Judischer Nietzscheanismus, Edited by Werner Stegmaier and Daniel Krochmalnik

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Jüdischer Nietzscheanismus, edited by Warner Stegamier and Daniel Krochmalnik

Scholars have treated many dimensions of Nietzsche's relationship to Jews and Judaism. Some have dealt with Nietzsche's own views on Jewish culture, on Jewish history, or on the Jews of his own times. Others have examined the way in which Jews have received and evaluated Nietzsche's writings, both the assimilated Jews who knew him and those who were affected by Nietzsche subsequent to his demise. Finally, a few have scoured Nietzsche's writings for parallels between his thought and Jewish thought. The editors of this collection make it clear that they have a particular and fairly narrow concern: they define Jüdischer Nietzscheanismus as the point where the "interest by Jews for Nietzsche" and the "interest for Judaism" intersect, that is, "where Jews have concerned themselves with Nietzsche in regard to Judaism" (p. v). If the editors had adhered rigorously to this definition, they would have produced a slim volume with only a handful of essays. Fortunately they chose to be more liberal in their definition, and the result is a collection with many excellent observations of Nietzsche's influence in a variety of contexts.

The 22 essays in Jüdischer Nietzscheanismus are based on contributions to a conference that took place in Greifswald in September of 1995. The editors had obvious difficulty in assigning categories to the various contributions: the first two "groups," "Nietzschean Perspectives on Judaism" and "The Origin and Concept of Jewish Nietzscheanism," contain only one essay apiece. The initial essay, written by Josef Simon, argues that Nietzsche believed the Jews were not a people since they define themselves in their relationship to God, not in opposition to other nations. Simon's interest, however, is less Jews and Judaism in Nietzsche's thought than the more abstract concern for the processes by which otherness is conceptualized in the philosopher's work. Friedrich Niewöhner's contribution, by contrast, deals with the historically documented notion of Jewish Nietzscheanism. "Nietzscheanism" was coined in 1889, when Ola Hansson labeled Georg Brandes a "preacher of Nietzscheanism"; in combination with the adjective "Jewish" it appears nine years later in 5658 (1898) in a Hebrew essay by Achad Haam. Niewöhner argues, however, that Jewish Nietzscheanism begins in 1888 with Brandes' (Hirsch Moses Cohen's) reception, a contention that contradicts his strict notion of Jewish Nietzscheanism, which he defined earlier as the contribution of Nietzschean thought to a new interpretation of Judaism.

The next grouping of essays, "Nietzsche and the Jewish Movement of Renewal," opens with two essays that do demonstrate Nietzsche's influence on Jewish thought, especially in Zionist circles in Eastern Europe around 1900. Menachim Brinker discusses the broad reception Nietzsche's writings had among Hebrew writers in Russia during the early part of the twentieth century. David Krochmalnik, adopting David Biale's notion of counter-history, focuses on 1900 as the pivotal year for Jewish Nietzscheanism. Both scholars produce ample evidence to support their claims, but the Nietzsche understood by the initial Jewish reception is a peculiar one. More than the content of his thought, these early Nietzsche enthusiasts appear to have been enthralled by the rhetoric, metaphors, and general atmosphere of intellectual rebelliousness and regeneration. Like non-Jewish authors and intellectuals, they read Nietzsche less for what he had to say than for his inspirational value. …