The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Non-GC Events

Professor Richard Wolin Teaches “Heidegger and the Jews”, a three-session course at YIVO



CUNY Professor Richard Wolin will be teaching a 3-session course at YIVO this winter titled “Heidegger and the Jews” as part of the Winter Program on Ashkenazi Civilization at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.


Location: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011-6301

Tuition: Tuition: $250, YIVO members: $175

Dates: January 28, February 4, and February 11

Registration: Please click the following link:


Description: According to his acolytes, of whom there are many, Martin Heidegger is the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. His 1927 masterpiece, Being and Time, is generally viewed as the foundational text of modern existentialism – a movement that was responsible for some of the most challenging and original contributions to midcentury thought and culture.
By the same token, Heidegger was an ardent Nazi, and for a brief time, in his capacity as Rector –Führer of Freiburg University (his official title), aspired to the intellectual leadership of the National Socialist movement. “Let not propositions and “ideas” be the rules of your Being [Sein]. The Führer is the future German Reality and its law. Heil Hitler!” Heidegger declaimed in support of the regime in 1933. Four years earlier, in a letter to the state education ministry, he complained vociferously about the increasing “Jewification” (Verjudung) of German universities.
Two years ago, Heidegger’s so-called Black Notebooks were published: his philosophical diaries from the 1930s and 1940s. So disturbing and extreme is the anti-Semitic invective that many commentators have seen fit to write Heidegger’s philosophical obituary. After all, how can someone who glibly referred to the Holocaust as an act of “Jewish self annihilation” – Heidegger maintained, perversely, that since Jews were the main carriers of modern technology, in the gas chambers, they had died by their own hand, as it were – retain the title of ”great thinker”?
Thus, in recent months, the long-standing debate over “Heidegger and National Socialism” has accelerated into high gear.
However, an additional obstacle or wrinkle to resolving this enigma is the well known fact that, during the 1920s, Heidegger had a plethora of extremely gifted Jewish students, many of whom went on to become outstanding philosophers in their own right. Here, the names of Hannah Arendt, Hans Jonas, Leo Strauss, Herbert Marcuse, and Emanuel Levinas immediately leap to mind. In her impassioned defense of Heidegger on the occasion of his 80th birthday (1969), Hannah Arendt argued that Nazism is a “gutter-born phenomenon” and, as such, has nothing to do with the life of the mind.
Hence, in this and other respects, the plot thickens. The problem of “Heidegger and the Jews” seems to be, as Churchill once said of Russia, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”