A prophetic voice on ideologies challenging the Christian West

Aug 31, 2018 by

Chiara Bertoglio –

I have recently finished reading a very fascinating book, My Battle against Hitler. It is a collection of autobiographical fragments and philosophical writings by Dietrich von Hildebrand, a major thinker of the 20th Century and a true hero in the resistance against Nazism.

Hildebrand, a former student of the philosophers Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler, was a professor of philosophy at the University of Munich. After Hitler’s ascent to power, he fled his fatherland. From Austria, where he eventually settled, he led an unrelenting battle against the principles and the deeds of Nazism, particularly on the pages of the journal he founded and with lectures throughout Europe.

Though Hildebrand demonstrated the philosophical and anthropological absurdity and destructiveness of Nazism on grounds acceptable by any human being endowed with reason, a crucial component of his own worldview and a major force propelling his resistance was his Catholic faith, which permeates his writings and his actions.

While I hope that this article will stimulate interest and curiosity about this fascinating and somewhat neglected hero, perhaps encouraging somebody to read the book, I would like to discuss an article included in the appendix, which seems to me highly relevant to today’s situation. The article, “False fronts”, written in 1936, contrasts Nazism and Bolshevism. It contends that, even if they seem to be opposing worldviews, in fact they are very much alike, both in their guiding principles and in their ultimate deeds. (This is a sad truth, as anybody familiar with the horrific count of Hitler’s and Stalin’s victim knows well.)

Hildebrand’s article starts by asserting that the opposition of Nazism and Bolshevism is false: “there is only one real antithesis to all errors, namely, truth itself. For errors, no matter how different they may be among themselves, are not truly antithetical to one another”. He argues that “one error never counteracts what is specifically false in another, opposite error”, and thus “the two are fundamentally related”, as “they both proceed from the same initial falsehood, even though they move in opposite directions”.

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