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

By Jacob Golomb; Robert S. Wistrich | Go to book overview

10

The Elisabeth Legend: The Cleansing of
Nietzsche and the Sullying of His Sister

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 self-definition.”2 Not only was he a favorite of chief National Socialist ideologues and academics like Alfred Rosenberg and Alfred Bäumler; Nietzschean themes and thoughts pervaded almost every aspect of daily life, from education and law, to policies on eugenics and race, to simple life wisdom. Once the war started, military propaganda also found it easy to adapt Nietzsche for bellicose purposes. During World War I, when Nietzsche was hardly considered the official spokesperson for the Second Empire, Zarathustra had been distributed to 150,000 soldiers in a special, durable edition. In World War II, when Nietzsche was considered the prophet of the Nazi revolution, his works became indispensable for the military. Typical in this regard was a 1941 Kröner Pocketbook edition entitled “Sword of the Spirit” (“Schwert des Geistes”), which contained excerpts from Nietzsche's

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