to the mountains | dr. bettina mathes

To the Mountains! Heidegger’s Hut

The hike to the Hütte in the Black Forest mountains, just above the village of Todtnauberg, is part of the coming-of-age of every serious Heidegger scholar. To properly understand Heidegger’s philosophy, they say, it is necessary to engage in detail with his life at Todtnauberg and its conditions. Why? Because Heidegger could not have become Heidegger without this cabin and its surroundings. Philosophy begins and ends, he said, with the everydayness of life: simple, pure, and rooted in the soil. “Sometimes I no longer understand that down there one can play such strange roles.”

Heidegger moves into the cabin in 1922. He thinks and writes best in isolation. At the hut Heidegger furnishes for himself a world of immanence + self-referentiality that should become the hallmark of his philosophy: “the presence of something present manifests itself only from the thinging of the thing.”
With abstraction and difference thus banished the only ‘proper’ way to engage with Heidegger is to walk in his footsteps, sit at his table, eat from his plate, literally and figuratively. The Few and the Rare will "go along the path of grounding the truth of be-ing" familiar with the "the necessity of thinking and inquiring -- that necessity that does not need the crutches of Why or the props of What for."
“Martin Heidegger has two sons, fourteen grandchildren and, by 2002, had twenty-one great-grandchildren.
The hut is still owned by the Heidegger family and used privately by them.”

I’m not sure what the family is trying to tell me: survival of the fittest!? Something to be proud of!? No questions please!?

Thus barred from the cabin the Few and the Rare take recourse to the slim and elegant Heidegger’s Hut (MIT Press 2008), Adam Sharr’s architectural tour of the cabin and its surroundings. Concerned with the hut as material object -- don’t expect history and criticism -- Sharr offers exhaustive descriptions, reproductions of previously published photographs, floorplans, sketches, and architectural models of the hut. For the most part Sharr's language is concrete, the focus is on things and their surfaces.  As I read and look a latent presence (or is it an absence?) is evoked.
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"Only one surfaced road reaches Todtnauberg, from Muggenbrunn on the Notschrei Pass between Freiburg and Todtnau." We’re almost there. Let’s take breath. “The hut sits on a leveled shelf of ground that both cuts into the valley slope and projects from it. The building surveys the landscape, sheltered and framed by trees. An inclined rubble plinth levels the floor with respect to the shelf."
"At around 1,100 meters altitude, Todtnauberg is below the tree line but still within the mountain microclimate. When moisture levels prompt mists to rise, distant prospects are obscured. When rain sets in, views can be limited to a few hundred meters. In contrast to its expansive setting, the area then assumes a sense of introversion. Prospects can appear or disappear in minutes."
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"The hut measures approximately six metres by seven. It is made largely of timber, framed and clad with timber shingles. Windows and the principal door are flush to the wall, with surrounding architraves fitted as cover strips. Three planks held by two timber strings make steps up to the door. The hut’s external walls are painted gray. Windows, doors, and shutters are painted in bright colors. … Window transoms, mullions, and casements are a brilliant white. Their frames canary yellow and architraves a deep blue. Hinged shutters are painted leaf green. The door is also green, with a blue frame. … Windows are fitted with a shutter or pair of shutters. When closed, these can be fixed in place with a painted iron bar. This bar, secured through the window frames, can only be released from inside. With the shutters thus opened, the hut’s interior is illuminated."

"The configuration of the hut’s interior appears to have followed particular activities that occurred there. A direct relationship is apparent between purpose and arrangement."
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"Decoration was spare, with little elaboration beyond the coloring of window frames, the working of some loose furniture, and the profiling of some shelf brackets. Much of the building’s layout and detail involved the straightforward application of chosen construction methods."

"Diagonally opposite the door is a desk measuring approximately one by one-and-a-half metres. Above it is a window, identical in dimension to that in the bedroom but facing east. To the other side of the window is another table, smaller than the desk. Set into the corner of the room, running along the northern wall, is a series of shelves. … Two electric table lamps were later provided: one on the desk, another on the shelves. The study window receives sunlight early in the morning ,when Heidegger liked to work. This window also affords a distant view towards the top of the valley. The desk remains beneath the window. On its surface was a leather writing mat, an inkwell, a blotter, and a wooden tray for pens. Oil lamps that originally allowed him to work at night were later replaced with electric lights."

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In 1922 Adolf Hitler moves into a mountain cabin at the idyllic Obersalzberg. In 1928  he rents the nearby  "Haus Wachenfels". Hitler writes best in isolation. The first volume of Mein Kampf was written at Landsberg prison, the second volume (published in December 1926) he dictates at his mountain refuge. Beginning in 1933 the hut is being transformed into a luxurious mountain retreat, the infamous Berghof, where Hitler spends as much time as possible.  Hundreds of slave laborers are worked to death during  construction and refurbishment. In November 1938 Homes and Gardens magazine runs an article on the Berghof, describing it as a "handsome chalet" and praising Hitler's good taste. "The Führer is his own decorator, designer as well as architect." Severely damaged by allied bombers in 1945, the Berghof is razed by the Bavarian government in 1952 to prevent neo-Nazi tourism.
Martin Heidegger joins the NSDAP in 1933 shortly after he is appointed rector of Freiburg University where he quickly establishes the Führer-Prinzip. "Let no theories and 'ideas' be the rules of your being. The Führer himself and he alone is German reality and its law, today and for the future," he tells students in 1933. Although Heidegger resigns from the rectorate the following year, he remains a member of the NSDAP until 1945.  He never distances himself from the politics of the Nazis, he never condemns the Holocaust. His work, largely written at the Hütte, has been described as Nazi theory.