Leopold Flam

1912 (Antwerp) - 1995 (Vilvoorde, Belgium)

Professor for Philosophy

"I will have to throw a whole host of ideas overboard, ideas that had become familiar to me, dear to me. Everything will have to be examined anew."

Leopold Flam was born in Antwerp on 16 March 1912, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. He grew up with his aunt and apprenticed to be a baker, but failed. Starting in the mid 1930s, the linguistically talented Flam studied history, politics and physics at the State University of Ghent. In 1934, he became a member of the Communist Party of Belgium and later got involved with the Socialists led by Camille Huysmans. He began keeping a diary early on.

Flam was arrested on 15 March 1944, taken to Buchenwald Concentration Camp on 7 May as a "political Belgian" and, two weeks later, transferred to the Hadmersleben subcamp. On 10 April, Red Army units freed him from an evacuation march.

From 1945 to 1955, Flam taught history at the Royal Athenaeum in Brussels. At the same time, he engaged in philosophical studies, in part about the morals of the Enlightenment. In 1952, he received his doctorate in history. In a quick succession of publications in the 1950s, he wrote about the philosophers Plato, Descartes, Kant and Nietzsche. As supervisor of the subject of history beginning in 1957, he had a decisive influence in educational policy-making in Belgium. In his studies, he continued to address the isolation of the human being, searching for a synthesis of Nietzsche’s philosophy, Marxism and Existentialism. Having become professor of philosophy in 1960, he founded several journals as well as a centre for research on the Enlightenment, which focussed on neglected philosophical and intellectual traditions, including different movements of free-thinkers and little-known heretics. Besides philosophical books and hundreds of articles, he also wrote belles-lettres and philosophical diaries.

Leopold Flam died in Vilvoorde near Brussels on 29 September 1995.