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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

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, the Übermensch, 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, concerns, and life of the individual?

In 1934, Adolf Hitler paid a much publicized visit to the Nietzsche archives at Weimar. He had gone at the insistent request of its director, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (sister of the long-deceased German philosopher), and he was accompanied by his personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann. The main purpose of the visit, it seems, was to enable Hoffmann to take a picture of Hitler contemplating the bust of Nietzsche, which stood in the reception room. Perhaps appropriately, only half of the philosopher's head was shown in the picture, which duly appeared in the German press with a caption that read, “The Führer before the bust of the German philosopher whose ideas have fertilized two great popular movements: the National Socialism of Germany and the Fascist movement of Italy.”

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