Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A clarification

In my letter to Professor Koch from Heidelberg University I referred to my discussion with Professor Tugendhat, the Head of the Philosophy Department at the Free University in Berlin: ‘In the Easter Holidays of 1981 … I was received by Professor Tugendhat: ‘Didn’t you have something to do with the Philosophy seminars in Prague?’ were his first words … ‘I’m asking, because I am going to Prague … Roger Scruton … sent me money for the Czechs. I am to stay in the Hotel Meteor and give the money to the Receptionist.’ – ‘In the Hotel Meteor?’ I asked. ‘Two prominent dissidents worked there as stokers; this on its own would guarantee it to be a Secret Police stronghold … When Roger Scruton tells you to give the money to the Receptionist at the Hotel Meteor, it is perfectly safe for you to do so. But if I were you, I would give it directly to those, whom you are going to visit.’

I looked up Barbara Day’s The Velvet Philosophers, what she has to say on Ernst Tugendhat. It appears that Professor Tugendhat refused to go to Prague in 1981; he visited the Prague ‘underground seminars’ for the first time a year later:

‘The international attention provoked by Jacques Derrida’s arrest (Derrida was giving a lecture to Hejdánek’s seminar on Saturday 26th December 1981. On Tuesday 29th December he was arrested at the airport as he was about to leave Prague. ‘Passing through customs he was called into a private room where police with dogs searched his cases, eventually – at the third attempt, after a phone call evidently asking for help – finding four packets of a brown powder concealed in the lining … The French government did not hesitate to use the hot line to President Gustáv Husák … on Wednesday 30th December, Derrida …was told that, whilst still considered to be guilty of the “production and traffic of drugs”, he was being expelled.’ [Barbara Day, pp. 92-96]) alarmed the British Foreign Office, which warned the Jan Hus Trustees that it would be advisable to suspend visits for the time being. The German Government took the same line as the British; when the philosophers Jürgen Habermas and Ernst Tugendhat visited Hejdánek’s seminar in March 1982, they were told by the German cultural Attaché in Prague that the German Government would take no responsibility for them should they be arrested.’ (Barbara Day, p. 102)

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