Gustav Heckmann

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Gustav Heckmann

Gustav Heckmann (* 22 April 1898 in Voerde near Wesel; † 8 June 1996 in Hanover[1]) was a German teacher, philosopher and member of the SPD. During the National Socialist era he belonged to the International Socialist Fighting League as a German emigrant.


Heckmann studied mathematics, physics and philosophy in Göttingen, where he also received his doctorate in 1924 under Max Born and passed the state examination for the higher teaching profession in 1925. After working as a teacher at the Walkemühle rural educational home, he emigrated to Denmark in 1933 and to Great Britain in 1938 following the transfer of power to the National Socialists. Together with Minna Specht he worked there at the successor schools of the Walkemühle in Östrupgaard and Butcombe Court.


After the end of the Second World War, he was appointed professor of philosophy and education at the Pädagogische Hochschule Hannover in 1946. Like most members of the ISK, he joined the SPD after its dissolution after 1945; here he came into conflict with the party leadership in 1950 when he initiated a collection of signatures criticizing the articles on school policy in the state constitution of North Rhine-Westphalia. Heckmann and his friends were of the opinion that the SPD had accommodated the churches too much in the constitutional debate, thereby restricting the teachers’ freedom of conscience and exposing the schools to clerical domination.

Heckmann enriched the method of the Socratic Conversation according to Leonard Nelson with new aspects such as the meta-conversation.

As a determined opponent of nuclear weapons, he was involved from the beginning in the Easter March movement against nuclear weapons in East and West and was one of the speakers at the final rally of the first star march of Hamburg, Bremen and Braunschweig/Hannover in 1960 in Bergen-Hohne.

Gustav Heckmann died at the age of 98 on 8 June 1996.


  • TheSocratic Conversation: Experiences in Philosophical University Seminars. Frankfurt/M.: dipa-Verl., 1993 – ISBN 3-7638-0315-7


  • Horster, Detlef/Krohn, Dieter (eds.): Vernunft, Ethik, Politik: Gustav Heckmann zum 85. Geburtstag. Hanover : SOAK Verl., 1983 – ISBN 3-88209-053-7
  • Raupauch-Strey, Gisela: Sokratische Didaktik: De didaktische Bedeutung der sokratischen Methode in der Tradition Leonard Nelsons und Gustav Heckmanns. Münster: LIT-Verl., 2002. ISBN 3-8258-6322-0
  • Polzer, Joachim (ed.): Lebensläufe im 20. Jahrhundert: Gustav Heckmann. Polzer Media Group, 1992 (DVD, 85 min.)

Web links

Individual references

  1. Death certificate no. 1704/1996 of the registry office Hanover dated 14 June 1996