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107 5 Nietzsche and the Jews Menahem Brinker There is a considerable literature on the Nazi use, appropriation, and manipulation of Nietzsche’s name, philosophy, and writings. Debates focused around this issue started even before the Nazis rose to power and are still continuing today. The Jewish theme as it figures in Nietzsche ’s thought is also mentioned in a large part of these discussions, yet in most cases it is marginalized by more dominant themes. Among them one can find Nietzsche’s scorn for the idea of equality, his contempt for democracy, and his critique of the idea of progress and the Nazi slogans about a “degenerate” culture, the concepts of the “Overman,” and amor fati. After all, these were motifs that were central to the Nazis. The reason that the Jewish theme was relatively marginal in these discussions was that even those who looked for the links connecting Nietzsche to Nazi mentality knew very well that they could not be found in Nietzsche’s utterances on the Jews. Even people who were almost completely ignorant of the true content of Nietzsche’s philosophy had heard about his quarrel with Wagner and the Wagnerians. Nevertheless through the years of the Third Reich, echoes of Nietzsche’s vocabulary could often be heard in Nazi attacks on the Jewish origins of all decadent “modern” ideologies such as liberalism, democracy, socialism, anarchism , and communism. This fact raises the question as to whether a writer who sees all modern political movements as the last masks of an intrinsic nihilism can truly be deemed an “apolitical thinker.” At any 108 䡲 menahem brinker rate, the use that the Nazis made of Nietzsche did include his treatment of the Jews. Hence an elucidation of Nietzsche’s views on the subject is necessary for understanding both his own thought and the nature and extent of the Nazi tamperings.1 1. Already in earlier studies of Nietzsche, his approach to historical Judaism had been distinguished from the attitude he adapted to contemporary Jews. In the last decade, however, a threefold distinction was introduced into discussions of the subject. Scholars have separated Nietzsche’s admiration for the Hebrew Bible and for early Israel from his hostile and highly critical appraisal of Rabbinic post-exilic Judaism, and both of these from his appreciation of the postemancipation modern Jew. One of the aims of this essay is to demonstrate that, despite the validity of this distinction, Nietzsche also had a more general perception of the “Jewish race” in the specific sense that he attached to this term. A race is for him primarily a group of people united by their common lifeexperience which is interiorized and passed on from one generation to the next as a cultural heritage and as inherited traits of character.2 Hence the analytic approach should be supplemented by a consideration of the philosopher’s global conception of the Jews. Two authors, Michael Duffy and Willard Mittelman have presented a short description of the evolution of Nietzsche’s views on the Jews, offering a biographical explanation of each twist in this development.3 First came Nietzsche’s gradual liberation from the anti-Semitic prejudices of the cultural milieu in which he grew up. The last remnants of this conventional anti-Semitism disappeared when he befriended Paul Rée and decided to cling to the relationship with this Jewish intellectual despite the urgings of his mentors at that time, Richard and Cosima Wagner. The rift with the Wagners and the Wagner circle that ensued brought forth the first expressions of Nietzsche’s hostility toward the anti-Semites of his time. It was at this stage that Nietzsche recommended (in Human, All Too Human) the expulsion of the anti-Semites from Europe and in Daybreak spoke of the need to fuse the Jewish race with the other races of Europe for the advancement and betterment of European culture.4 His position becomes much more complex with Zarathustra and in particular with the two books that succeeded it, Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morals. In these two books Nietzsche for the first time pinpointed the Jews of the period that followed the destruction of the Second Temple as the initiators of the “slave revolution in nietzsche and the jews 䡲 109 morality.”5 He conceives their belief in a moral world-order (imbued in them by the prophets) and in particular the otherworldly connotations added to it in this period as a compensation for their political...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400825332
Related ISBN
9780691007106
MARC Record
OCLC
355812233
Pages
344
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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