Archive for Tuesday, February 16, 1999


February 16, 1999


The Kansas University series focusing on a German philosopher with ties to the Nazis is the subject of vehement protests by a KU professor.

A Kansas University professor Monday denounced a campus lecture series named for a German philosopher who supported the Nazi regime in World War II.

Wallace Johnson, professor of East Asian languages and culture, said KU could do without a series on Martin Heidegger.

"He was a notorious Nazi, a close supporter of Adolf Hitler and an anti-Semite," Johnson said. "He represents the worst in Germany in that time. He was just an enormous horror.

"Yes, he happened to be a philosopher. But it would be equivalent to having a Mengele lecture on medicine."

Josef Mengele, a gifted physician whose mind descended to the depths of human depravity during the war, performed hideous experiments on Auschwitz prisoners.

Johnson made his opinions known to a handful of university officials, which included the chancellor's office where Johnson left a "blistering message'' on voicemail, he said.

The graduate-level Heidegger Lecture Series is coordinated by the KU philosophy department and financed by the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In March and April, four visiting scholars will lecture on the philosopher's thoughts about the Greeks.

"I think he's got the wrong take on it," said A.C. Genova, chairman of philosophy. "It's not a celebration of Heidegger."

It is possible to study a man's ideas without cherishing the man, he said.

"Heidegger has been taught here regularly. I can't think of a major university that does not teach him, just as they do Plato and Aristotle."

Karl Strikwerda, associate dean of liberal arts, said Heidegger indeed chose to identify himself with Nazism.

"The fact is that Heidegger is one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century," Strikwerda said.

Heidegger openly supported Hitler and remained a member of the Nazi party until 1945.

His most significant work, "Being and Time" (1927), united philosophical approaches in an inquiry of how man's awareness of himself was dependent on a sense of time and impending death.

He thought negative aspects of human existence shed light on the nature of being.

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is

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