UPDATE: The audio and transcript of my interview with John Henry Crosby is now at the bottom of this post.
Certainly every morning brings a new outrage, and we have a long supply chain of evil tyrants with which to contend, whether Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, or Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, not to mention the legions of fanatical killers of ISIS, al Qaeda and a dozen allied groups of butchers spread across the globe. There is a lot to be afraid of, and many reasons to wish our country would simply just drop out of the mess and hope the various storms pass.
So, how to deal with them? Yesterday I spent an hour with the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens and the prescriptions he offers up both in that interview (see below) and his new book are certainly very useful.
Even more useful, however, is an example of genuine moral resolve from across 80 years, that of Catholic philosopher Dietrich Von Hildebrand. A new translation and edition of his memoirs of the great thinker’s resolve in the face of the rise of the Nazis and his refusal ever to be cowed by Hitler or to be tempted by the accommodation offered by the sophisticated men wearing the Swastika –like Franz Von Papen– is a door to a different time with immediate lessons. Edited and translated by John Henry Crosby and John F. Crosby, My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich would be very useful reading for Secretary of State Kerry, everyone below him at State and throughout the Congress. Send a copy via Amazon to your favorite –or least favorite– legislator (or both) and tell him or her to buck up and grow a spin. Lots of people have faced far worse situations than Americans do in 2014, and if they can just borrow some spine from the past, all will be well.
Audio of the interview:
Transcript of the interview:
HH: Nevertheless, I’m very pleased that the timing of this has worked out perfectly. You might wonder why I’m going to spend the first hour of today’s program talking about a German theologian who’s been dead a long time, Dietrich Von Hildebrand. But his memoir, titled My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich has just been translated and edited by John Henry Crosby, with John F. Crosby. And it’s released by Random House now. And it’s a major work. It’s an important work, especially for these days when all across the globe you’ll find an approximation of Hitler, sort of a downsized Hitler, whether it’s in the form of the Ayatollah, the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, from whom anti-Semitic words drip daily, whether it’s Putin in his aggression against his neighbor, whether it’s a crazed lunatic Kim Jung Un, it’s a very bracing and necessary book. And I’m so happy to have John Henry Crosby, its editor, join me now. John Henry Crosby, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JHC: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for having me, Hugh.
HH: Well, I want to begin, the son of Florence and of a great artist, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, no one, I’m not going to say no one, but my guess is that 99% of my audience do not know him.
JHC: Well, that is absolutely correct, and I am hopeful that with the publication of this book, that many members of your audience and even people all around the world of all sorts of persuasions and opinions will discover this great, moral hero.
HH: You know, you’ve done a great thing. It’s a very edifying book. It’s actually thrilling at parts. I’ve read it over the last week. I’ve been talking non-stop about it. In studio with me, Matt Bowman from the Alliance Defending Freedom, and your friend, Duncan Sahner is in studio with me. He just happens to be in California today. So it’s a great day to have you tell us about it. But begin, if you will, with a concise biography of Dietrich Von Hildebrand.
JHC: Well, yes, so he’s a very, very interesting and intriguing figure. And I have to say when you, when one first hears about him and his upbringing in an elite German family in Florence, one doesn’t see the future enemy against Hitler. But in reality, the telltale signs are everywhere. So to make it very brief, he was born 1889 in Florence. He was the son of one of Germany’s great sculptors, Otto Von Hildebrand. And in fact, today if you go to Germany and you mention the name Hildebrand, they will all think you mean the father. Hildebrand, Dietrich Von Hildebrand was raised in a converted Franciscan monastery that his father had bought as an art studio, and that’s a good image for the kind of life he had. He grew up living in a family without any real religious practice, but where art and beauty were the essential religion of the family. So you could say the family worshipped at the altar of beauty. Now this wasn’t what it might sound like. This wasn’t a world of elite connoisseurs. This was a, Von Hildebrand describes his family home as a spiritual island. There was no triviality, no conventionalism, no mediocrity, he says. And what he means by that is that this wasn’t, you might say, the worship of beauty as a kind of superficial decoration. There was a sense that beauty was the gateway to something greater. Now his parents were, as he says in one place, noble pagans. And so they didn’t draw all the conclusions. But it was this early upbringing surrounded by beauty that would allow him later on to find his way to Christianity. Now something that is extremely interesting that I find it absolutely fascinating in the youth of Von Hildebrand is how you can see already the future fighter against Hitler in certain wonderful episodes. And I think I would reduce it to an incredible independence from prevailing ideas. And you see this already in his family. So for example, the family is totally unreligious, but already as a boy of five, Von Hildebrand in his memoirs describes that he had come to a kind of intuitive faith in the Divinity of Christ. And he says that the fact that his mother and his father, specifically his mother didn’t believe in this had no bearing on his own view.
HH: You know, John Henry, that is so unusual. He is not a cradle Catholic. He goes on to be one of the great Catholic theologians of the 20th Century, but in essence guiding himself at the beginning.
JHC: Absolutely. There was an enormous intuitive power. But more than anything else, he was perhaps drawn by, rather than self-guidance, I’d say he was drawn initially by this experience of beauty, and then it was the moral and the philosophical realm. Again, you see the independence. So at the age of 14, a wonderful story, an older sister of his was arguing with him about relativism, and insisting that all moral values were relative. And he combated her, and she appealed to their father, thinking you know, this needs to stop. And the father said well, he’s just 14, after all. And Von Hildebrand, apparently, said quite quickly, he said if my age is your only argument against my position, it’s a very weak position indeed.
HH: I know. That’s a good story.
JHC: And again, you see that extraordinary independence.
HH: Now he does become a very distinguished theologian early on. In 1922, he gives a series of lectures on purity, of all things, published in 1931 in a book, In Defense of Purity, which you note become a sea change in Catholic and Christian theology. And I believe that John Paul II or Pope St. John Paul II drew on for his Theology of the Body.
JHC: Yes, it’s an intriguing side of Von Hildebrand’s work. Let’s back up just a little bit and say Von Hildebrand never called himself a theologian. He was one of these great lay Christians who as a result of his profound faith and his deep intellectual life was able to make contributions at a theological level. But he always thought of himself as a philosopher first. Now it’s true that after his conversion, he converted in 1914 to Christianity, to Catholicism, that he became, quickly he became a rising star in Catholic circles. And this whole movement of greater lay involvement in the Catholic Church, and within Christianity generally speaking, you see in him the fact that he as a young layman could do this work. And the work on purity is interesting, because you see the fusion of faith and reason in his thought. He said that after his conversion that he was flooded with new insights into realities that he had reflected on before, moral realities, but that only through the light of faith had their full meaning. And one of them was the sexual sphere. And so he reflected very deeply on sexuality, on marriage. And perhaps the key thesis that for which he is famous is that he argued, for the first time thematically, it sounds strange to us, but he argued that for the first time in Christian theology, that love is the theme of the conjugal act, which to us may seem surprising, but at the time, the emphasis was so much on procreation, that it took an alert Catholic layman like Von Hildebrand to make that connection.
HH: It would be interesting if we were flies on the wall in the Vatican right now, even this day as the big conference continues on in Rome, if his work is being cited in that regard. That’s a subject for a different day. I want to focus more on My Battle Against Hitler, specifically his, I’ll call it virulent anti-anti-Semitism, and his just absolutely animal opposition to Hitler from the beginning. But I’ll start with a pre-Hitler anecdote which struck me. 1921, he’s in Paris with a bunch of, you know, pointy-headed intellectuals, and they’re arguing about this or that, and someone challenges his anti-nationalist credentials by saying what about the invasion of Belgium? And Von Hildebrand said that was an atrocious crime. I have no problem in admitting that it was a dreadful crime, for I am first a Catholic, then a Catholic, and yet again a Catholic, and so on and on and on. And that got him into deep hot water in Germany. But it certainly is an early signpost to how courageous he would be.
JHC: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is, I love that episode, and I’m glad you bring it up. So it’s remarkable that this statement against nationalism, which was in a way provoked, I mean, he wasn’t there to speak about it, would put him onto the radar of the Nazis. But it was so much a plank of their, or a piece of their core platform, this nationalism, this aggressive nationalism and this inability to recognize other countries except as sort of objects of aggression, that first brought them into confrontation. And I think that that’s very important, because what you see, first of all, you see an enormous independence, because it would have been very, very difficult as a German at that time, after the loss of the First World War, and after the humiliation in the Treaty of Versailles, not to have been somewhat infected. You wouldn’t have had to have been a Hitler to have qualified for some infection by the nationalist virus. And Von Hildebrand was totally and utterly free of it. So that’s already extraordinary. And then this, I think it’s symptomatic of, or indicative of Von Hildebrand’s contribution that he came into conflict with the Nazis not by attacking them politically, but by going after their core positions. So he goes after nationalism. He goes after militarism. He goes after anti-Semitism.
HH: Now John Henry, and I’m talking with John Henry Crosby, the translator and editor of the new edition of My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich. It’s linked over at Hughhewitt.com. If you get it, you won’t be able to put it down. I urge you to get it. I urge you to send it especially to political leaders. I am struck of the similarities of the period in which we live now. And especially if you’re in Ukraine right now, and to your east is this dictator who is in essence carving up your country, we’ll come to his exile in Austria. But there are a lot of parallels to 2014 to these 20s and 30s in which Hildebrand works.
JHC: Oh, you’re absolutely right. I think he would have been very, very distressed to see the, really the resurgence of nationalism in these countries, and of course the presence of dictators carving up countries. It would have been very, very upsetting to him. I think, though, that you know, there are two ways of looking at a book like this. The one is to sort of measure it in terms of its predictive value, and to say you know, history is repeating itself, and we see it in the stories of great figures like Von Hildebrand. But then there’s the more, you might say, immediate message, which is you know, how do we as citizens of this 21st Century living in various parts of the world in 2014, how do we, you might say, live the message that Von Hildebrand had to offer? And I think that he would encourage, you know what he would probably be passionately arguing for was for the distinction between patriotism and nationalism, and he would be urging…
HH: Absolutely. When we come back from break, we’re going to talk about that distinction and in this era, especially, his example of anti-anti-Semitism. Don’t go anywhere. John Henry Crosby will be back with me talking about My Battle Against Hitler, which is linked at Hughhewitt.com.
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HH: And up until a year ago, I was the first to admit to your friend, Duncan, I’d never heard of Dietrich Von Hildebrand. And now I’m captured by your book, and I think everyone’s got to read it. But a lot of it has to do with, as Hitler comes to power, he early on stakes an anti-nationalist flag, and an anti-anti-Semitic flag in the heart of Germany. And he’s thoroughly patriotic, wouldn’t you say, John Henry? He’s a thoroughly patriotic German. He’s just not an ultra-nationalist.
JHC: Oh, absolutely, and Von Hildebrand thought that nationalism was somehow the absolute antithesis to true patriotism. He draws the analogy between, he says patriotism is like genuine self-love, and nationalism is an inflated, egotistical self-love. And so the one can recognize the greatness of other cultures of other nations, and the other sees nothing good in the others. And of course, nationalism gives you World War I, whereas patriotism would never give you a war.
HH: In 1932, Hitler becomes chancellor. I’m skipping over the whole part of the Beer Hall Putsch and how the Nazis would have had him murdered in the 20s had they had the opportunity. But some January 30th of ’33, Hitler does become chancellor. The Reichstag burns down. And what Von Hildebrand does is he takes off. He goes to Austria, knowing that he can continue his opposition to the Nazis there. Would you describe, John Henry Crosby, how he did so, because very people would believe that a journal could actually matter that much.
JHC: Yes, absolutely. So the first thing I want to say quickly is that for a long time, I myself spoke of Von Hildebrand fleeing from Germany. But the more I worked in the memoirs, and the more I read it at face value, the more I realized it was really a kind of voluntary exile. Now he was in danger, but he could have suppressed himself. He could have been quiet, and perhaps found a way to stay. So he left. He gave everything up voluntarily, because he felt as a philosopher, and as someone whose mission was linked to proclaiming truth, that he would compromise himself if he didn’t speak openly. And he knew he couldn’t do that in Germany, and so that’s why he left Germany. And he wanted to go and in some sense fight for the true Germany against this terrible invasion of the Third Reich. So he goes to Vienna, finally. There’s an interlude he had to think about what he would do. When he left, he had no idea what he would do next other than that he wanted to fight in the cause against National Socialism, and he took notice of the young chancellor of Austria, Engelbert Dollfuss, and it took a number of attempts, but he finally had a chance to see him. And he said I want to be an intellectual officer in the battle against National Socialism. And so Dollfuss agreed, and agreed to sponsor a newspaper that Hildebrand would found and edit. And over the next almost four and a half years, beginning in December of ’33, Hildebrand published an almost weekly edition of this journal, and did intellectual warfare with National Socialism and also with communism, deconstructing it at the level of first principles, at the level of worldview, and also offering a counter vision. There was always this implicit or explicit counter vision of a Europe as a family of nations, of a Europe as a world in which the rule of law and the constitutional state was at play, a world in which a living Christian culture was of course still an ideal for Hildebrand. So this is what he did in his paper, and it’s extraordinary. You know, the circulation wasn’t what we would consider large. It would have been in the thousands. But it was read in the halls of power. It was read by Catholic bishops. It was read by academics. And of course, it was read and rather feared even in Berlin.
HH: And it was uncompromising. And in fact, one of the themes I took away from My Battle Against Hitler is his warning again and again and again, you cannot compromise with these people. Now he’s very, it’s not ego. He says as bloody as National Socialism would become, most did not see it or even sense it coming the way he did. A Jesuit would later say, I think it was a Jesuit who would later say to him, he had a special gift for this. But he condemned when the German bishops withdrew their excommunication of the Nazis. He defended the Concordat. And he was a friend of Pacelli, later Pius XII. But he was always and everywhere, he would not suffer any Nazi or any anti-Semite. And that’s really, I didn’t know about that. And I think we’ve all become a little bit blind to those years, assuming that from 1933 to 1939, passed in a day as opposed to six long years.
JHC: Oh, absolutely. You know, one of the things that ties all of the points you’ve just made there, ties them together, is this enormous concern for moral integrity. You know, he really felt the risk to a person’s conscience by living under the force of an evil empire. And he was very acutely aware of the danger of making peace with it. You know, it was the sort of psychological process that would begin with initially sort of being worn down and then making peace with it, and then perhaps even making a certain coming, to be somewhat friendly towards the regime, particularly if there were benefits, or if you thought you could defend your clan or your church or whatever the case may be. There’s a wonderful passage that I think is, I mean, it’s just the height of moral wisdom, where describes just having left Germany, and he’s thinking about his friends back home, and he writes them a letter. And he describes what he says is I believe that the only way that one could live as a Catholic under, in the Third Reich, and he describes, has this wonderful image he says that he asked his friends to be ready, always to carry what he says is the dagger of un-reconcilable enmity towards national socialism, always prepared to use it at a moment’s notice, with of course, without risking the concentration camp. He felt that people had different callings. Some would stay. Not everyone had to risk their lives. But he felt that one had to be always ready to kind of make an inner ascent to the good, and enter, of course, rejection of evil.
HH: Now I don’t want this book to get locked into what would be called the Catholic ghetto. I just don’t want Catholics to read it. Nevertheless, I have to say it’s enormous comfort to people who are Catholic to find someone who in that period would write, and you quote him on Page 190, I condemn anti-Semitism with all my heart, because I am a Catholic. Anti-Semitism and Catholicism are absolutely irreconcilable. And in Florence, he storms out of a meeting. I will not tolerate a word against the Jews at this present moment. Again and again, because I think the modern culture believes that the Catholic Church was complicit with Hitler.
JHC: Well, yes, and sadly, of course, you know, not everyone was Dietrich Von Hildebrand, shall we say. I mean, Von Hildebrand was an exceptionally independent person, again, on this question of anti-Semitism. By the way, I want to emphasize just again how, what an achievement it was to be as opposed to anti-Semitism as he was. it’s worth noting that you know, by the time the Holocaust became more well known, I mean, I think the world lived in a certain shock, particularly when it came out. But remember, when Von Hildebrand was making statements against anti-Semitism in the 20s and 30s, I mean, this was against, this wasn’t yet against the Nazi racism. This was against a kind of soft, socially acceptable, pervasive anti-Semitism. It was a kind of antipathy. It was characterized by things like scapegoating, you know, the Jews were to blame for all sorts of things. They were of course the source of bad ideas, liberal ideas. They were the entertainment industry. They were the banking industry. So Von Hildebrand was fighting something that was much more pervasive and invisible And I think one of the things that I ask myself when I read him, you know, I nod in vigorous agreement and admiration, and then I have to ask myself would I have seen this the way he saw it? And so I think the very first thing we have to recognize here is the achievement of seeing it, and then of course the courage to speak about against it.
HH: Yeah, it’s a very rare gift. I’m looking forward to discussing My Battle Against Hitler. I’m going to send it to Dennis Prager, my colleague on the radio. I do a bunch of talks with Dennis called Ask A Jew, and we talk a lot about what anti-Semitism is and where it comes from, and how you can feel it in the air sometimes. And he had that extra-sensory perception of it. And some didn’t. In fact, he condemned, I can’t pronounce this bishop’s name, Gfollner, or whatever it is.
JHC: Gfollner, yeah.
HH: Yeah, he was an anti-Nazi, but he wasn’t anti-anti-Semite. And so he had to wage war on both sides, both against those who wanted to be anti-Nazi but also anti-Jew, but at the same time, make sure that they kept the focus on battling Hitler. I’ll be right back.
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HH: It’s imminently readable. In fact, it’s fascinating, even though a lot of it was absolutely new to me. I just didn’t know that Austria ever had a prayer of not becoming absorbed. I didn’t, that whole period of history, ’33-’38, as I said in the last segment, John Henry, seems to me to have been just a prelude to a long nightmare orchestra, right, that who even pays attention to those years? But he really thought, Hildebrand, that Austria could survive as sort of the capital of the real Europe.
JHC: Oh, that’s right. No, he certainly believed when he went to Vienna in 1933 that Austria could be the bulwark. In fact, the very first piece he wrote even before founding his own newspaper, he wrote an article entitled, the title of the article was The Great German Hour of Austria. And the idea there was that Austria, at this moment of what he calls the deepest degradation of German values, could in a way be the bulwark against National Socialism and the bearer of true German values. So he believed, and I think a lot of people believed that Austria could be this bulwark. There was a kind of German emigration that came to Vienna to participate both with Von Hildebrand and with other initiatives to do this. Now of course, by the time that Hitler invaded Austria in 1938, that hope had gone away. And it had much to do with the assassination of this chancellor who sponsored Hildebrand’s newspaper, Englebert Dollfuss, was rock solid in his desire to fight for the independence of Austria. His successor was much more sort of weak-spirited, and you know, he spoke of peaceful coexistence and so on, and that just weakened the resolve in Austria, and had a lot to do with Hildebrand’s difficulties over time, because then the paper was no longer actively supported, and he was increasingly isolated. But it’s, one thing that I want to mention here. You know, Von Hildebrand didn’t necessarily fight to win. I think we all think now that he won because in some sense, he won the moral battle. But there’s a wonderful line that I put into the epigraph of the book, which I’m just going to quickly read, where he says if God permits evil such as Bolshevism and National Socialism, then of course as St. Paul says it is to test us, it is precisely our struggle against evil that God wills, even when we suffer external defeat.
HH: Well, what I love you reminding, and I want to get to his writings, because My Battle Against Hitler quite wisely includes a selection of his very best essays. And I was saying to our friends at lunch that he reminds me of C.S. Lewis in his winsomeness of his writing, and I don’t know that many people know it, because it’s not as widely translated. But he was fond of quoting Cato the Elder. Moreover, I think that Carthage should be completely destroyed. At the end of every speech, he would say something similar about Nazi Germany.
JHC: Oh, yes. Yes, he thought that Nazism was irredeemable. And this is what set him apart from so many of his fellow Catholics. And again, this is the prescience of Von Hildebrand. You know, there was a period, there was maybe a brief honeymoon period in 1932, early ’33, when German Catholics hoped, and Austrian Catholics, no doubt, as well, hoped that perhaps there could be some kind of dealing with Hitler, that perhaps he would respect their institutions, and there could be some way of working things out. And Von Hildebrand from the very beginning rejected that, and he says that there’s absolutely no compatibility between the two. But and of course, this set him at great odds with people who said you know, you just have no desire to cooperate, and what do we call it today? You know, compromise is of course a political virtue. He thought that compromise on these fundamentals was simply impermissible.
HH: Now I want people for themselves to read the details of his two flights from Austria, and the pain of going from there to France, and then to Portugal and then to Spain. It’s dramatic, it’s riveting, people need to read it. I want to turn to the writings in the last segment and a half we have. Specifically on the eve, excuse me, John Henry Crosby, of the release of this grand jury report, in which people expect mob violence, you have one of the essays called Mass And Community. And I wonder if the German ought not to be translated Mob and Community. I don’t know German. But I want to quote from Page 321. “It is a fact that people react very differently when they are alone and when they are in a mass gathering. How easy it is for harmless people who would never be capable of brutality on their own to get carried away to the point of violence in mass gatherings. The individual does not react with his own spirit when he is part of a mass. He is not convinced by sound arguments or evident institutions, but is instead swept along by suggestion and purely dynamic influences.” How often have we seen that over the last 70 years?
JHC: Oh, absolutely. This is a wonderful passage, dimension, this personalism of Von Hildebrand. You know, it’s not a term that he used himself a lot, but personalism in the sense of this kind of, from an intellectual point of view, a sustained mediation on the nature and dignity of the individual person is very much at the heart of his work. And what you see there is the recognition that one can’t ever really do justice to what a community should be if one makes the individual subject to the community. The individual has to be seen as his own whole, an end in himself as the philosophers would say, in order to be in a community. And so he thinks that what happens when the individual sort of find his meaning in the group only, that you get this sort of dissolution of the person, so you get emotional infection. You get, I think your term, by the way, the use of the word mob, would be absolutely appropriate in this case. And of course, he thinks that true community can only form when the individual is really treated as distinct.
HH: One more segment coming up with John Henry Crosby.
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HH: John Henry, if I can quickly just touch on a few things for people to understand, at one of the essays that you include, Von Hildebrand condemns those for whom physical health constitutes the ultimate standard of judgment. That’s a timely word for today. In the essay from 1934, the Parting of the Ways, he writes, “The present epoch is characterized by the fact that so many things once hidden are now being unveiled, both the good and the bad in people, which had remained concealed from others, is now coming to light.” He writes an essay on False Fronts, where very early on, he says look, Nazi, Communists, they’re all the same evil. They’re totalitarians. He has an amazing essay on the Jews and the Christian West. He’s a Platonist. And then I wanted to make sure we spent some time on the danger of becoming morally blunted. And of all the essays, I left it last here. This is the one that which really struck me as being very applicable to today, in the culture in which we live. People are becoming morally blunted.
JHC: Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that particular essay is one of the richest of all the essays. It’s the one where you feel that it speaks directly into the present moment.
JHC: You know, whatever he felt he had to say to his fellow Catholics and Christians at the time, it speaks to us as well. And you know, we may not live under the particular force of the kind of evil that many of, well, that any of the Germans and Austrians at the time faced, but we live under much more subtle forms, and I think we live under, for example, I think that the kind of pressures that we face when certain evils become socially acceptable or desirable, it becomes extremely difficult, I think, to resist that. And a similar kind of erosion of our own, the sense of our own convictions and our confidence, and our willingness to speak on their behalf, you know, sets in just of the kind that he was warning against in 1934 when he wrote this essay.
HH: And I would say to anyone listening right now, whatever your issue is, and wherever you are on the spectrum, listen to this paragraph. “If a state slowly descends in its official statements and its legislation, and in its day to day conduct of affairs, ever more deeply into immorality and barbarism, then there is tremendous risk that the population will gradually become accustomed to its ethical level, that their initial indignation will subside, and that they will imperceptibly lower their own ethical criteria when they see that all the crimes committed by the state go unpunished as it continues to exist with the dignity of its own inherent authority, and the formal recognition of other states.” And I think about that, my pet peeve is the about-to-be born deal with the Islamic Republican of Iran, which is a genocidal, fanatic regime, to which we have become accustomed, John Henry Crosby. And people no longer call it a genocidal, fanatic regime.
JHC: Oh, absolutely, and I think this is something he was very, very concerned about, which is that the ability of a state to, the particular power and danger of a state being able to legitimize evil by making it legal, first of all, and then simply by the fact that you know, once the police state, say a Nazi Germany, came into effect, I mean, people just sort of lost the ability to be outraged and horrified. And it’s a very, I think he’s always psychologically very astute, and he recognizes where people are. He doesn’t want to say you know, that you’re necessarily a bad human being for becoming exhausted. But he says the moral call requires that you’re reviving yourself constantly the sense of the moral dangers that you’re confronted with.
HH: Now how do we help you get this book out there? I mean, you’ve got blurbs from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Mary Ann Glendon, Eric Metaxas, our friend, Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia. You’ve got the greatest blurb list I’ve seen on a book. It’s a big house, it’s a big publication. I don’t know if you’re a Twitter guy. Are you a Twitter guy, John Henry Crosby?
JHC: I’ve been told I’m becoming one.
HH: Okay, well you have to hurry. But how do people help you? And how do they find you? And how are you available? And what is the Von Hildebrand Project?
JHC: All right, a number of great questions. Thank you so much for letting me chime in on that. So first of all, the best way people can help us is of course to purchase the book. And I don’t want to bias them in any direction. Just go get it somewhere, and get two copies. Get one for yourself, and get one for a friend or a family member. You know, I like to say that this is the sort of book wherein promoting it, we’re not just promoting our particular publication. The content is vital, that by asking people to purchase the book, I’m really asking them to help spread Hildebrand’s message. Now as far as the Hildebrand Project, the Hildebrand Project is the institutional venue for disseminating Hildebrand’s work. We’re the estate of the Hildebrands, and so we’re tasked with translating and publishing all of his work, and there’s a great deal more to come. And I would welcome your listeners to come and check us out at our website. We have a beautiful, new website that’s just gone up, and it’s www.hildebrandproject.org. We don’t just want to see ourselves, though, as a publication outlet. We’re not just a translation unit or a publishing house. We also sustain the conversation around Hildebrand’s work through conferences, seminars. We have student fellows, and all sorts of growing programming. And yeah, so we’re, I think perhaps the single best thing you can do is you can get me on to every other show.
HH: There you go.
JHC: That, you could help me with.
HH: And people should call up their favorite host and say have you had on John Henry Crosby? I heard him on the radio the other day. My Battle Against Hitler sounds awfully important. A minute and a half left, John Henry, what’s the most important, people tune in late in a radio show. What’s the most important thing for them to know about Dietrich Von Hildebrand?
JHC: Dietrich Von Hildebrand loved to quote this line, this wonderful Latin phrase, tua res agitur, which means simply this concerns you. So I say on behalf of Dietrich Von Hildebrand, what is your call to witness? What is your act of courage? It doesn’t have to be fighting against the Nazis. It could be a much more modest thing. All he would care about is that you were lifted out of your complacency, that you perhaps overcame a fear or an inhibition, and that you stepped out.
HH: I also want to quote what you use at the beginning of the book – better to be a beggar in freedom than to be forced into making compromises against my conscience. That is, that’s not usually the choice most people make.
JHC: Absolutely not, but I think it’s something that from the very first day, that line moved me, because it suggested a full-hearted engagement. You know, he wasn’t someone who did this out of bitterness or anger. He did this, this was ultimately an act of love.
HH: And Duncan told me, he’s a happy guy. He’s a funny, vibrant, full of life happy guy, which comes through repeatedly. I mean, he’s always at a party.
JHC: Absolutely. The night before he fled, they had a Mardi Gras party, and they told jokes, and you know, everyone, you know, felt sustained by his wonderful presence. And you know, the next day, he’s in flight.
HH: Well, congratulations on the really remarkable achievement, John Henry Crosby. The book is My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich. I can’t tell you how timely it is. I’ve linked it over at Hughhewitt.com. It’s in bookstores everywhere, not just two copies, one for yourself, one for a friend, send one to an elected leader, because I really do believe elected leaders right now could use a whole, huge dose of Dietrich Von Hildebrand. John Henry Crosby, thanks again.
End of interview.