Charles Bambach has added an important contribution to the growing literature on Heidegger’s involvement with and relationship to National Socialism. Following up on an earlier book that placed Heidegger’s thought in the German historicist tradition, Bambach offers a close reading of Heidegger’s texts both in the immediate historical and political context of the years in which they were written and in the context of Heidegger’s overall project of deconstructing the Western metaphysical tradition of calculative thinking that objectifies beings and transforms all forms of existence into resources to gain mastery over the earth. Avoiding both a prosecutorial or an apologetic approach, Bambach suggests that the question that needs to be answered is not, “was Heidegger a Nazi?” but rather, “what kind of National Socialism did he aspire to establish?” (p. xv).
As Hans Sluga had already done to a more limited extent in Heidegger’s Crisis (1993), Bambach reads Heidegger in the context of his “dialogues” and “conversations” with many of his voelkisch contemporaries, including, most prominently, the Nietzschean philosopher Alfred Baeumler, the anti-Nietzschean educator Ernst Krieck, Nazi philosophers Hans Heyse, Kurt Hildebrandt, and Franz Boehm, as well as a host of minor figures, such as Hans Haertle, a leading functionary of the Amt Rosenberg, or Richard and Max Oehler, Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche’s official heirs as the administrators of the nazified Nietzsche Archive in Weimar. Despite their many differences, Heidegger shared with his voelkisch contemporaries the conviction that only a Volk rooted in its own earth “can summon the historical energy necessary for embracing and transforming its own destiny” (p. xx). Denying that Heidegger’s philosophy and politics can be easily separated (thereby contradicting not only Heidegger’s own efforts to portray his advocacy of National Socialism in 1933-1934 as the temporary aberration of an apolitical thinker but also the efforts of others to portray him as an opportunist who joined the party out of expediency, not conviction), Bambach identifies “an enduring structure within Heidegger’s work that can provide a meaningful historical context within and against which to read Heidegger’s texts, a context provided by ‘roots’ and ‘autochthony'”