My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich by Dietrich Von Hildebrand
Amidst the multitude of works by and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, other important anti-Nazi figures get lost in the fray. This new book, My Battle Against Hitler, by Dietrich Von Hildebrand, translated and edited by John Henry Crosby with John F. Crosby tells the story of the Catholic luminary Dietrich Von Hildebrand in the middle of the Third Reich. The story is rich with personal detail, but mainly focuses on from the early stages, Hildebrand sought to oppose Nazi philosophy and principles through a host of lectures, writings, and speeches. The two sections in the book are divided up into Memoirs (Part I) and Writings Against the Nazi Ideology (Part II).
One gets a sense early on that even some of the Catholic priests and leaders around Hildebrand didn’t mind following Hitler, for they felt they needed authority and economic stability. Hildebrand writes, “The Provincial began by saying, “But we have no reason at all to reject Hitler when he stresses the idea of authority and the value of the nation. Above all, he keeps speaking about God. I answered, “ Hitler is so stupid that he does not even know what the word, ‘God,’ means; when he uses the word, in no way does it mean that he is professing the true God” (70). Dietrich from the get go knew that words out of the Fuhrer’s mouth were slippery, they were only used for his own ends and to win the people to his ideas.
The value of Hildebrand’s work lie mainly in his philosophical and fundamental opposition to Nazi philosophy in publication and in speaking engagements. What I thought most interesting in this book was the way Hildebrand pointed back to Hegel and the theory of collectivism and the way certain Nazi leaders used him to justify their cause. The editors write, “Mingled with nationalism to which Germany was ever vulnerable, collectivism had something irresistibly appealing about it. But von Hildebrand saw that the intoxication of mass rallies and marches created only a pseudocommunity” (13). In von Hildebrand’s The Metaphysics of Community he stresses “the reality and dignity of true community in contrast to every kind of false liberal individualism” (41). Yet, he also counters Hegel’s insistence that the state is a higher entity than the individual. No matter what he was talking about, von Hildebrand had a keen intellectual and moral way of getting to the bottom of false beliefs and statements he was hearing from the Nazi leadership.
Dietrich von Hildebrand was a deeply spiritual man, a man who loved God, the church, and his fellow man who a robust tenderness. You find his heart breaking in the book for those who were once his allies and got swept up in the nationalistic sentiments of the Nazi party. Overall, we get a full picture of Hildebrand here, one that reminds us that God used many men and women to combat Nazism during the war.
Thanks to Image and Blogging for Books program for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.