(FASCISM and PHILOSOPHY – continued)

home | 1901-WW2 Index


previous | next

Nazis and Nietzsche

National Socialists (Nazis) adhered to a mystical "folkish" (völkisch) or populist nationalism and what Hitler called a "will to power." For Hitler it was a will to undo the peace treaty signed at Versailles and to make Germany dominant in Europe.

The National Socialists tried to add philosophical profundity to their movement by associating it with Nietzsche – no matter that Nietzsche had broken with the famous composer Wagner over Wagner's anti-Semitism and pan-Germanism. Nietzsche considered himself a European more than a German. In fact, he saw himself as Polish and "without a single drop of bad blood, certainly not German blood.” note90

Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, married an anti-Semite with whom she founded a model Germanic colony in Paraguay, in 1887, called Nueva Germania, calculated to harbor German superiority. Nietzsche responded to its plans with mocking laughter.

Nietzsche saw nationalism as an attraction for the mob and as a threat to human freedom. He foresaw demagogues using nationalism to arouse and exploit the fears of the vulgar.

In Nietzsche's philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra the protagonist says:

I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment.

In Hitler's movement were those who believed in what they thought was Nietzsche's superman, but it was a vulgarized, chest thumping primitive version. Nietzsche complained of readers mangling his ideas. One observer has written of "trailer park Fuehrers and pimply elites."

After Nietzsche died his sister Elisabeth compiled a book, The Will to Power, from Nietzsche's unpublished notebooks. She is reported to have taken liberties with the material. Mazzino Montinari (1928-86), an editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts, notes and correspondence, called the book a forgery.

In 1930, Elisabeth supported Hitler. After Hitler came to power in 1933, his government gave financial support and publicity to the Nietzsche Archive that she was managing. She died in 1935 and Hitler and several high-ranking National Socialist officials attended her funeral.

Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.