Übermensch, der Wille zur Macht und Umstürzung aller Werte
Friedrich Nietzsche – the Philosopher of the Third Reich?
“Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, daß er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.“
The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844 in Röcken bei Lützen near Leibzig. His father was a Lutheran church minister. After his secondary schooling he went to the University of Bonn to study Theology and Philosophy. But he was not really interested in these subjects so he changed to Philology. Nietzsche was also very interested in music. In his early years he read the German romantic writer Friedrich Hölderlin and later on Schopenhauer. Friedrich Nietzsche began very early with his writings, mostly commentaries about ancient Greek philosophers. In January 1971 he started with one of his own big works, Geburt der Tragödie. Untill his physical collapse, Nietzsche wrote a lot of books and gave us a huge body of philosophical work. In his writings he proclaimed the death of god and a new kind of human super being; he wanted to establish a new moral understanding without a Christian background. When we read his books we often hear about Übermensch, Wille zur Macht und Umstürzung aller Werte. Hitler used these and other early writings about Jewish people to justify his ideology and his genocide. We do not know if Hitler ever read Nietzsche but there is a similarity between his writings and the writings of Nietzsche. Nazi philosophers and anti-Nazi philosophers have argued over Nietzsche. Who was right? Throughout history a lot of people have wanted to establish whether Nietzsche can be blamed for Nazism or not.
In this essay, I want to compare the two essays by Kurt Rudolf Fischer and Jacob Golomb and Robert S. Wistrich. I will also try to give my own opinion. I do not want to talk about all the Semitic anti-Semitic topics in Nietzsche’s writings. Kurt Rudolf Fischer writes in his essay, that we must go deeper to explain Nazism. To me, Anti-Semitism does not necessarily mean Nazism. Rather, I believe that someone can be an anti-Semite without being a Nazi and the other way round. Throughout European history, hate against the Jewish people was always alive. There were a lot of people they hated Jewish people but they did not know about Nazi ideology. This ideology is more than anti-Semitism; the roots are deeper. Anti-Semitism was ‘only’ a terrible result of this Ideology of creating a supreme human race. And, it is important to remember, not only the Jewish people were affected by the Nazis. Sinti, Rumanians, gays, disabled people, faithful Christians and priests like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were all affected . All because they did not fit the image of the new Arian race, which should be strong, tough and pure. “Der Stärkere hat zu herrschen und sich nicht mit dem Schwächeren zu verschmelzen, um so die eigene Größe zu opfern.“ The strongest, the toughest should rule the country; this was the view of Adolf Hitler. The weak must die so that the strong can be stronger. Out of this we can hear Zarathustra, who taught about the Supreme Being: “der Mensch ist etwas, das überwunden werden soll.”
When we go through the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche we find a lot of similarities between his thoughts and the thoughts of the Nazi-Ideology but, it is important to remember, Nietzsche was already dead 33 years before the Hitler-regime came into power. Nietzsche did not know anything about this horrible ideology. Therefore is it fair to judge his philosophy in the light of Nazism or even to blame Nietzsche for it?
In his essay: A Godfather too: Nazism as a Nietzschean “Experiments, Fischer writes how important it is to realise that the “‘real’ Nietzsche was not the historically effective Nietzsche”. Fischer wants to look at the Nietzsche before Giorgio Colli and Montinari wrote their critical edition. Fischer always has in mind, that the “historically effective Nietzsche can be read from two opposite perspectives with two opposite results, both as a proponent and as an opponent of National Socialism.” But for him, the real Nietzsche was not too different from the effective one. Golomb/Wistrich has a different view. Nietzsche can not be reduced to one single ideology. His philosophical work is much more complicated. “The ambiguities and contradictions in his work as well as his elusive, aphoristic style lend themselves to a wide range of meanings and a multiplicity of interpretations.” It is not easy to give a correct view of Nietzsche’s writing. Like Golomb/Wistrich comment, there can be a lot of different interpretations of his view, but it is also important to have in mind, the historically effective Nietzsche. There are anti-Nazis that proclaim a connection between Nietzsche and the Nazis and also Nazis that see him as their forerunner. But it is interesting that there were a few Nazis-scholars, who denied such a connection between their ideology and Nietzsche. And in the end Anti-Nazis have denied that there is a connection between Nazism and Nietzsche’ thoughts.
Fischer mentions that Nietzsche was not so unrelated to Nazism, contrary to what Walter Kaufmann has implied. “The situation is not dissimilar to defining the relationship between Nietzsche and twentieth-century philosophical trends such as existentialism or logical positivism.” If we see Nietzsche as a ‘founder’ or forerunner of this philosophy, and he was very influential with this writings, then Nietzsche appears as a precursor of much we find in the twentieth-century, even fascism. “Nazism can be understood as a phenomenon of post-Nietzschean culture, more specifically as a Nietzschean ‘experiment’.”
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse, 4.Hauptstück 146
 Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, p.312
 Friedrich Nietzsche; Also sprach Zarathustra, Die Reden Zarathustras, Vom Krieg und Kriegsvolk
 Kurt Rudolf Fischer, A Godfather Too: Nazism as a Nietzschean “Experiment“, p.291
 Kurt Rudolf Fischer, A Godfather Too: Nazism as a Nietzschean “Experiment“, p.292
 Golomb/Wistrich, Nietzsche’s Politics, Fascism and the Jews, p.306
 Kurt Rudolf Fischer, A Godfather Too: Nazism as a Nietzschean “Experiment“, p.294
 ibid. , p.294