Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Review: "My Battle Against Hitler"
My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich by Dietrich Von Hildebrand is one of the types of historical works that I especially love to read: a memoire.
This book is translated and edited by John Henry Crosby with John T. Crosby.
The book begins with a nineteen page introduction to Hildebrand and to the work about to be read.
Hildebrand was a German Roman Catholic philosopher-theologian who, early on, warned and wrote against the rise of Nazism. He began his war of the pen against Nazism in Germany and moved away from Germany – finally and fully – in 1933 when he believed he could no longer safely wage his war on the physical front. In doing so, he lost all of his physical goods to the Nazis.
Late in life (he died in 1977), Hildebrand’s second wife – who was significantly younger than he – said she mourned not having been with him and knowing his struggle of the pen as it happened. He responded by writing this memoire for her – his memories of what happened from his vantage point.
The result is a fascinating tale of his thinking, speaking, and writing against what he believed to be – not merely a bad philosophy – but an “antichrist” philosophy (289).
There is great value in hearing what the people who were there (for any event) thought and wrote and did in history. Although Hildebrand’s view is his own, as an eyewitness to himself and the events around him, his recollections have more value than a generic retelling of history by someone who was not there – there is an integrity of being that is found in a first-person account – however slanted (not to say his is).
The editors have done a fine job is staying out of the memoir, except to fill in some bland and lend some guidance as the reader moves along. This is, after all, Hildebrand that the reader wants to read.
Unfortunately, Hildebrand died as he began his recollections of 1938, so the book is incomplete.
What exists is historical gold and philosophical wealth as Hildebrand argues against anti-Semitism by arguing for the unique image of God found in each person and the way in which Christians are united in the mystical body of Christ (250).
After the memoire, the editors have appended a number or articles or pieces of articles that Hildebrand wrote – primarily for his magazine. Is was excellent of the editors to include this material, so readers could hear Hildebrand both in memoire and in essay – which are very different, but united voices. My criticism is that they did not include all of his essays and that they have edited some of them. Why? I don’t know. I hope another volume becomes available in English of his complete writings.
They have also included a wonderful collection of photographs of people and places of the time.
Anyone who is interested in the Second World War, Christianity, and/or the value of personhood will find much to value in this book.
[This review appears on my blog and on Amazon.com. I received this book free from “Blogging for Books” in exchange for an honest review.]