Sunday, June 24, 2012
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The Shadow of Heidegger

I could narrate to you the macabre or nightmarish version of Plato’s Symposium. By misfortune I have to tell you what they told me. I have to make you know what I knew. It has little to do with Plato, but a lot with Symposia. Because that’s what it was: it was a banquet. With its matches that followed or mixed, connecting each other, complementing one another, or, too, they contradicted themselves, or missed the immobile and precise point of the horror. We ate, obscenely, some venison and we drank, also obscenely, certain German wines worthy of birthing the most furious, most frantic of the Dionysian rituals. You know, Martin, what happens as soon as the following happens: being among men, on suppressing the sexual expression of excess, the excess concentrated in the logos. If that night there was an orgy (and there was) its location was language. Nobody controlled themselves; nobody restrained themselves from saying what they wanted, nobody did not search in their interior abysses the words (astonishing even to themselves) that the macabre, the human-inhumanity demanded. All but I. I was the witness, the one that took the shrapnel, and, of course, the victim.

Werner Rolfe (I noticed he had a deep scar in one cheek and, under his eyes, those black stares, of no return, which one often finds in victims, but also in some executioners, I know now) launched a rabid diatribe against the allies and their pride, their falsity, their thirst for vengeance.

We will never forgive Dresden. And, in us, the lack of pardon is punishment. And our punishment entails the death of the guilty. And even his prior, infinite suffering. Our hate, our revenge includes many things, but never pity.

They raised their cups and exclaimed:

We will avenge Dresden!

Who were they, how many? I’ve told you, does it matter? They weren’t many; five, seven, eight. They were (or had been) important. Werner Rolfe rose to direct the concentration camp at Treblinka. (When he said that I might have asked what Treblinka was or, just as easily, what had he directed there. I avoided doing that. I knew that I wouldn’t need to ask questions that night. I was there, where they had taken me, to hear them, to be informed, so as to never ask again.) His younger brother, Hans Rolfe, was a recent celebrity. He had just arrived from Germany. In Nuremburg, in one of the later trials, he had defended (with inexpressible brilliance, exclaimed Werner) some National Socialist judges that were accused by a North American lawyer, whose right to that court, Hans Rolfe, tonight, would question “with inexpressible brilliance”. Another two had fought in Africa with Rommel. They looked radiant, filled with the pride of having done their duty. Another, Gustav Frank, was a doctor in, he said, Auschwitz and he boasted of his relationship with someone, also called Frank, whose existence I was ignorant of, just as I had ignored everything before this night. Another was perhaps invited to decipher some words from my always dangerous lexicon: the lexicon of philosophy, he had belonged to the Rosenberg Office and was, he said, a specialist in the divine spark, created to give life, light and transparency to the Germany of Meister Eckhart. If there were other shadows in that nightmare (and, furtive and murky, there had been), I don’t remember them. Or I forgot them. A remote possibility: nothing was I permitted (would I permit myself) to forget about that night.

Professor Müller, we were your disciples, said Werner Rolfe. Me even more, I was your co-disciple in Marburg. We both heard the young Heidegger, the one at the beginning, the great philosopher of this century. Your compromise, Müller, on teaching with tedious care the truths of the Rosenberg Office, deserves the eternal recognition of the Reich. My task was different; neither more difficult, nor any easier, but different. I was a man of Heinrich Himmler. He showed me the essential truth of an SS warrior. There is no limit. We must erase from our spirit the idea, the filthy moral idea of the limit. An SS is a man ready for boldness, for madness and even the delirium of transgressing all bounds. Once, before a common grave that extended, also, without limits and showed impure cadavers, dirty, obscene in their absolute nakedness, insignificant by their anonymous death, without number, for their statistical death, he told us, and, believe me, I remember all of them, every one of his words, he told us the ideas that made of us, forever, strong men, men for life and to purify it by means of death, the great purifier: “Most of you know what it is to see a hundred corpses one next to the other, or five hundred or a thousand. By having confronted that and, still, having kept it together, we have made ourselves strong. This is a glorious page of our history, an unwritten page and one that never should be written. We can say that we carry out the hardest, most difficult task because we love our nation. And we have not suffered any damage in our interior I, in our soul”.
The actual commander of Treblinka was Kurt Franz, who stayed in Germany after the war, resumed his career as a cook, and kept a photo album of Treblinka he titled Schone Zeiten - The Good Old Days. [Next]


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