My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Oct 21 2014
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“Dietrich von Hildebrand is already well-known and respected as one of the great Catholic philosophers of the twentieth century. However, this engaging collection of his personal writings on the topic of Hitler and Nazism allows us to appreciate his wisdom and courage even more fully. His faith in God and understanding of the human person enabled him to clearly see the threat posed by his evil ideology. This memoir reveals the strength of character that von Hildebrand bravely displaced throughout his twenty-year battle against of the greatest evils of his age. Even amid significant personal danger, he never wavered in his commitment to the truth. We remember Dietrich von Hildebrand’s intellectual contributions, but let us also recall his witness to human dignity in the face of evil.” – Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
“Dietrich von Hildebrand's memoirs give us an inroad into the soul of another Germany, a Germany thoroughly different from that of Adolf Hitler and of the Nazis. In the years just after the First World War, he warned against the danger of exaggerated nationalism and pleaded for the reconciliation between European nations. Later he would defend the common Christian and Jewish roots of European civilization. His example warms the hearts of all those who love freedom and are willing to defend the values of our civilization.” –Rocco Buttiglione, Italian statesman and close collaborator with St. John Paul II
“At this moment in history, no memoir could be more timely than Dietrich von Hildebrand’s account of how and why he risked everything to witness against the spreading evil of National Socialism. With much of today’s world silent as Christians face increasing persecution, many good men and women are asking themselves what they can do. This remarkable book will challenge and inspire them.” –Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University and Former US Ambassador to the Holy See
“There is but one man who can stand with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, both in intellectual brilliance and in bravery toward the Nazis; that man is Dietrich von Hildebrand. I am privileged to strongly recommend this important book as a superb introduction to this great hero of the faith. May it spawn a new generation of devotees and champions of his extraordinary thought and life.” –Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Miracles.
“Dietrich von Hildebrand, unlike so many European Christians of his time, was an early and vigorous critic of National Socialism; a man of brilliant intellect and articulate pen who spoke out forcefully against Nazi hatred of the Jews; a scholar who defended the Christian understanding of society and the human person at immense personal cost. This wonderful collection of his writings acquaints us intimately with an extraordinary man of faith. It’s mandatory reading for anyone interested in a fuller understanding of a profoundly important era.” –Charles J Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
“Dietrich von Hildebrand was brave in his public writings against the Nazis, brave in his hair-raising escape from Vienna in 1938. He was also bold and uncompromising in his convictions about responsibility, love, and liberty. This book brings the bold von Hildebrand back into our midst." –Michael Novak, author of Writing from Left to Right
"In the life of Dietrich on Hildebrand, we see how Catholic faith and sacramental life gave him insight, strength and freedom of spirit to confront the anti-Christian tides that swept through Western culture in the twentieth century. This compelling and inspiring memoir is a testimony to the integrity of a Christian who challenged the destructive force of the Third Reich, its dehumanizing political philosophy and its false vision of human life. I strongly recommend this memoir as a testimony to the transforming influence of the lay vocation at work in the world, exemplified in Dietrich von Hildebrand." -Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C.
About the Author
DIETRICH VON HILDEBRAND (1889–1977), born in Florence, was the son of renowned German sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand. A leading student of the philosophers Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler, he took up the "great questions"—about truth, freedom, conscience, community, love, beauty—with a freshness that allowed him to break new ground, especially in ethics, but also in epistemology, social philosophy, and aesthetics. His conversion to Catholicism in 1914 was the decisive turning point of his life and the impetus for important religious works. His opposition to Hitler and Nazism was so outspoken that he was forced to flee Germany in 1933, and later across Europe, finally settling in New York City in 1940, where he taught at Fordham University until 1960. He was the author of dozens of books, both in German and English. He was a major forerunner of Vatican II through his seminal writings on marriage, on Christian philosophy, and on the evil of anti-Semitism.
JOHN HENRY CROSBY (b. 1978), is a translator, writer, musician, and cultural entrepreneur. He is founder and director of the Hildebrand Project, which fosters deep cultural renewal through publications, events, fellowships, and online resources that draw on the continuing vitality of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s thought and witness.
Top Customer Reviews
The first two-thirds of the book are von Hildebrand’s memoirs. He retells the events that took place in 1921-1923 where he became a known enemy to the Nazis, and then all that transpired in 1932-1938.
The memoirs read as a first person narrative. The reader is taken into the mind on von Hildebrand as he navigates through the dark and tumultuous times of 1930’s Germany. He recounts the rise of Hitler, Nazi propaganda, the many lectures he gave across Europe highlighting the evils of National Socialism, murders of significant figures and close friends, widespread anti-Semitism, losing his professorship due to his anti-Nazi stance, founding a journal dedicated to combating Nazi ideology, and much more.
The last third of the book is more philosophical in nature as it is a collection von Hildebrand’s writings at the time; defending truth, the nature of the human person, and unveiling the flaws and evils of Nazi ideology.
In reading his critique/challenge against the principles of Nazism and his strong defense of the truth, especially his understanding of man as a spiritual being, you know you are reading a clear thinker with a brilliant intellect. With his philosophical genius and ability to articulate and critique ideology and first principles, it’s easy to see why one man was such a threat to Hitler and National Socialism.
Overall this books serves as a fantastic introduction to Dietrich von Hildebrand.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This new book makes an invaluable contribution to that intellectual history. Its publication has taken so long because, during the last decades of his life, von Hildebrand had produced over five thousand handwritten pages of memoirs at the request of his second wife, Alice von Hildebrand, whom he married in 1959. That’s a lot of material to sort through.
His first wife, Gretchen, to whom he had been married for forty-five years, had died in 1957. Being over thirty years younger than him, Alice expressed regret at having missed out on so much of Dietrich’s life. Purely out of love, he produced the handwritten pages for her, as an intimate communication of his earlier life. But he never sought to publish these memoirs or to reprint his essays against Nazism. He never thought of himself as a hero or as deserving special praise.
But now we can finally review the historical record for ourselves. As we read his autobiographical revelations to Alice, it is almost like being there. Targeted for assassination because of his anti-Nazi publications, eventually von Hildebrand had to flee from Vienna on March 11, 1938.
He fled across Europe, from Czechoslovakia to Switzerland to France to Portugal, with the Nazis always only one step behind. In 1940, he came via Brazil to New York, where he taught philosophy until 1960 at Fordham University, where he met Alice.
When von Hildebrand first spoke out in 1921 against Nazi ideas, he had been placed on the blacklist of enemies whom they would execute immediately when they came to power. On November 8, 1923, Hitler with six hundred Storm Troopers attempted to seize power in Bavaria with the Beer Hall Putsch. The next morning, after attending 7:00 a.m. morning Mass and before teaching his 9:15 a.m. class, von Hildebrand learned of the unfolding events.
With the help of a Benedictine monk who was also von Hildebrand’s confessor, arrangements were made for him to flee to safety with his wife and son. Fortunately, as the family was in flight, the Nazi putsch was meeting with failure. The Nazi threat was averted and Hitler was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on April 1, 1924.
Yet during this time, until October 1924, Hitler worked on his infamous book, Mein Kampf, which was published in two volumes, in 1925 and 1926. It coldly outlined his racist agenda and insane political goals. Its title is usually translated as “My Struggle” but could also be rendered as “My Fight” or “My Battle.”
Among the papers of von Hildebrand’s memoirs, one outline was found titled Mein Kampf Gegen Hitler, “My Battle Against Hitler.” It was decided that this would make the best possible title for the posthumously published memoirs. My Battle Against Hitler finally chronicles in print the heroic struggle of one of the Catholic Church’s greatest philosophers and his fight against Hitler’s evil ideas.
LAYOUT: The book is divided into two pars. The first couples the editor's commentary and Hildebrand's memoirs regarding events leading up to and surrounding the rise of Nazism and his opposition to its destructive philosophies. The second contains thought-provoking snippets from a publication for which Hildebrand shared his thoughts.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: We all know first impressions are important. So I have to be honest, I thought the book was boring...until I got to about the middle. Prior to then, I thought more could have been edited out to make it shorter and more interesting. I really didn't find interesting that Hildebrand ate this or that dinner with this or that dignitary as they discussed the color of the sky. I'm being facetious, but it's not far from how the first half of the book read. After the middle, however, reading began to get interesting. It was then that I noticed much of what Hildebrand wrote had application today.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS: I thought, "How much of a battle is it when someone simply writes about his displeasure? Is it enough to simply speak/write? Or should we do?" But that's easy to ask when I live in a relatively safe America where my freedoms are not threatened if I speak out against the state. But when one's life is at risk for speaking out against a dangerous philosophy and regime, writing and speaking is an altogether different issue. Hildebrand wrote, "...it is precisely our struggle against evil that God wills, even when we suffer external defeat" (p. 206). The editors remind us that Hildebrand's "struggle against Hitler was above all carried out on the battlefield of conscience" (p.240). If you can change a person's (or a society's) mind, you can change his/its trajectory.
Have you seen any of the recent terrorist videos where a hostage is seen kneeling in the sand moments prior to being beheaded? I've often wondered, "Why don't they resist? Why not fight until you die? You're no mere propaganda...FIGHT!" Similarly, the question was asked of Germany and how it could allow the rise of Nazi socialism and racism: "Why did no one resist?" asked Hildebrand. His answer: "There is a moment when intimidation and paralysis set in to such a degree that one becomes passive in the face of something harmful, no longer actively resisting, even though the possibility of resistance still exists" (p. 51). Lesson learned, don't EVER give up! Fight, speak, write -- do what it takes to oppose evil.
Robustly Catholic, Hildebrand also spoke loudly against the church. He was one voice, but the echo in the background suggested if others had spoken up, the rise of Nazism might not have been what it was. It appeared as though the church capitulated to the Nazi movement, hoping to gain favor in the eyes of the Fuhrer. That hope lasted only momentarily, as eventually Hitler took off his mask and returned the church's capitulation with persecution. Hildebrand wrote, "...rather than politicizing Catholicism, one must instead Catholicize politics" (pp. 281-282). Once again, don't EVER give up!
I wonder if Americans are looking toward government as their "messiah", expecting the state to Solve all problems and right all wrongs. Hildebrand addressed that, as well: "...the transformation of the face of the earth does not proceed primarily from without by means of laws of the state, but rather from within by means of the conversion of the person" (p. 282). I think Christians today would do well to remember this truth.
SUMMARY CONCLUSION: The thoughts I've shared above serve only to spark an interest in your mind to consider reading Hildebrand's memoir. While the early chapters were boring, I do not regret pressing forward reading to the end. I was shocked how applicable Hildebrand's words are in today's climate.
RATING: I give this book 3 1/2 stars out of 5. It was interesting, but the early boredom knocked it down a bit.
DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from "Blogging for Books" in exchange for my unbiased review of it. I was not threatened, coerced, or made promises in order to provide a positive review. All opinions are mine.