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1 Introduction 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.” 2 䡲 jacob golomb & robert s. wistrich Although Benito Mussolini was certainly familiar with Nietzsche’s writings and was a long-time admirer of the philosopher, Hitler’s own connection with Nietzsche remains uncertain. As a soldier during the First World War, he had carried the works of Schopenhauer and not those of Nietzsche in his backpack. There is no reference to Nietzsche in Mein Kampf (though there is to Schopenhauer), and in Hitler’s Table Talk, he refers only indirectly to Nietzsche, saying: “In our part of the world, the Jews would have immediately eliminated Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kant. If the Bolsheviks had dominion over us for two hundred years, what works of our past would be handed on to posterity ? Our great men would fall into oblivion, or else they’d be presented to future generations as criminals and bandits.”1 Thus the picture of Hitler gazing at Nietzsche’s bust had more to do with a carefully orchestrated cult, one aspect of which was to connect National Socialism with the philosopher’s legacy, at least by association. On October 1944, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nietzsche, Alfred Rosenberg, the leading Nazi party ideologist, delivered an official speech in Weimar, seeking to reinforce this impression: “In a truly historical sense, the National Socialist movement eclipses the rest of the world, much as Nietzsche, the individual, eclipsed the powers of his times.”2 Of course, Nietzsche was not the only German philosopher invoked as a spiritual guide and forerunner of the Nazi revolution, but his “Nazification” in the course of the Third Reich is a historical fact that cannot be denied, though it is more open to interpretation than is sometimes assumed. The intriguing question that lies at the heart of this original collection of essays is how Nietzsche came to acquire the deadly “honor” of being considered the philosopher of the Third Reich and whether such claims have any justification. What was it in Nietzsche that attracted such a Nazi appropriation in the first place? To what extent is it legitimate to view Nietzsche as a protofascist thinker? Does it make any sense to hold him in some way responsible for the horrors of Auschwitz ? These issues are not as clear-cut as they may seem, and though they have attracted much polemical heat, they have not received any truly systematic treatment. In this volume, we have attempted to fill that gap in as concise and comprehensive a way as possible by turning to a variety of distinguished historians, Nietzsche scholars, philosophers, and historians of ideas. It was clear from the outset that we could not expect, nor indeed did we strive for, unanimous conclusions on the thorny, complex, and emotionally charged question of Nietzsche and fascism. A whole range of views is presented here that attempts to do justice in different ways to the ambiguity and richness of Nietzsche’s thought. Nietzsche encouraged his readers to shift their intellectual introduction 䡲 3 viewpoints and be willing...


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