Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?

Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?: On the Uses and Abuses of a Philosophy

JACOB GOLOMB
ROBERT S. WISTRICH
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7s6k5
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    Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?
    Book Description:

    Nietzsche, the Godfather of Fascism?What can Nietzsche have in common with this murderous ideology? Frequently described as the "radical aristocrat" of the spirit, Nietzsche abhorred mass culture and strove to cultivate an Übermensch endowed with exceptional mental qualities. What can such a thinker have in common with the fascistic manipulation of the masses for chauvinistic goals that crushed the autonomy of the individual?

    The question that lies at the heart of this collection is how Nietzsche came to acquire the deadly "honor" of being considered the philosopher of the Third Reich and whether such claims had any justification. Does it make any sense to hold him in some way responsible for the horrors of Auschwitz?

    The editors present a range of views that attempt to do justice to the ambiguity and richness of Nietzsche's thought. First-rate contributions by a variety of distinguished philosophers and historians explore in depth Nietzsche's attitudes toward Jews, Judaism, Christianity, anti-Semitism, and National Socialism. They interrogate Nietzsche's writings for fascist and anti-Semitic proclivities and consider how they were read by fascists who claimed Nietzsche as their intellectual godfather.

    There is much that is disturbingly antiegalitarian and antidemocratic in Nietzsche, and his writings on Jews are open to differing interpretations. Yet his emphasis on individualism and contempt for German nationalism and anti-Semitism put him at stark odds with Nazi ideology.

    The Nietzsche that emerges here is a tragic prophet of the spiritual vacuum that produced the twentieth century's totalitarian movements, the thinker who best diagnosed the pathologies of fin-de-siècle European culture. Nietzsche dared to look into the abyss of modern nihilism. This book tells us what he found.

    The contributors are Menahem Brinker, Daniel W. Conway, Stanley Corngold, Kurt Rudolf Fischer, Jacob Golomb, Robert C. Holub, Berel Lang, Wolfgang Müller-Lauter, Alexander Nehamas, David Ohana, Roderick Stackelberg, Mario Sznajder, Geoffrey Waite, Robert S. Wistrich, and Yirmiyahu Yovel.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2533-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A NOTE ON SOURCES AND LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Jacob Golomb and Robert S. Wistrich

    Nietzsche and fascism? Is it not almost a contradiction in terms? What can Nietzsche have in common with this murderous ideology? The central ideal of Nietzsche’s philosophy was the individual and his freedom to shape his own character and destiny. The German philosopher was frequently described as the “radical aristocrat” of the spirit because he abhorred mass culture and strove to cultivate a special kind of human being, theÜbermensch, endowed with exceptional spiritual and mental qualities. What can such a thinker have in common with National Socialism’s manipulation of the masses for chauvinistic goals that swallowed up the personalities,...

  7. PART ONE: IN THEORY
    • 1 How to De-Nazify Nietzsche’s Philosophical Anthropology?
      (pp. 19-46)
      Jacob Golomb

      Most Nazi readings of Nietzsche’s thought justify their acts of misappropriation by referring to his key notion of the will to power in terms of a violent, overpowering, and physical force, which, if used effectively and efficiently, will secure a convincing military victory and material conquest.¹

      Ironically, the first to interpret the will to power in terms of military imperialism was Max Nordau, a leading cultural critic and subsequently Herzl’s most important convert to political Zionism, who passionately warned his readers against this “degenerate” thinker whose influence was likely to bring havoc to the cause of “enlightened” and progressive European...

    • 2 Misinterpretation as the Author’s Responsibility (Nietzsche’s fascism, for instance)
      (pp. 47-65)
      Berel Lang

      At first glance, it would seem incongruous, perhaps even unjust to impose the concepts of misinterpretation and responsibility on an author who spent much of his life and work at war with both of them. It seems to me necessary, however, to view Nietzsche through those concepts before judging the charges that link (more pointedly, inculpate) him with fascism, if only because his viewsonwriting and interpretation directly affect the way we read (or mis-read) his politics (if, of course, he has any).¹ Since, furthermore, Nietzsche himself created the genealogy as a genre of philosophical discourse, it is fitting...

    • 3 Experiences with Nietzsche
      (pp. 66-89)
      Wolfgang Müller-Lauter

      “Something said briefly can be the fruit of much long thought,” Nietzsche wrote in hisAssorted Opinions and Maxims(HH, II:127).¹ What is long thought, however, does not disappear into the brief remark as into a result. Rather, what is briefly said must always form the starting point of a long path of reflection. Nietzsche found ever more reason as he grew older to recommend that his texts be read “slowly, deeply, looking cautiously before and after, with reservations, with doors left open, with delicate eyes and fingers” (D, Preface, 5). Caution and precaution must (also) be understood literally: in...

    • 4 Nietzsche and “Hitler”
      (pp. 90-106)
      Alexander Nehamas

      The reason Hitler’s name is in quotation marks in the title of this chapter is that I do not plan to discuss the historical connections between Nietzsche and National Socialism. I am concerned, instead, with a more abstract and, to me, more pressing problem. It concerns Nietzsche’s attitude toward the evil hero—the great individual who still, by any reasonable standard, may be a completely unacceptable human being: the kind of person who provokes moral revulsion even in those of us who share, or perhaps (in light of having such a reaction) merely profess to share, Nietzsche’s own revulsion at...

    • 5 Nietzsche and the Jews
      (pp. 107-125)
      Menahem Brinker

      There is a considerable literature on the Nazi use, appropriation, and manipulation of Nietzsche’s name, philosophy, and writings. Debates focused around this issue started even before the Nazis rose to power and are still continuing today. The Jewish theme as it figures in Nietzsche’s thought is also mentioned in a large part of these discussions, yet in most cases it is marginalized by more dominant themes. Among them one can find Nietzsche’s scorn for the idea of equality, his contempt for democracy, and his critique of the idea of progress and the Nazi slogans about a “degenerate” culture, the concepts...

    • 6 Nietzche contra Wagner on the Jews
      (pp. 126-143)
      Yirmiyahu Yovel

      The mature Nietzsche once described himself as “Wagner’s antipode.” In his own view, he was as opposed to Wagner as the North Pole is to the South. Moreover, it was his break with Wagner in the mid 1870s that finally allowed Nietzsche to find his own identity, to develop his own intellectual personality and mission. In the 1880s Nietzsche continued to take Wagner seriously even as a fierce opponent. He looked upon Wagner as a temptation he had to overcome, as a servitude and even as an “infection” or “disease” he had to experience before liberating himself and coming into...

    • 7 Between the Cross and the Swastika: A Nietzschean Perspective
      (pp. 144-170)
      Robert S. Wistrich

      Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the great intellectual iconoclasts of the nineteenth century. In some respects more radical than even Marx or Freud, this descendant of generations of German Protestant pastors became perhaps the most implacable foe of Christianity in modern times. Hence a full reckoning with his thought would ultimately involve a serious examination of the entire Christian heritage of the West. Our purpose is, however, more limited—it is to focus on Nietzsche’s attitude toward Jews, Judaism, and anti-Semitism in the light of the Holocaust and the often repeated charge that he was one of the philosophical godfathers...

  8. PART TWO: IN PRACTICE
    • 8 Ecce Caesar: Nietzsche’s Imperial Aspirations
      (pp. 173-195)
      Daniel W. Conway

      It is a historical fact that Nietzsche was widely admired by twentieth-century fascists. Mussolini was an avid disciple of Nietzsche’s teachings and often acknowledged his influence on the development of the fascist philosophy. Hitler, too, was eager to associate his regime with Nietzsche’s name and reputation. Responding in part to the cloying advances of Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth, Hitler became a patron of the Nietzsche archives and an occasional visitor to Weimar.¹

      The case for Nietzsche’s direct contributions to the rise and development of European fascism nevertheless remains inconclusive. First of all, he was read neither carefully nor well by Mussolini,...

    • 9 A Question of Responsibility: Nietzsche with Hölderlin at War, 1914–1946
      (pp. 196-214)
      Stanley Corngold and Geoffrey Waite

      For every person who reads Friedrich Nietzsche as “the step-grandfather of fascism” (Leo Strauss)¹ or German National Socialism’s “indirect apologist” (Georg Lukács),² at least two others embrace him as a man of the Left: whether allegedly for having “made himselffascist in order better to fight fascism” (François Laruelle)³ or for his deconstruction and rejection of the moral and conceptual preconditions of fascism or, of a different thing, national socialism. The theoretical question of Nietzsche’s “responsibility” for this apparently contradictory range of opinions subtends every possible historical question about his “influence” on, or “responsibility” for, all or any imaginable states...

    • 10 The Elisabeth Legend: The Cleansing of Nietzsche and the Sullying of His Sister
      (pp. 215-234)
      Robert C. Holub

      At the close of the World War II it was common knowledge in the Western world that Nietzsche was a precursor of fascism. Although in the Third Reich there were several voices who sought to disclaim his philosophical legacy, or who at least believed that significant portions of his writings were useless for National Socialism,¹ most German writers and propagandists embraced Nietzsche as one of their own. Steven Aschheim points out the extent of Nietzsche’s assimilation into Nazi thought and institutions, “the dense and broad diffusion through which suitably adapted Nietzschean notions became a differentiated and integral part of Nazi...

    • 11 Nietzsche, Mussolini, and Italian Fascism
      (pp. 235-262)
      Mario Sznajder

      Most of the writings dealing with the intellectual origins of fascism mention the name of Friedrich Nietzsche as one of the philosophers whose work influenced Nazism.¹ However, when examining the central sources of Italian Fascism as a political regime and movement, little or no mention is made of Nietzsche’s influence. Here we will try to assess the relationship between Nietzsche’s work and Italian Fascism through an examination of Gabriele D’Annunzio, the warrior poet who interpreted and introduced Nietzsche into Italy and was one of the main figures of Italian culture between the 1890s and the advent of fascism; and we...

    • 12 Nietzsche and the Fascist Dimension: The Case of Ernst Jünger
      (pp. 263-290)
      David Ohana

      What was the nature of the intellectual revolution instigated by Friedrich Nietzsche in the late nineteenth century? Why were both left-wing and right-wing groups inspired by this revolution? Why does it still continue to disturb so many people? It is impossible to separate out any one element of Nietzsche’s thought as the answer to these questions—the death of God, the critique of morality and religion, the “Overman” or the will to power. It is rather the revolutionary combination of the consciousness of nihilism and the will to power that brings Nietzsche so close to us at the beginning of...

    • 13 A Godfather Too: Nazism as a Nietzschean “Experiment”
      (pp. 291-300)
      Kurt Rudolf Fischer

      It is important to keep in mind that the “real Nietzsche” was not the historically effective Nietzsche.* My interest turns to the Nietzsche we knewbeforeGiorgio Colli and Mazzimo Montinari prepared their critical edition.¹ The historically effective texts allowed Nazi as well as anti-Nazi readings from a Nazi standpoint as well as from an anti-Nazi standpoint! Thus from two opposite ideological points of view two opposite results were possible, and indeed existed.

      In approached the problem of Nietzsche’s relation to fascism, I find it necessary first to raise the question of the meaning of “fascism.” There have been at...

    • 14 Critique as Apologetics: Nolte’s Interpretation of Nietzsche
      (pp. 301-320)
      Roderick Stackelberg

      In his recent study of the political reception of Nietzsche in Germany, Steven Aschheim has warned (with particular reference to Walter Kaufmann) against the kind of intellectual history that tries to discredit particular interpretations of Nietzsche by constructing an essential Nietzsche from which the interpretation in question deviates. Such an essentialist approach, which renders Nietzsche’s legacy “either as a record of deviation from, or as faithful representation of, a prior interpretative construction of the ‘real’ Nietzsche,” cannot do justice to the dynamic diversity of Nietzsche’s actual influence, nor does it illuminate the actual processes through which Nietzsche historically has been...

  9. WORKS OF NIETZSCHE CITED
    (pp. 321-322)
  10. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 323-332)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 333-341)