespeare ever recounted….

---Heidegger writes about the facticity of death in order to destroy the underpinnings of metaphysics, which he thought he accomplished in his writings. Being and Dasein are not exactly coincidental concepts. Being is in the world and what encompasses it in all its facets. Dasein has to do with a person’s being thrown into a world not of his own making. Ultimately, he thought of Dasein as a Volksgemeinschaft with its own historicity. Heidegger thought that the national consciousness of Germany and its fate was bound up with Hitler and the National Socialist Movement. After the collapse of the Third Reich, he identified its Destiny with the German language as being the only one that speaks the language of ontology. Heidegger detested the notion of Gesellschaft of modern, industrial society where people are mutually indifferent to each with no ties to blood and soil. He sought that in Gemeinschaft, or the sense, of organic, countryside solidarity, rather than the mechanical mass society where man is hyphenated to Das Man. He demonized the Soviet Union and the United States equally in that he thought that their respective technological mentalities (and superiority) destroyed individuality and the capacity to think Being philosophically. Heidegger did not think that Hitler was radical enough. Heidegger put a premium on tradition and authority. To be able to find truth is to be a revolutionary in thinking, although that truth was buried in the past and had to be excavated. Technology led us to a forgetting our heroic past and a falling away from truth into living trivial existences as mere empirical beings with no common orientation to, or understanding of the greatness inherent in the German nation. The authentic man had to find that opening in Being that led him to the future by uncovering the past and its communal forms.---- Read More:

…In “Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger,” Ms. Ettinger, a professor of humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has reconstructed this tortured history from the letters the two philosopher-lovers exchanged over half a century. Their acquaintance began in 1924 as a classic professor-student affair, with Heidegger thrilled by the sex and secrecy of the liaison and Arendt overwhelmed by the honor of his desiring to befriend and teach her outside of class. Though Arendt became a world-famous philosopher and managed her life with great independence, her relationship to Heidegger was premised from start to finish on this master-student inequality. Read More:

---Ms. Ettinger is appalled that this brilliant woman allowed herself to be so compromised. Of course, Arendt was very young when she first fell in love with Heidegger, and had no defenses against the "fox," as she called him. Moreover, everyone else seems to have been equally susceptible to his spell. The "little magician from Messkirch" was the most popular professor at Marburg, with a "mesmerizing delivery." Ms. Ettinger claims that Heidegger simply transferred "the cult of worship from the lecture hall to his personal relationship with Arendt," and despite her acuity, she embraced the most extraordinary contradictions in his name. --- Read More: image:


By the early 1930′s, Arendt knew that Heidegger was a Nazi, and when he became rector — Fuhrer — of the University of Freiburg in 1933, he had ample opportunity to act on his beliefs. He blocked the promotions and ended the careers of many of his colleagues suspected of being anti-Nazi, among them Karl Jaspers, Eduard Baumgarten and Max Mueller. He personally signed the document dismissing his old teacher, the Jewish Edmund Husserl, an act that Arendt felt hastened Husserl’s death. As a result, she considered Heidegger “a potential murderer.” Compounding these actions was a callousness that was almost as chilling. When Jaspers confided that his Jewish wife had cried at newspaper reports of anti-Semitism, Heidegger answered that “it makes one feel better to cry sometimes.”…

---At the Eichmann trial, Arendt had a perception for which she has often been faulted, but which every journalist who covered Eichmann in 1961 seemed to find. He was too normal. Mainstream magazines such as Life, Newsweek, and the Atlantic presented Eichmann's averageness, dullness, and familiarity. He had arranged Jewish deportations from Reich territories. He transported populations to the death camps. But unlike Hitler and the major Nazi criminals, who had done evil from evil motives, Eichmann's terrible deeds seemed to come from ambition and concern with his organizational task rather than a will to kill Jews. (This is controversial still; Arendt insisted on it.) In a psychological, though not a legal sense, he seemed to lack mens rea, a criminal mind. It particularly troubled Arendt that Eichmann didn't reject law

orality as higher-ranking Nazis did. He quoted Kant's moral theory accurately and claimed to follow it. He had kept his "conscience," meaning he had avoided compromises, shortcuts, or the intrusion of personal feelings into his arrangements to transport Jews.--- Read More:

…After the war, when Heidegger was banned from teaching and publishing for five years, he presented himself as an innocent victim of Nazism. Read More:
She explained Heidegger’s Nazism as merely a “deformation professionnelle” common to most great thinkers: “It finally does not matter where the storms of their centuries carried these few. For the storm that blows through Heidegger’s thinking . . . comes from the primeval, and what it leaves behind is something perfect that, like all that is perfect, returns home to the primeval.” In such a view, genius excuses everything — male chauvinism, hypocrisy, anti-Semitism, totalitarianism. Since the separation of intellect from responsibility has recently had a sinister history, one might read the love story of Arendt and Heidegger as a warning about the dangers of elevating men into gods….

Hannah Hoch. ---Arendt's own solution to the Eichmann enigma came closer to the views of her critics than of the American press. If Eichmann was "normal," she thought, there was still something else wrong with him to let him do such evil. Her answer, based on observation, was not monstrosity but "thoughtlessness." Read More:

…But Ms. Ettinger does not follow out the implications of this history, nor does she shed much light on the feelings of her heroine. It is hard to imagine Arendt without Heidegger, or to believe that she would have been better off had she never known him. Thirty-four years after meeting him, she still claimed that her work “evolved directly from the first Marburg days and it owes you just about everything in every regard.” She imagined dedicating “The Human Condition” (1958) to “my trusted friend, to whom I remained faithful and unfaithful, and both in love.” If there is an object lesson in Arendt and Heidegger’s love, it might be not only that the worship of genius is dangerous but that even the most all-encompassing passion, looked at from the outside, seems like folly. Read More:

--- Hilberg: The craving for the familiar, the habitual, the normal, emerged as a leitmotif wherever I looked. Psychologically this clinging was aimed at self-preservation, and its manifestation runs like a thread through the upheaval. At a basic level they provide an explanation of how these groups managed to go on - the perpetrators with their ever more drastic activities, the victims with their progressive deprivations, the bystanders with the increasing ambiguity and ambivalence of ther positions. When Sigmund Freud delivered a lecture about war during the first major conflagration of the twentieth century, he said that mankind needed a passing check from the burdens of civilization. What I began to note was the reverse side of this phenomena: the adhesion to time-honored products of this civilization in the midst of unprecedented destruction....Read More: image:

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Rosenbaum is on fire here, touching on the raw issues of identity. He has written compellingly in the past, in particular of the odd connection with Franz Kafka and Hitler. It all leads me to think that Arendt may have been a British agent and an operative. Who knows how many nazis she did? She may have known  all the hidden jews involved in the apparatus. Some of her assertions seem so flagrant as to be a red herring.

Ron Rosenbaum:It may forever remain a mystery, even more so now. Wasserstein believes she internalized anti-Semitic literature; I would perhaps modify this to say she internalized the purported universalism of Germanic high culture with its disdain for parochialism. A parochialism she identified with, in her own case, her Jewishness, something she felt ashamed of on intellectual grounds, so primitive, this tribal allegiance in the presence of intellects who supposedly transcended tribalism (or at least all tribes except the Teutonic).

One can still hear this Arendtian shame about ethnicity these days. So parochial! One can hear the echo of Arendt’s fear of being judged as “merely Jewish” in some, not all, of those Jews so eager to dissociate themselves from the parochial concerns of other Jews for Israel. The desire for universalist approval makes them so disdainful of any “ethnic” fellow feeling. After all, to such unfettered spirits, it’s so banal.Read More:

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