(FASCISM and PHILOSOPHY – continued)
National Socialists adhered to a mystical "folkish" (völkisch) or populist nationalism and what Hitler called a "will to power." For Hitler it was a will to power in order to undo a specifically 20th century development: the peace treaty signed at Versailles.
The National Socialists tried to add philosophical profundity to their movement by 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.” [note].
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 show 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" having done so.
There was a tolerance among the Nazis for the sadism, bullying and assumed superiority that appears occasionally among school boys. German youths were perpetrating this bullying against Jewish youth. When a people believe that they have an enemy that they have to triumph over, sadists feel free to do their thing – on the school yard and in prisons. This happened with the Nazi effort at triumph for Germany, and it was of some distance from Nietzsche's point of view.
After Nietzsche died his sister Elisabeth, still an anti-Semite, compiled a book, The Will to Power, from Nietzsche's unpublished notebooks, and she published it posthumously. Elisabeth is reported to have taken liberties with the material, and a consensus is said to hold that the book does not reflect Nietzsche's intent. Mazzino Montinari, an editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts, notes and correspondence, called the book a forgery.
In 1930, Elisabeth supported Hitler. After Hitler and the National Socialists 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 © 2009-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.