In addition to her two children, the painter Mrs. Gladys Rockmore Davis is said to have a Dachshund called Nietzsche. How did the dog come to have this name? Because Nietzsche looked like a Dachshund? Or because people think that the Dachshund is aggressive, like one of Nietzsche’s aperçu?
Probably for the latter reason, because the popular Nietzsche legend links him to the aggressive Hitler, not the suffering Christ, even though the title of his autobiography is Ecce Homo, not Mein Kampf.
A lot of things have contributed to this conflation of Nietzsche and Hitler. Nietzsche’s terms Übermensch/Superman and Blond Beast fit perfectly in Hitler’s vocabulary. Nietzsche’s call to ‘build houses on Vesuvius’ is clearly compatible with the Nazi hymn of praise to the dangerous life. And a lot of German Nietzscheans became prominent Nazi professors. They praised Nietzsche’s ‘Siegfried attack on the urbanity of the West’, and named their philosophical seminar The Guardroom of Gay Science, after Nietzsche’s text The Gay Science.
Then the world found out that Nietzsche’s sister had dedicated her brother’s walking stick to the Führer. The world also noticed that the collapsing Führer gave Nietzsche’s works to the collapsed Duce for his birthday.
And the world knows at least this much about Nietzsche: that he glorified the Hitler of the Renaissance, the bloody Cesare Borgia. So who should doubt that Nietzsche and Hitler are cut from the same timber, particularly as the Pope and American professors declare it ex cathedra?
It is unlikely that this connection is equally clear in Germany. A few months ago, the New York Public Library held an exhibition of the books banned by the National Socialists. The blacklist, which was reprinted in The Library Bulletin, contains the name Friedrich Nietzsche. Did the German National Socialist realize sooner than the rest of the world that Nietzsche deserved to be burned in the Third Reich?
It would take a long time to justify this assertion by detailed interpretation of Nietzsche’s language, but we can do it more quickly. We only need to confront crucial statements made by Hitler with crucial statements made by Nietzsche, about themes which were of central importance to both of them.
The Aryan race
Hitler did not invent the words ‘Aryan’ and ‘race’. They were already causing trouble in Bismarck’s empire.
It was a Frenchman, Count Gobineau, who introduced them. And it was Richard Wagner and his circle who popularized the German translation of Gobineau’s racism. Gobineau taught that only the white race has a history. Only white people have energy, love of freedom, resistance to domination by an intellectual elite, and above all, honour, which is unknown to yellow and black people. The white race used to have a monopoly of beauty, intelligence and strength; if the races had not mixed, the most beautiful of the white tribes would always have retained the leadership. The decline began with mixing, so the pure, unadulterated among the white peoples, the Aryans, take precedence. There is no civilization in Europe which is not descended from the Aryans; where there was no more Aryan blood, stagnation set in. The greatest representatives of the Aryans are the Germans.
Richard Wagner, who adopted all these ideas avidly, called, “Oh, God, that I only came to know the only original writer so late!” So from whom is Hitler descended, from Richard Wagner or from Nietzsche?
“The Aryan influence has ruined the entire world…”
“Against Aryan and Semites: Where races mix is the source of great cultures.”
“Resolution: Have nothing to do with anyone who participates in the fraudulent race deceit.”
“The human culture that we have today, the achievements in art, science and technology, are almost exclusively the creative product of Aryans”
“Ideas such as ‘Democracy’, ‘Majority’, World Conscience’, ‘World Peace’, ‘International Art’, etc. undermine our racial awareness and breed cowardice, so that we now have to acknowledge that the ignorant Turk is more of a man than we are.”
Germans and Jews
The least that one can expect of one who is to be accepted as the philosopher of National Socialism, is that he not contradict the views of the Führer about Germans and Jews.
But Nietzsche is guilty of exactly this contradiction. Whereas Hitler nominates the Germans as the descendents of the highest human race, Nietzsche is more aware of their psycho-pathological traits.
“One must accept that a people which suffers, and wants to suffer, from national nervosity and political ambition, experiences occasional spiritual clouds and perturbances, in short, minor attacks of stupidity. For example, in the case of Germans today, the anti-French stupidity, followed by the anti-Jewish, then the anti-Polish, the Christian-Romantic, the Wagnerian, the Teutonic, the Prussian…”
“The National-Socialist movement must always remain aware that it has a high duty to perform as the guardian of the highest human race on Earth, and it will be the better able to perform this duty the more it helps the German people to rediscover its racial awareness, and have compassion for its own blood, and not just breed dogs, horses and cats”
Nietzsche and Hitler are just as fierce antagonists in the questions of Judaism and Antisemitism as they are with regard to being German.
“What a blessing the Jew is to the Germans! What obtuseness, how flaxen the heads, how blue the eyes, the lack of spirit in countenance, word and comportment. The lazy stretching out, the German need for recreation, which comes the unfavourable stimulation and overstimulation by alcohol, not from overwork…”
“The black-haired Jewish youth lies for hours in ambush, with devilish anticipation in his face, for the naïve girl, whom he defiles with his blood, and thus snatches from her people. He tries by all means to subvert the racial foundation of the people whom he wishes to enslave. And just as he systematically demoralizes women and girls, he has no inhibitions about tearing down the borders of blood and race on a grand scale for others”
Is Nietzsche an Anti-Nazi? (Ist Nietzsche ein Anti-Nazi?)
The Christian Church
It is not possible to portray the whole truth about Nietzsche’s struggle against Christianity in one sentence, and not in ten sentences either. But anyone who believes to know about it, should also answer the question, “Do you also realize that whenever Nietzsche tried to portray Jesus, he also portrayed himself?”
Even in the struggle against Christianity, in which Nietzsche and Hitler seem to be most allies, they are not on the same side. Nietzsche did not combat the Cristian church for ethnic reasons. He was most un-Hitlerian, for example in the following utterance.
“Those who made the greatest effort to keep Christianity, to preserve it, became its greatest destroyers – the Germans. The Germans don’t seems to understand the essence of a church. Are they not spiritual enough? Not suspicious enough? In any case, the structure of the church is based on a meridional freedom and liberty of the spirit, and just as much on a meridional suspicion of nature, humanity and intellect. It rests on an entirely different understanding and experience of mankind than the North has had. The Lutheran Reformation was in its whole scope the indignation of simplicity against something complex. To put it carefully, a huge, worthy misunderstanding, with much to excuse it. One did not understand the expression of a victorious church, and saw only the corruption. One did not understand the elegant scepticism, the luxury of scepticism and tolerance which every victorious, self-confident power allows itself…”
And now, the reader should replace Luther by Hitler in Nietzsche’s following statement.
“It is now clear enough how disastrously brusque, superficial and careless Luther was in all vital questions of power, above all, as a man of the people, without the aristocratic heritage and power instinct of a ruling class, so that his work, his will, to reestablish Rome, turned out to be just the beginning of its destruction, against his will and intention. He unravelled and tore down, with honest wrath, where the old spider had weaved most carefully and for the longest”
One loves to make parallels between Luther and Hitler today. But Luther’s fanaticism was embedded in the most sublime religious tradition, whereas Hitler is nothing but a nationalist madman vis-à-vis Christianity.
“The Catholic church is stronger today than ever. We can prophesy that as the miracles cease, it will itself attract ever more blind loyalty, as the fixed point of reference in a disenchanted world. So whoever really, seriously desires the victory of a nationalist world-view must recognize that such a victory requires not only a militant movement, but that such a movement can only prevail on the basis of the unshakeable strength and solidity of its program”
France and America
One can base this confrontation on as many topics as one will, Nietzsche and Hitler are always opposed. And even when they seem to say something similar, it is, on closer examination, completely different.
For example, both of them occasionally praise America, but the praise is entirely differently motivated. Hitler emphasizes America’s good racial behaviour.
“In that the American union refuses immigration to unhealthy elements, and simply excludes certain races from naturalization, she is slowly adopting a position which is particular to the national state concept.”
Nietzsche’s utterances about the USA, on the other hand, seem to have been especially formulated equally against German nationalism and Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship of opinion.
“American laughter, in the style of earthy sailors like Mark Twain, does me good. I can no longer laugh about anything German.”
“Perhaps no change in conventions will be more useful to the free man and awareness, than the prevalence of the ‘immoral’ way of thinking of the Americans. In the US, everyone can change their way of life and earning a living ten times, without risking a bad reputation. Surely we can finally allow ourselves to change our opinions ten times, and be a different person ten times…”
One country attracted the passion of the German Nietzsche and the German Hitler more than any other: France.
“The emergence of Germany as a Great Power changes the importance of France as a cultural power. A lot of new seriousness and intellectual passion has already moved to Paris. Almost all psychological and artistic questions are considered incomparably more finely and deeply there than in Germany. The Germans are incapable of this kind of seriousness. The emergence of the Reich means above all one thing in the history of European culture: a shift of the centre of gravity. It is already common knowledge: the Germans are no longer of significance in the main issue, which is still culture”
Hitler about the French:
“With its connections to Jewish world domination, this race, which is becoming more and more nigger, poses a terrible danger to the existence of the European white race. The contamination caused in the heart of Europe by nigger blood on the Rhine expresses the sadistic-perverse thirst for revenge of this chauvinist hereditary enemy of our people.”
When two say the same thing.
Some will be unable, despite this confrontation, to abandon the notion that Nietzsche is a Nazi. But the author of Ecce Homo and the author of Mein Kampf are not just of a different quality, they are enemies in both their manner and their views.
It is not difficult to find matching sentences: Hitler certainly retained something from reading Nietzsche. But remember the Chinese proverb, “If the wrong man uses the right means, they lead to the wrong end.”
We can translate this in this context as follows, “Even if Hitler proclaims Nietzsche’s views, they are perverted by the Hitler world in which they are proclaimed.”
Published in: Marcuse Essays, Portraits Polemics