The philosopher crouches plaintively and naked in the corridor of the pension. A person whose name he does not know has thrown him out of the locked room. She wants to sleep. Other residents wake up and spread the word. Eine Berliner Anekdote. The philosopher's effort for transparent thinking is reflected in life, but he was opposed to everything anecdotal. Ernst Tugendhat died the day before yesterday in Freiburg. Even those who asked him in Berlin about the house of his childhood in Brno, he met unruly. He did not want to accept the glass walls of the house of his mother Grete Tugendhat (1903 to 1970) as a sign of the transparency of his thinking.
The latter is written by anthropologist Michael Lambek in "Behind the Glass" (Toronto 2022), the book about the family of his mother, the older half-sister of Ernst Tugendhat. He bases his revealing picture of his uncle in particular on his correspondence with Heidegger in the German Literature Archive in Marbach, but also on conversations with friends and relatives. This picture also includes the way in which Tugendhat seems to have tried in Berlin after the death of his mother to make up for the puberty he missed during his early studies. Lambek follows his rollercoaster ride from Latin America to Germany and back, keeping as much distance from philosophy as he does from the mathematics of his father Jonathan Lambek.
Fleeing from the National Socialists
Grete Tugendhat regarded living in her house in Brno as the creative perfection of its architecture. In the case of one of her daughters, the art historian Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat, born in 1946, four years before her nephew Michael Lambek, this attitude continues. Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat succeeded her mother as the architect, Mies van der Rohes, whom Grete Tugendhat had made possible to build his masterpiece. Of Mies van der Rohe's claim to truth in building, she rightly says that her mother had to relate it to Heidegger's thought, which was already accessible to her in transcripts of his lectures before the publication of Being and Time in 1927. Mies van der Rohe, like Heidegger, was Catholic; this also connects the architect with his client, because the environment of Grete Tugendhat, Grete Weiss or Grete Löw-Beer in Brno was also Catholic. There was hardly any social contact with Catholics, but the family celebrated Christmas. She did not celebrate Jewish festivals.
In the joint work by Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat with Ivo Hammer and Wolf Tegethoff about the House of Tugendhat (third edition, Basel 2022; first published in 1998), there are pictures from the family album, especially children's pictures by Ernst Tugendhat, his brother Herbert and the older half-sister Hannah, the mother of Michael Lambek. These pictures make everyday life in the house transparent. Ernst Tugendhat's childhood lasted as long as his mother owned her house in Brno. He was born in 1930. When he was eight years old, in 1938, the Brno family had to flee to Switzerland and England. The National Socialists kill grandfather, aunt, cousin and other members of the family. The family doesn't talk about it.
Turning away from the teachers
Michael Lambek describes the background to the joint reading of Heidegger by mother and son in 1945/46. Grete Tugendhat, like her sister-in-law Helene Weiss and their mutual friend Käte Victorius, was among the women who admired Heidegger unreservedly. The admiration survived; a mutually caring correspondence continued; Ernst Tugendhat also sent care packages in 1947. In 1941 his family had emigrated to Venezuela. This is the formative experience of youth to which Ernst Tugendhat came back again and again. At least since 1946, when he went to study in the United States at the age of sixteen, he lived uninhabited and unhidden, as if fleeing from a life-threatening dwelling.
But such statements probably went far too far for him. He turned away from his mother's teachers, Mies van der Rohe and Heidegger, as thoroughly as possible. Unlike Helene Weiss and Käte Victorius, there was no teacher-student relationship with Heidegger, even though Heidegger advised him against studying philosophy in America in 1949. The exposure of one's own errors gradually proved to be the most appropriate way to distance oneself from Heidegger and finally to be able to remain silent about him. Ernst Tugendhat goes furthest in the preface to his last book, "Anthropologie statt Metaphysik" (2006), which should not only be compulsory reading in the study of philosophy.
This is not to say that Tugendhat recognized every one of his errors, but as explicitly as he points out their existence, he also encourages people to find them themselves. Such a mistake could be, for example, that the will of the people is directed towards the future. Especially for religion and mysticism, an orientation towards the past par excellence can be proven.