Dietrich von Hildebrand was a German Catholic philosopher, professor, and writer who recognized the dangers of National Socialism and Nazism from the start. He fled Germany in 1933 because he felt he could not remain under such a regime, and when his professorship at the University of Munich was threatened, he proudly chose to submit himself as a “non-aryan” even though he did not consider himself Jewish.
This book is a collection of pieces from his personal memoirs (which he wrote for his second wife, who was much younger and wanted to share in his experiences), followed by several short essays expounding on his beliefs. Interspersed throughout the memoirs, and as a preface to each essay are helpful notes by the translator/editor to set the scene and bring cohesion.
The writings themselves are like reading the diary of a giant in the faith, and I appreciate the editors’ choices of which of his vast writings to include. There are slower parts as Hildebrand reflects on day-to-day issues, touching personal reflections of his mistakes and the depth of his faith, exciting insights of historical moments, and brilliant commentary and philosophizing of important social issues and evils.
His life and words are a powerful and timely message for today as he urges the church not to compromise by making ungodly alliances, or by participating in social injustice by remaining apathetic. His bold warnings against anti-semitism and what he calls an “unfortunate peace” with Hitler (and thus, the spirit of the anti-Christ) are powerful, especially with the rise of anti-semitism today.
I particularly liked Hildebrand’s distinction of patriotism versus social nationalism, and his similar discussion on the value of a community in bringing out the individual, as opposed to the mass of people, which strips all individuality and diversity in order to create an enthusiastic wave of unity. Hildebrand was a significant voice in his time, even making it to the top of the Nazi’s hit list; and he is one worth taking the time to listen to today.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Image Books.