A Question of Responsibility:
Nietzsche with Hölderlin at War, 1914–1946
Stanley Corngold and Geoffrey Waite
Nietzsche, Zeppelins, and poisoned-gas go ill together.
But Great Indra! One may envy Nietzsche a little; think of
being so illusive, so mercurial, as to be first swallowed
whole, then coughed up, and still remain a mystery!
—Hart Crane, 1918
What to do with someone who says
Hölderlin, and means Himmler?
—Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 1960
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 himself fascist 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 of affairs that were or are to come, including Italian Fascism or German National Socialism inter alia inter pares. No local application of “what Nietzsche means” (George Morgan)4 should ignore this point, which turns on Nietzsche's hidden but programmatic interest in producing such variability. His program may be something we will always be in the dark about; nevertheless, it is clear that the range of opinions that he produces cannot be structured as a contradiction—e.g., Left versus Right. It presents itself as a single unacknowledged consensus founded on the readiness to avoid the question of Nietzsche's responsibility for this gen-