Part I of the Preface to Peter Tudvad’s book Stages on the Way of Anti-Semitism: Søren Kierkegaard and the Jews

In the past I linked to Prof. M.G Piety’s blog on Kierkegaard and her coverage of the controversy over Kierkegaard’s antisemitism and it got picked up by JID. So, I assumed that people would keep track of her translation work without my prompting, but it seems from her self-posted hit count numbers that other have not linked to her. But she keeps posting good material. She has recently started translating the preface to Peter Tudvad’s book and his discovery of the Nazi use of Kierkegaard. Here are some selections.

I ran across a couple of articles on Søren Kierkegaard from the beginning of the 1940s while doing research for a book about a Danish nurse in the German Red Cross during the Second World War. To stumble on article on Kierkegaard was in itself not surprising. What was surprising was that they were in National Socialisten [the National Socialist] and Jul i Norden [Jul in the North], two strongly anti-Semitic publications associated with the Nazi party in Scandinavia.

“Søren Kierkegaard is without question the greatest genius the Danish nation has produced” began one of the articles. Moreover, continues the author, “his writings contain the best instructions for the liberation of the Danish people from the spirit of Judaism which has come increasingly to dominate Denmark and which he saw himself as called by providence to fight. One could thus to this extent be justified in asserting that Søren Kierkegaard was the first Danish National Socialist.”

The author would not have been able to support such a claim, even if he had done extensive research, given that Kierkegaard was vehemently opposed to every form of both nationalism and socialism. On the other hand, there is something to the claim that Kierkegaard wanted to free the Danish people–or preferably all of Christendom–from “the Jewish spirit” which he, like the Nazis, viewed as materialistic, and which he increasingly portrayed as essentially in opposition to Christianity.

I realized to my own shame, after reading these two articles, that I had also been all too willing to ignore, or to explain away, Kierkegaard’s anti-Semitism. I thus wrote an article on this topic for the magazine of Jewish culture, Guldberg. I cited Kierkegaard’s references, just as had Geill, to a Jewish editor as a “Jøde Dreng” [Jew-boy] and to “en trællesindet Jøde øvende Herskermagt” [a servile Jew exercising power] as well as his observation concerning this same editor and the distribution of his paper that “only a Jew could be fitted for this most equivocal of all tyrannies, even more equivocal than that of a usurer (to which the Jew, however, is best suited).”
He says first that ‘Kierkegaard’s references to the Jews were much harsher than those of other intellectuals of the period, but then that it is believed that he identified himself with Jews whom he thought were fundamentally unhappy.” He observes later that Kierkegaard emphasized “Judaism was the enemy of Christianity, but most of what he objected to in Judaism was precisely what he criticized contemporary Christianity for.”

Once again, the reader is instructed to appreciate that despite Kierkegaard’s apparent anti-Semitism, he was not anti-Semitic in that his overarching purpose was an attack on the Christianity of his day rather an attack on Judaism, and it is in this light that one must understand his possible identification of himself with Jews as an unhappy people.

So far as I know, no one until now has answered these questions, despite the fact that a Danish scholar touched on aspects of the reciprocal relationship between Judaism and Christianity in Kierkegaard’s authorship in 1999. Read the Rest Here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s