Hitler, Hicks, Nietzsche and Nazism

Nietzsche and the Nazis: A Personal View by Stephen Hicks (Ockham’s Razor Publishing 2010) 

Scholarly (and not so scholarly) interpretations of Nietzsche always remind me somewhat of biblical interpretation

In both cases, the interpretations always seem to say at least as much about the philosophy, worldview and politics of the person doing the interpretation as they do about the content of the work ostensibly being interpreted. 

Just as Christians can, depending on preference, choose between, say, Exodus 21:23–25 (an eye for an eye) or Matthew 5:39 (turn the other cheek), so authors of diametrically opposed political and philosophical worldviews can almost always claim to find something in Nietzsche’s corpus of writing to support their own perspective. 

Thus, whereas German National Socialists selectively quoted passages from Nietzsche that appear critical of Jews, so modern apologists cite passages that profess great admiration for the Jewish people, and other passages undoubtedly highly critical both of Germans and anti-Semites.  

Similarly, in HL Mencken’s The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche appears as an aristocratic elitist, opposed to Christianity, Christian ethics, egalitarianism and herd morality, but also as a scientific materialist—much like, well, HL Mencken himself. 

Yet, among leftist postmodernists, Nietzsche’s moral philosophy is largely ignored, and he is cited instead as an opponent of scientific materialism who rejects the very concept of objective truth, including scientific truth—in short, a philosophical precursor to postmodernism. 

There are indeed passages in Nietzsche’s work that, at least when quoted in isolation, can be interpreted as supporting any of these mutually contradictory notions. 

In his book Nietzsche and the Nazis, professor of philosophy Stephen Hicks discusses the association between the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and the most controversial of the many twentieth century movements to claim Nietzsche as their philosophical precursor, namely the National Socialist movement and regime in early- to mid-twentieth century Germany. 

Since he is a professor of philosophy rather than a historian, it is perhaps unsurprising that Hicks demonstrates a rather better understanding of the philosophy of Nietzsche than he does of the ideology of Hitler and the German National Socialist movement. 

Thus, if the Nazis can be accused of misinterpreting, misappropriating or misrepresenting the philosophy of Nietzsche, Hicks can claim to have outdone even them—for he has managed to misrepresent, not only the philosophy of Nietzsche, but also that of the Nazis too. 

Philosophy as a Driving Force in History 

Hicks begins his book by making a powerful case for the importance of philosophy as a force in history and as a factor in the rise of German National Socialism in particular. 

Thus, he argues: 

The primary cause of Nazism lies in philosophy… The legacy of World War I, persistent economic troubles, modern communication technologies, and the personal psychologies of the Nazi leadership did play a role. But the most significant factor was the power of a set of abstract, philosophical ideas. National Socialism was a philosophy-intensive movement” (p10-1). 

This claim—namely, that “National Socialism was a philosophy-intensive movement”—may seem an odd one, especially since German National Socialism is usually regarded, not entirely unjustifiably, as a profoundly anti-intellectual movement. 

Moreover, to achieve any degree of success and longevity, all political movements, and political regimes, must inevitably make ideological compromises in the face of practical necessity, such that their actual policies are dictated at least as much pragmatic considerations of circumstance, opportunity and realpolitik as it is by pure ideological dictate.[1]

Yet, up to a point, Hicks is right. 

Indeed, Hitler even saw himself as, in some ways, a philosopher in his own right. Thus,  historian Ian Kershaw, in his celebrated biography of the German Führer, Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris, observes: 

“In Mein Kampf, Hitler pictured himself as a rare genius who combined the qualities of the ‘programmatist’ and the ‘politician’. The ‘programmatist’ of a movement was the theoretician who did not concern himself with practical realities, but with ‘eternal truth’, as the great religious leaders had done. The ‘greatness’ of the ‘politician’ lay in the successful practical implementation of the ‘idea’ advanced by the ‘programmatist’. ‘Over long periods of humanity,’ he wrote, ‘it can once happen that the politician is wedded to the programmatist.’ His work did not concern short-term demands that any petty bourgeois could grasp, but looked to the future, with ‘aims which only the fewest grasp’… Seldom was it the case, in his view, that ‘a great theoretician’ was also ‘a great leader’… He concluded: ‘the combination of theoretician, organizer, and leader in one person is the rarest thing that can be found on this earth; this combination makes the great man.’ Unmistakably, Hitler meant himself” (Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris: p251–2). 

Moreover, philosophical ideas have undoubtedly had a major impact on history in other times and places. 

Thus, for example, the French revolution and Bolshevik Revolution may have been triggered and made possible by social and economic conditions then prevailing. But the regimes established in their aftermath were, at least in theory, based on the ideas of philosophers and political theorists.  

Thus, if the French revolution was modelled on the ideas of thinkers such as Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire, and the Bolshevik Revolution on those of Marx, who then were the key thinkers, if any, behind the National Socialist movement in Germany? 

Hicks, for his part, tentatively ventures several leading candidates: 

Georg Hegel, Johann Fichte, even elements from Karl Marx” (p49).[2]

In an earlier chapter, as part of his attempt to argue against the notion that German National Socialism had no intellectual credibility, he also mentions several contemporaneous thinkers who, he claims, “supported the Nazis long before they came to power” and who could perhaps be themselves be considered intellectual forerunners for National Socialism, including Oswald Spengler, Martin Heidegger, and legal theorist Carl Schmitt (p9).[3]

Besides Hitler himself, and Rosenberg, each of whom considered themselves philosophical thinkers in their own right, other candidates who might merit honourable (or perhaps dishonourable) mention include Hitler’s own early mentor Dietrich Eckart, racial theorists Arthur De Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the American Madison Grant, biologist Ernst Haeckel, geopolitical theorist Karl Haushofer, and, of course, the composer Richard Wagner – though most of these are not, of course, philosophers in the narrow sense.  

Yet, at least according to Hicks, the best known and most controversial name atop any such list is almost inevitably going to be Friedrich Nietzsche (p49). 

Nietzsche’s Philosophy 

Although the association between Nietzsche with the Nazis continues to linger large in the popular imagination, mainstream Nietzsche scholarship in the years since World War II, especially the work of influential Jewish philosopher Walter Kaufmann, has done much rehabilitate the reputation of Nietzsche, sanitize his philosophy and absolve him of any association with, let alone responsibility for, Fascism or National Socialism. 

Hick’s own treatment is rather more balanced. 

Before directly comparing and contrasting the various commonalities and differences between Nietzsche’s philosophy and that of the National Socialist movement and regime, Hick devotes one chapter to discussing the political philosophy and ideology of the Nazis, another to discussing their policies once in power, and a third to discussion of Nietzsche’s own philosophy, especially his views on morality and religion. 

As I have already mentioned, although Nietzche’s philosophy is the subject of many divergent interpretations, Hicks, in my view, mostly gets Nietzsche’s philosophy right. There are, however, a few problems.

Some are relatively trivial, perhaps even purely semantic. For example, Hicks equates Nietzsche’s Übermensch with Zarathustra himself, writing:

Nietzsche gives a name to his anticipated overman: He calls him Zarathustra, and he names his greatest literary and philosophical work in his honor” (p74)

Actually, as I understood Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra (which is to say, not very much at all, since it is a notoriously incomprehensible work, and, in my view, far from Nietzsche’s “greatest literary and philosophical work”), Nietzsche envisaged his fictional Zarathustra, not as himself the Übermensch, but rather as its herald and prophet.

Indeed, to my recollection, not only does Zarathustra never himself even claim to embody the Übermensch, but he also repeatedly asserts that the most contemporary man, Zarathustra himself presumably included, can ever even aspire to be is a ‘bridge’ to the Übermensch, rather than the Übermensch himself.

A perhaps more substantial problem relates to Hick’s understanding of Nietzsche’s contrasting master’ and ‘slave moralities. Hicks associates the former with various traits, including:  

Pride, Self-esteem; Wealth; Ambition, boldness; Vengeance; Justice… Pleasure, Sensuality… Indulgence” (p60). 

Most of these associations are indeed unproblematically associated with Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’, but a few require further elaboration. 

For example, it may be true that Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’ is associated with the idea of “vengeance” as a virtue. However, associating the related, but distinct concept of “justice” exclusively with the master morality as Hicks does (p60; p62) strikes me as rather more questionable. 

After all, the ‘slave morality’ of Christianity also concerns itself a great deal with “justice”. It just has a different conception of what constitutes justice, and also sometimes defers the achievement of “justice” to the afterlife, or to the Last Judgement and coming Kingdom of God (or, in pseudo-secular modern leftist versions, the coming communist utopia). 

Similarly problematic is Hicks’s characterization of Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’ as championing “indulgence”, as well as “pleasure [and] sensuality”, over “self-restraint” (p62; p60). 

This strikes me as, at best, an oversimplification of Nietzsche’s philosophy 

On the one hand, it is true that Nietzsche disparages and associates with ‘slave morality’ what Hume termed ‘the monkish values’, namely ideals of self-denial and asceticism. He sees them as both a sign of weakness and a denial of life itself, writing in Twilight of the Idols:  

To attack the passions at their roots, means attacking life itself at its source: the method of the Church is hostile to life… The same means, castration and extirpation, are instinctively chosen for waging war against a passion, by those who are too weak of will, too degenerate, to impose some sort of moderation upon it” (Twilight of the Idols: iv:2.). 

The saint in whom God is well pleased, is the ideal eunuch. Life terminates where the ‘Kingdom of God’ begins” (Twilight of the Idols: ii:4). 

Yet it is clear that Nietzsche does not advocate complete surrender to indulgence, pleasure and sensuality either. 

Thus, in the first of the two passages quoted above, he envisages the strong as also imposing “some sort of moderation” without the need for complete abstinence. 

Indeed, in The Antichrist, Nietzsche goes further still, extolling: 

The most intelligent men, like the strongest [who] find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth, in being hard with themselves and with others, in effort; their delight is in self-mastery; in them asceticism becomes second nature, a necessity, an instinct” (The Antichrist: 57) 

Indeed, advocating complete and unrestrained surrender to indulgence, sensuality and pleasure is an obviously self-defeating philosophy. If someone really completely surrendered himself to indulgence, he would do presumably nothing all day except masturbate, shoot up heroin and eat cake. He would therefore achieve nothing of value. 

Thus, throughout his corpus of writing, Nietzsche repeatedly champions what he calls self-overcoming

In short, to be effectively put into practice, the Nietzschean Will to Power necessarily requires willpower

Individualism vs Collectivism (and Authoritarianism) 

Another matter upon which Hicks arguably misreads Nietzsche is the question the extent to which Nietzsche’s philosophy is to be regarded as either individualist or a collectivist in ethos/orientation. 

This topic is, Hicks acknowledges, a controversial one upon which Nietzsche scholars disagree. It is, however, a topic of direct relevance to the extent of relationship between Nietzsche’s philosophy and the ideology of the Nazis, since the Nazis themselves were indisputably extremely collectivist in ethos, the collective to which they subordinated all other concerns, including individual rights and wants, being that of the nation, Volk or race. 

Hicks himself concludes that Nietzsche was much more of a collectivist than an individualist

“[Although] Nietzsche has a reputation for being an individualist [and] there certainly are individualist elements in Nietzsche’s philosophy… in my judgment his reputation for individualism is often much overstated (p87). 

Yet, elsewhere, Hicks comes close to contradicting himself, for, among the qualities that he associates with Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’, which Nietzsche himself clearly favours over the ‘slave morality’ of Christianity, are “Independence”, “Autonomy” and indeed “Individualism” (p60; p62). Yet these are all clearly individualist virtues.[4]

In reaching his conclusion that Nietzsche is primarily to be considered a collectivist rather than a true individualist, Hicks distinguishes three separate questions and, in the process, different forms of individualism, namely: 

  1. Do individuals shape their own identities—or are their identities created by forces beyond their control?”; 
  1. Are individuals ends in themselves, with their own lives and purposes to pursue—or do individuals exist for the sake of something beyond themselves to which they are expected to subordinate their interests?”; and 
  1. Do the decisive events in human life and history occur because individuals, generally exceptional individuals, make them happen—or are the decisive events of history a matter of collective action or larger forces at work?” (p88). 

With regard to the first of these questions, Nietzsche, according to Hicks, denies that men are masters of their own fate. Instead, Hicks contends that Nietzsche believes: 

Individuals are a product of their biological heritage” (p88). 

This may be correct, and certainly there is much in Nietzsche’s writing to support this conclusion. 

However, even if human behaviour, and human decisions, are indeed a product of heredity, this does not in fact, strictly speaking, deny that individuals are nevertheless the authors of their own destiny. It merely asserts that the way in which we do indeed shape our own destiny is itself a product of our heredity. 

In other words, our actions and decisions may indeed be predetermined by hereditary factors, but they are still our decisions. 

Individuals may determine their own fate, but the way in which they choose to do so is itself determined by heredity. 

However, it is not clear that Nietzsche believes this is true of all men, but rather only of certain men of a superior type, this superior type being itself largely determined by heredity. 

Indeed, for Nietzsche, the superior type of man determines not only his own fate, but also often that of the society in which he lives and of mankind as a whole. 

This leads to the third of Hicks’s three types of individualism, namely the question of whether the “decisive events in human life and history occur because individuals, generally exceptional individuals, make them happen”, or whether they are the consequence of factors outside of individual control such as economic factors, or perhaps the unfolding of some divine plan. 

On this topic, I suspect Nietzsche would side with Thomas Carlyle, and Hegel, that history is indeed shaped, in large part, by the actions of so-called ‘great men. This is among the reasons he places such importance on the emerging Übermensch

Admittedly, Nietzsche repeatedly disparages Carlyle in many of his writings, and, in Ecce Homo, repudiates any notion of equating of his Übermensch with what he dismisses as Carlyle’s “hero cult” (Ecce Homo (iii, 1).

However, as Will Durant writes in The Story of Philosophy, Nietzsche often reserved his greatest scorn for those contemporaries, or near-contemporaries (e.g. the Darwinians and Social Darwinists), who had independently developed ideas that, in some respects, paralleled or anticipated his own, if only as a means of emphasizing his own originality and claim to priority, or, as Durant puts it, of “covering up his debts” (The Story of Philosophy: p373).

Hitler, of course, would also have agreed with Carlyle regarding the importance of great men, and indeed saw himself as just such a ‘world historical figure’. 

Indeed, for better or worse, given Hitler’s gargantuan impact on world history from his coming to power in Germany in the 1930s arguably right up to the present day, he might even find ourselves reluctantly forced to agree with him.[5]

As I have written previously, it is ironic that the so-called great man theory of history seemingly became perennially unfashionable at almost precisely the same time that, in the persons of first Lenin and then Hitler, it was proven so terribly true. Just as the October revolution would surely never have occurred without Lenin as driving force and instigator, so the Nazis, though they may have existed, would surely never have come to power, let alone achieved the early diplomatic and military successes that briefly conferred upon them mastery over Europe, without Hitler as leader.

Yet, for Nietzsche, individual freedom is restricted, or at least should be restricted, only to such ‘great men’, or at least to a wider, but still narrow, class of superior types, and not at all extended at all to the great mass of humanity. 

Thus, I believe that we can reconcile Nietzsche’s apparently conflicting statements regarding the merits of, on the one hand, individualism, and, on the other, collectivism, by recognizing that he endorsed individualism only for a small elite cadre of superior men. 

Indeed, for Nietzsche, the vast majority of mankind, namely those whom he disparaged as ‘herd animals’, were incapably of such individualism and should hence to subject to a strict authoritarian control in the service of the superior caste of man. 

Indeed, Nietzsche’s prescription for the majority of mankind is not so much collectivist, as it is authoritarian, since Nietzsche regards the lives of such people, even as a collective, as essentially worthless. 

The mass of men must be controlled and denied freedom, not for the benefit of such men themselves even as a collective, but rather for the benefit of the superior type of man, and of the higher evolution of mankind.[6]

Yet Hicks reaches almost the opposite conclusion, namely, rather than the lives of the mass of mankind serving the interests of the higher man, even the individualism accorded the higher type of man, and even the Übermensch himself, ultimately serves the interest of the collective – the human species as a whole. 

Thus, Nietzsche writes in Twilight of the Idols

The individual… is nothing in himself, no atom, no ‘link in the chain,’ no mere heritage from the past,—he represents the whole direct line of mankind up to his own life” (Twilight of the Idols: viii: 33). 

National Socialist Ideology 

As I have already said, however, Hicks’s understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy is rather better than his understanding of the ideology of German National Socialism. 

This is not altogether surprising. Hicks is, after all, a professor of philosophy by background, not an historian.

Hicks lack of background in history his especially apparent in his handling of sources, which leaves a great deal to be desired.

For example, several quotations attributed to Hitler by Hicks are sourced, in their associated footnotes, to one of two works – namely Unmasked: Two Confidential Interviews with Hitler in 1931 and The Voice of Destruction (aka Hitler Speaks) by Hermann Rauschning – that are both now widely considered by historians to have been fraudulent, and to contain no genuine quotations from Hitler whatsoever.[7]

Other quotations are sourced to secondary sources, such as websites and biographies of Hitler, which makes it difficult to determine both the primary source from which the quotation is drawn, and in what context and to whom the remark was originally said or written.

This is an especially important point, not only because some sources (e.g. Rauschning) are very untrustworthy, but also because Hitler often carefully tailored his message to the specific audience he was addressing, and was certainly not above concealing or misrepresenting his real views and long-term objectives, especially when addressing the general public, foreign statesmen and political rivals.

Perhaps for this reason, Hicks seemingly misunderstands the true nature of the National Socialist ideology, and Hitler’s own Weltanschauung in particular.

However, in Hicks’s defence, the core tenets of Nazism are almost as difficult to pin down are those of Nietzsche. 

Unlike in the case of Nietzsche, this is not so much because of either the inherent complexity of the ideas, or the impenetrability of its presentation—though admittedly, while Nazi propaganda, and Hitler’s speeches, tend to be very straightforward, even crude, both Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Rosenberg’s The Myth of the Twentieth Century both make for a difficult read. 

Rather the problem is that German National Socialist thinking, or what passed for thinking among National Socialists, never really constituted a coherent ideology in the first place. 

After all, like any political party that achieves even a modicum of electoral success, let alone actually seriously aspires to win power, the Nazis necessarily represented a broad church.  

Members and supporters included people of many divergent and mutually contradictory opinions on various political, economic and social matters, not to mention ethical, philosophical and religious views and affiliations. 

If they had not done so, then the Party could never have attracted enough votes in order to win power in the first place. 

Indeed, the NSDAP was especially successful in presenting itself as ‘all things to all people’ and in adapting its message to whatever audience was being addressed at a given time. 

Therefore, it is quite difficult to pin down what exactly were the core tenets of German National Socialism, if indeed they had any. 

However, we can simplify our task somewhat by restricting ourselves to an altogether simpler question: namely what were the key tenets of Hitler’s own political philosophy? 

After all, one key tenet of German National Socialism that can surely be agreed upon is the so-called Führerprinzip’, whereby Hitler himself was to be the ultimate authority for all political decisions and policy. 

Therefore, rather than concerning ourselves with the political and philosophical views of the entire Nazi leadership, let alone the whole party, or everyone who voted for them, we can instead restrict ourselves to a much simpler task – namely, determining the views of a single individual, namely the infamous Führer himself. 

This, of course, makes our task substantially easier.

Yet we then encounter yet another problem: namely, it is often quite difficult to determine what Hitler’s real views actually were. 

Thus, as I have already noted, like all the best politicians, Hitler tailored and adapted his message to the audience that he was addressing at any given time. 

Thus, for example, when he delivered speeches before assembled business leaders and industrialists, his message was quite different from the one he would deliver before audiences composed predominantly of working-class socialists, and his message to foreign dignitaries, statesmen and the international community was quite different to the hawkish and militaristic one presented in Mein Kampf, to his leading generals  and before audiences of fanatical German nationalists

In short, like all successful politicians, Hitler was an adept liar, and what he said in public and actually believed in private were often two very different things. 

National Socialism and Religion 

Perhaps the area of greatest contrast between Hitler’s public pronouncements and his private views, as well as Hicks’ own most egregious misunderstanding of Nazi ideology, concerns religion. 

According to Hicks, Hitler and the Nazis were believing Christians. Thus, he reports: 

“[Hitler] himself sounded Christian themes explicitly in public pronouncements” (p84). 

However, the key words here are “in public pronouncements”. Hitler’s real views, as expressed in private among conversations among confidents, seem to have been very different. 

Thus, Hitler was all too well aware that publicly attacking Christianity would be an unpopular stance with the public, and would not only alienate much of his erstwhile support but also provoke opposition from powerful figures in the churches whose tacit support or acquiescence he could ill afford to do without. 

Hitler therefore postponed his eagerly envisaged kirchenkampf, or settling of accounts with the churches, until after the war, if only because he wished to avoid fighting a war on multiple fronts. 

Thus, Speer, in his post-war memoirs, noting that “in Berlin, surrounded by male cohorts, [Hitler] spoke more coarsely and bluntly than he ever did elsewhere”, quotes Hitler as declaring more than once: 

Once I have settled my other problems… I’ll have my reckoning with the church. I’ll have it reeling on the ropes” (Inside the Third Reich: p123). 

Hicks also asserts: 

The Nazis took great pains to distinguish the Jews and the Christians, condemning Judaism and embracing a generic type of Christianity” (p83).  

In fact, the form of Christianity that was, at least in public, espoused by the Nazis, namely what they called Positive Christianity was far from “a generic type of Christianity” but rather a very idiosyncratic, indeed quite heretical, take on the Christian faith, which attempted to divest Christianity of its Jewish influences and portray Jesus as an Aryan hero fighting against Jewish power, while even attempting to incorporate elements of Gnosticism and Germanic paganism

Moreover, far from attempting to deny the connection between Christianity and Judaism, there is some evidence that Hitler actually followed Nietzsche in directly linking Christianity to the Jews. Thus, in his diary, Goebbels quotes Hitler directly linking Christianity and Judaism:  

“[Hitler] views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of religious rites. Both (Judaism and Christianity) have no point of contact to the animal element” (The Goebbels Diaries, 1939-1941: p77). 

Likewise, in his Table Talk, carefully recorded by Bormann and others, Hitler declares on the night of the 11th July: 

The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew” (Table Talk: p7). 

Here, in linking Christianity and Judaism, and attributing Jewish origins to Christianity, Hitler is, of course, following Nietzsche, since a central theme of the latter’s The Antichrist is that Christianity is indeed very much a Jewish invention. 

Indeed, the whole thrust of this quotation will immediately be familiar to anyone who has read Nietzsche’s The Antichrist. Thus, just as Hitler describes Christianity as “the heaviest blow that ever struck humanity”, so Nietzsche himself declared: 

Christianity remains to this day the greatest misfortune of humanity” (The Antichrist: 51). 

Similarly, just as Hitler describes “Bolshevism” as “Christianity’s illegitimate child”, so Nietzsche anticipates him in detecting this family resemblance, in The Antichrist declaring: 

The anarchist and the Christian have the same ancestry” (The Antichrist: 57). 

Thus, in this single quoted passage, Hitler aptly summarizes the central themes of The Antichrist in a single paragraph, the only difference being that, in Hitler’s rendering, the implicit anti-Semitic subtext of Nietzsche’s work is made explicit. 

Elsewhere in Table Talk, Hitler echoes other distinctly Nietzschean themes with regard to Christianity.  

Thus, just as Nietzsche famously condemned Christianity as a expression of slave morality and ‘ressentiment’, so Hitler declares: 

Christianity is a prototype of Bolshevism: the mobilisation by the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society” (Table Talk: p75-6). 

Another common theme is the notion of Christianity as rejection of life itself. Thus, in a passage that I have already quoted above, Nietzsche declares: 

To attack the passions at their roots, means attacking life itself at its source: the method of the Church is hostile to life… The saint in whom God is well pleased, is the ideal eunuch. Life terminates where the ‘Kingdom of God’ begins” (Twilight of the Idols: iv:1) 

Hitler echoes this theme, himself declaring in one passage where he elucidates a social Darwinism ethic

Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure” (Table Talk: p51). 

In short, in his various condemnations of Christianity from Table Talk, Hitler is clearly drawing on his own reading of Nietzsche. Indeed, he could almost be accused of plagiarism. 

Historians like to belittle the idea that Hitler was at all erudite or well-read, suggesting that, although famously an avid reader, his reading material was likely limited to such material Streicher’s Der Stürmer and a few similarly crude antisemitic pamphlets circulating in the dosshouses of pre-War Vienna. 

Hicks rightly rejects this view. From these quotations from Hitler’s Table Talk alone, it is clear that Hitler had read his Nietzsche.[8]

National Socialism and Socialism 

Another area where Hicks misinterprets Nazi ideology, upon which other reviewers have rather predictably fixated, is the vexed and perennial question of the extent to which the National Socialist regime, which, of course, in name at least, purported to be socialist, is indeed accurately described as such. 

Mainstream historians generally reject the view that the Nazis were in any sense truly socialist

Partly this rejection of the notion that the Nazis were at all socialist may reflect the fact that many of the historians writing about this period of history are themselves socialist, or at least sympathetic to socialism, and hence wish to absolve socialism of any association with, let alone responsibility for, National Socialism.[9]

Hicks, who, for his part, seems to be something of a libertarian as far as I can make out, has a very different conclusion: namely that the National Socialists were indeed socialists and that socialism was in fact a central plank of their political programme. 

Thus, Hicks asserts: 

The Nazis stood for socialism and the principal of the central direction of the economy for the common good” (p106). 

Certainly, Hicks is correct that the Nazis stood for “the central direction of the economy”, albeit not so much “for the common good” of humanity, nor even of all German citizens, as for the “for the common good” only of ethnic Germans, with this “common good” being defined in Hitler’s own idiosyncratic terms and involving many of these ethnic Germans dying in his pointless wars of conquest. 

Thus, Hayek, who equates socialism with big government and a planned economy, argues in The Road to Serfdom that the Nazis, and the Fascists of Italy, were indeed socialist

However, I would argue that socialism is most usefully defined as entailing, not just the central direction of the economy, but also economic redistribution and the promotion of socio-economic equality.[10]

Yet, in Nazi Germany, the central direction of the economy was primarily geared, not towards promoting socioeconomic equality, but rather towards preparing the nation for war, in addition to various proposed vanity architectural projects.[11]

To prove the Nazis were socialist, Hicks relies extensively on the party’s 25-point programme

Yet this document was issued in 1920, when Hitler had yet to establish full control over the nascent movement, and still reflected the socialist ethos of many of the movement’s founders, whom Hitler was later to displace. 

Thus, German National Socialism, like Italian Fascism very much began on the left, attempting to combine socialism with nationalism, and thereby provide an alternative to the internationalism of mainstream Marxism.  

However, long before either movement had ever even come within distant sight of power, each had already toned down, if not abandoned, much of their earlier socialist rhetoric. 

Certainly, although he declared the party programme as inviolable and immutable and blocked any attempt to amend or repudiate it, Hitler also took few steps whatever to actually implement most of the socialist provisions in the 25-point programme.[12]

Hicks also reports: 

So strong was the Nazi party’s commitment to socialism that in 1921 the party entered into negotiations to merge with another socialist party, the German Socialist Party” (p17). 

Hicks admits “the negotiations fell through”, but what he does not mention is that the deal was scuppered precisely because Hitler himself, then not yet the movement’s leader but already the NSDAP’s most dynamic organizer and speaker, specifically vetoed any notion of a merger, threatening to resign if he did not have his way. 

To further buttress his claim that the Nazis were indeed socialist, Hicks also quotes extensively from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda (p18). 

Goebbels was indeed among the most powerful figures in the Nazi leadership besides Hitler himself, and the quotations attributed to him by Hicks do indeed suggest leftist socialist sympathies

However, Goebbels is, in this respect, something of an exception and outlier among the National Socialist leadership, since he had defected from the Strasserist wing of the Party, which was indeed socialist in orientation, but which was first marginalized then suppressed under Hitler’s leadership long before the Nazis came to power, with most remaining sympathizers, Goebbels excepted, purged or fleeing during the Night of the Long Knives

Goebbels may have retained some socialist sympathies thereafter. However, despite his power and prominence in the Naz regime, he does not seem to have had any great success at steering the regime towards socialist redistribution or other leftist policies

In short, while National Socialism may have begun on the left, by the time the regime attained power, and certainly while they were in power, their policies were not especially socialist

Nevertheless, it is indeed true that, with their centrally-planned economy and large government-funded public works projects, the National Socialist regime probably had more in common with the contemporary left, at least in a purely economic sense, than it would with the neoconservative, neoliberal free market ideology that has long been the dominant force in American conservatism. 

Thus, whether the Nazis were indeed ‘socialist’, ultimately depends on precisely how we define the wordsocialist’. 

Nazi Antisemitism 

Yet one aspect of National Socialist ideology was, in my view, left-wing and socialist in origin—namely their anti-Semitism

Of course, anti-Semitism is usually associated with the political right, more especially the so-called ‘far right’. 

However, in my view, anti-Semitism is always fundamentally leftist in nature. 

Thus, Marxists claim that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else. 

Nazis and anti-Semites, on the other hand, claim that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy Jewish capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else. 

The distinction between Nazism and Marxism is, then, largely tangential. Antisemites and nazis believe that our capitalist oppressors are all, or mostly, Jewish. Marxists, on the other hand, take no stance on the matter either way and prefer not to talk about it. 

As a famous German political slogan had it: 

Antisemitism is the socialism of fools.’ 

Indeed, anti-Semites who blame all the problems of the world on the Jews always remind me of Marxists who blame all the problems of the world on capitalism and capitalists, feminists who blame their problems on men, and black people who blame all their problems on ‘the White Man’. 

Interestingly, Nietzsche himself recognized this same parallel, writing of what he calls “ressentiment”, an important concept in his philosophy, connotations of repressed or sublimated envy and inferiority complex, that: 

This plant blooms its prettiest at present among Anarchists and anti-Semites” (On the Genealogy of Morals: ii: 11). 

In other words, Nietzsche seems to be recognizing that both socialism and anti-Semitism reflect what modern conservatives often term ‘the politics of envy’. 

Thus, in The Will to Power, Nietzsche observes: 

The anti-Semites do not forgive the Jews for having both intellectand money’” (The Will to Power: IV:864). 

Nietzschean Antisemitism 

Yet Jews themselves are, in Nietzsche’s thinking, by no means immune from the “ressentiment” that he also diagnoses in socialists and antisemites

On the contrary, it is Jewish ressentiment vis a vis successive waves of conquerors—especially the Romans—that, in Nietzsche’s thinking, birthed Christianity, slave morality and the original transvaluation of values that he so deplores. 

Thus, Nietzsche relates in Beyond Good and Evil that: 

The Jews performed the miracle of the inversion of valuations, by means of which life on earth obtained a new and dangerous charm for a couple of millenniums. Their prophets fused into one the expressions ‘rich,’ ‘godless,’ ‘wicked,’ ‘violent,’ ‘sensual,’ and for the first time coined the word ‘world’ as a term of reproach. In this inversion of valuations (in which is also included the use of the word “poor” as synonymous with “saint” and “friend”) the significance of the Jewish people is to be found; it is with them that the slave-insurrection in morals commences” (Beyond Good and Evil: V: 195).[13]

Thus, in The Antichrist, Nietzsche talks of “the Christian” as “simply a Jew of the ‘reformed’ confession”, and “the Jew all over again—the threefold Jew” (The Antichrist: 44), concluding: 

Christianity is to be understood only by examining the soil from which it sprung—it is not a reaction against Jewish instincts; it is their inevitable product” (The Antichrist: 24). 

All of this, it is clear from the tone and context, is not at all intended as a complement—either to Jews or Christians

Thus, lest we have any doubts on this matter, Nietzsche declares in Twilight of the Idols

Christianity as sprung from Jewish roots and comprehensible only as grown upon this soil, represents the counter-movement against that morality of breeding, of race and of privilege:—it is essentially an anti-Aryan religion: Christianity is the transvaluation of all Aryan values, the triumph of Chandala values, the proclaimed gospel of the poor and of the low, the general insurrection of all the down-trodden, the wretched, the bungled and the botched, against the ‘race,’—the immortal revenge of the Chandala as the religion of love” (Twilight of the Idols: VI:4). 

Thus, if Nietzsche rejected the anti-Semitism of his sister, brother-in-law and former idol, Wagner, he nevertheless constructed in its place a new anti-Semitism all of his own, which, far from blaming the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ, instead blamed them for the genesis of Christianity itself—a theme that is, as we have seen, directly echoed by Hitler in his Table Talk

Thus, Nietzsche remarks in The Antichrist

“[Jewish] influence has so falsified the reasoning of mankind in this matter that today the Christian can cherish anti-Semitism without realizing that it is no more than the final consequence of Judaism” (The Antichrist: 24). 

An even more interesting passage regarding the Jewish people appears just a paragraph later, where Nietzsche observes: 

The Jews are the very opposite of décadents: they have simply been forced into appearing in that guise, and with a degree of skill approaching the non plus ultra of histrionic genius they have managed to put themselves at the head of all décadent movements (for example, the Christianity of Paul), and so make of them something stronger than any party… To the sort of men who reach out for power under Judaism and Christianity,—that is to say, to the priestly class—décadence is no more than a means to an end. Men of this sort have a vital interest in making mankind sick” (The Antichrist: 24). 

Here, Nietzsche echoes, or perhaps even originates, what is today a familiar theme in anti-Semitic discourse—namely, that Jews champion subversive and destructive ideologies (Marxism, feminism, multiculturalism, mass migration of unassimilable minorities) only to weaken the Gentile power structure and thereby enhance their own power.[14]

This idea finds its most sophisticated (but still flawed) contemporary exposition in the work of evolutionary psychologist and contemporary anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald, who, in his book, The Culture of Critique (reviewed here), conceptualizes a range of twentieth century intellectual movements such as psychoanalysis, Boasian anthropology and immigration reform as what he calls ‘group evolutionary strategies’ that function to promote the survival and success of the Jews in diaspora. 

Nietzsche, however, goes further and extends this idea to the genesis of Christianity itself. 

Thus, in Nietzsche’s view, Christianity, as an outgrowth of Judaism and an invention of Paul and the Jewish ‘priestly class’, is itself a part of what Macdonald would call a ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategy’ designed in order to undermine the goyish Roman civilization under whose yoke Jews had been subjugated. 

Nietzsche, a professed anti-Christian but an admirer of the ancient Greeks (or at least of some of them) would likely agree with Tertullian that Jerusalem has little to do with Athens – or indeed with Rome. However, Hicks observes: 

As evidence of whether Rome or Judea is winning, [Nietzsche] invites us to consider to whom one kneels down before in Rome today” (p70). 

Racialism and the Germans 

Yet, with regard to their racial views, Nietzsche and the Nazis differ, not only in their attitude towards Jews, but also in their attitude towards Germans. 

Thus, according to Hicks: 

The Nazis believe the German Aryan to be racially superior—while Nietzsche believes that the superior types can be manifested in any racial type” (p85). 

Yet, here, Hicks is only half right. While it certainly true that the Nazis extolled the German people, and the so-called ‘Aryan race’ in general, as a master race, it is not at all clear that Nietzsche indeed believed that the superior type of man can be found among all races. 

Actually, besides a few comments about Jews, mostly favourable, and a few more about the Germans and the English, almost always disparaging, Nietzsche actually says surprisingly little about race. 

However, on reflection, this is not at all surprising, since, being resident throughout his life in a Europe that was then very much monoracial, Nietzsche probably little if any direct contact with nonwhite races or peoples. 

Moreover, living as he did in the nineteenth century, when European power was at its apex, and much of the world controlled by European colonial empires, Nietzsche, like most of his European contemporaries, probably took white European racial superiority very much for granted. 

It is therefore only natural that his primary concern was the relative superiority and status of the various European subtypes – hence his occasional comments regarding Jews, English, Germans and occasionally other groups such as the French. 

Hicks asserts: 

The Nazis believe contemporary German culture to be the highest and the best hope for the world—while Nietzsche holds contemporary German culture to be degenerate and to be infecting the rest of the world” (p85). 

Yet this is something of a simplification of National socialist ideology. 

In fact, the Nazis too believed that the Germany of their own time – namely the Weimar Republic – was decadent and corrupt. 

Indeed, a belief in both national degeneration and in the need for national spiritual rebirth and awakening has been identified as a key defining element in fascism.[15]

Thus, Nietzsche’s own belief in the decadence of contemporary western civilization, and arguably also his belief in the coming Übermensch promising spiritual revitalization, is, in many respects, a paradigmatically and prototypically fascist model. [17]

Of course, the Nazis only believed that German culture was corrupt and decadent before they had themselves come to power and hence supposedly remedied this situation.  

In contrast, Nietzsche never had the chance to rejuvenate the German culture and civilization of his own time – and nor did he live to see the coming Übermensch.[16]

The Blond Beast’  

Hicks contends that Nietzsche’s employment of the phrase “the blond beast” in The Genealogy of Morals is not a racial reference to the characteristically blond hair of Nordic Germans, as has sometimes been interpreted, but rather a reference to the blond mane of the lion. 

Actually, I suspect Nietzsche may have intended a double-meaning or metaphor, referring to both the stereotypically blond complexion of the Germanic warrior and to the mane of the lion. 

Indeed, the use of such a double-meaning or metaphor would be typical of Nietzsche’s poetic, literary and distinctly non-philosophical (or at least not traditionally philosophical) style of writing. 

Thus, even in one of the passages from The Genealogy of Morals employing to this metaphor that is quoted by Hicks himself, Nietzsche explicitly refers to the “the blond Germanic beast [emphasis added]” (quoted: p78).[18]

It is true that, in another passage from the same work, Nietzche contends that “the splendid blond beast” lies at “the bottom of all these noble races”, among whom he includes, not just the Germanic, but also such distinctly non-Nordic (and stereotypically non-blond) races as “the Roman, Arabian… [and] Japanese nobility” among others (quoted: p79). 

Here, the reference to the Japanese “nobility”, rather than the Japanese people as a whole, is, I suspect, key, since, as we have seen, Nietzsche clearly regards the superior type of man, if present at all, as always necessarily a minority among all races. 

However, in referring to “noble races”, Nietzsche necessarily implies that certain other races are not so “noble”. Just as to say that certain men are ‘superior’ necessarily implies that others are inferior, since superiority is a relative concept, so to talk of “noble races” necessarily supposes the existence of ignoble races too. 

Thus, if the superior type of man, in Nietzsche’s view, only ever represents a small minority of the population among any race, it does not necessarily follow that, in his view, such types are to be found among all races. 

Hicks is therefore wrong to conclude that: 

Nietzsche believes that the superior types can be manifested in any racial type” (p85). 

In short, just because Nietzsche believed that vast majority of contemporary Germans were poltroons, Chandala, ‘beer drinkers’ and ‘herd animals’, it does not necessarily follow that he also believes that an Australian Aboriginal could be an Übermensch

A Nordicist Aryanist Milieu? 

Thus, for all his condemnation of Germans and German nationalism, one cannot help forming the impression on reading Nietzsche that he very much existed within, if not a German nationalist milieu, then at least a broader Nordicist, Aryanist and Völkisch intellectual milieu – the same milieu that birthed certain key strands in the National Socialist Weltanschauung

This is apparent in the very opening lines of The Antichrist, where Nietzsche declares himself, and his envisaged readership, “Hyperboreans”, a term popular among proto-Nazi occultists, such as the Thule Society, the group which itself birthed what was to become the NSDAP, and which had named itself after the supposed capital of the mythical Hyperborea

It is also apparent when, in Twilight of the Idols, he disparages Christianity as specifically an “anti-Aryan religion… [and] the transvaluation of all Aryan values” (Twilight of the Idols: VI:4). 

Apologists sometimes insist that Nietzsche, as a philologist by training, was only using the word Aryan in the linguistic sense, i.e. where we would today say ‘Indo-European

However, Nietzsche was writing at a time and place, namely Germany in the nineteenth century, when Aryanist ideas were very much in vogue, and it would be naïve to think that Nietzsche was not all too aware of the full connotations of this word. 

Moreover, his references to “Aryan values” and “anti-Aryan religion”, referring, as they do, to values and religion, clearly go beyond merely linguistic descriptors, and seem to envisage, not so much a scientific biological conception of race, including race differences in behaviour and psychology, as much as they anticipate the mystical, quasi-religious and slightly bonkers ‘spiritual racialism’ of his self-professed disciples, Spengler and Evola

Less obviously, this affinity for Nazi-style ‘Aryanism’ is also apparent in Nietzsche’s later extolment for the Law of Manu and Indian caste system, and his adoption of the Sanskrit term Chandala for those whom he disparages, since, although South Asians are obviously far from racially Nordic, Nazi esotericists nevertheless had a curious obsession with Hindu religion and caste, and it is from India that the Nazis seemingly took both the swastika symbol and the very word ‘Aryan’. 

Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy, writes: 

Nietzsche was the child of Darwin and the brother of Bismarck. It does not matter that he ridiculed the English evolutionists and the German nationalists: he was accustomed to denounce those who had most influenced him; it was his unconscious way of covering up his debts” (The Story of Philosophy: p373).[19]

This perhaps goes some way to making sense of Nietzsche’s ambiguous relationship to Darwin, whose theory he so often singles out for criticism. 

Perhaps something similar can be said of Nietzsche’s relationship, not only to German nationalism, but also to anti-Semitism, since, as a former disciple of Wagner, he existed within a German nationalist and anti-Semitic intellectual milieu, from which he sought to distinguish himself but which he never wholly relinquished. 

Thus, if Nietzsche condemned the crude antiSemitism of Wagner, his sister and brother-in-law, he nevertheless constructed in its place a new antiSemitism that blamed the Jews, not merely for the crucifixion of Christ, but rather for the very invention of Christianity, Christian ethics and the entire edifice of what he called ‘slave morality’ and the ‘transvaluation of values’. 

Nietzschean Philosemitism?

Thus, even Nietzsche’s many apparently favorable comments regarding the Jews can often be interpreted as backhanded complements

As a character from a Michel Houellebecq novel observes: 

All anti-Semites agree that the Jews have a certain superiority. If you read anti-Semitic literature, you’re struck by the fact that the Jew is considered to be more intelligent, more cunning, that he is credited with having singular financial talents – and, moreover, greater communal solidarity. Result: six million dead” (Platform: p113). 

Indeed, Nazi propaganda provides a good illustration of this. 

Thus, in claiming that Jews, who only ever represented only a tiny minority of the Weimar-era German population, nevertheless dominated the media, banking, commerce and the professions, Nazi propaganda often came close to inadvertently implicitly conceding Jewish superiority – since to dominate the economy of a mighty power like Germany, despite only ever representing a tiny minority of the population, is hardly a feat indicative of inferiority. 

Indeed, Nazi propaganda came close to self-contradiction, since, if Jews did indeed dominate the Weimar-era economy to the extent claimed in Nazi propaganda, this not only suggests that the Jews themselves are far from inferior to the German Gentile Goyim whom they had ostensibly oppressed and subjugated, but also the Germans themselves, in allowing themselves to be so dominated by this tiny minority of Jews in their midst, were something rather less than the Aryan Übermensch and master race of  Hitler’s own demented imagining. 

Meanwhile, Arthur De Gobineau, considered by many the ultimate progenitor of Nazi race theory, was, far from anti-Semitic, positively effusive in his praise for and admiration of the Jewish people.[20]

Thus, many antisemites have praised the Jews for their tenacity, resilience, survival, alleged clannishness and ethnocentrism, and, perhaps most ominously, their supposed racial purity

For example, contemporary antisemite Kevin MacDonald claims that, despite his reputation as an anti-Semite

I greatly admire Jews as a group that has pursued its interests over thousands of years, while retaining its ethnic coherence and intensity of group commitment (Macdonald 2004). 

Indeed, even Hitler himself came close to philosemitism in one passage of Mein Kampf, where he declares: 

“The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew. In hardly any people in the world is the instinct of self-preservation developed more strongly than in the so-called ‘chosen’. Of this, the mere fact of the survival of this race may be considered the best proof” (Mein Kampf).[21]

Many of Nietzsche’s own apparently complementary remarks regarding the Jewish people can be interpreted in the same vein 

Thus, Hicks himself credits Nietzsche with deploring the slave morality that was their legacy, but nevertheless recognizing that this slave morality was a highly successful strategy in enabling them to survive and prosper in diaspora as a defeated and banished people. Thus, Nietzsche admires them as: 

Inheritors of a cultural tradition that has enabled them to survive and even flourish despite great adversity… [and] would at the very least have to grant, however grudgingly, that the Jews have hit upon a survival strategy and kept their cultural identity for well over two thousand years” (p82). 

Thus, in another one of his many backhanded complements, Nietzsche himself declares:  

The Jews are the most remarkable people in the history of the world, for when they were confronted with the question, to be or not to be, they chose, with perfectly unearthly deliberation, to be at any price: this price involved a radical falsification of all nature, of all naturalness, of all reality, of the whole inner world, as well as of the outer” (The Antichrist: 24). 

Defeating Nazism 

In Hicks’s final chapter, he discusses how best Nazism can be defeated. In doing so, he seemingly presupposes that Nazism is, not only an evil that must be defeated, but moreover the ultimate evil that must be defeated at all costs and that we must therefore structure our entire economic and political system in order to prevent its reemergence. 

In doing so, he identifies what he sees as “the direct opposite of what the Nazis stood for” as necessarily “the best antidote to National Socialism we have” (p106-7). 

Yet, to assume that there is a “direct opposite” to each of the Nazis’ central tenets assumes that all political positions can be conceptualized on a single dimensional axis, with the Nazis at one end and Hicks’s own rational free market utopia at the other. 

In reality, the political spectrum is multidimensional and there are many alternatives to each of the tenets identified by Hicks as integral to Nazism, not just a single opposite. 

More importantly, it is not at all clear that the best way to defeat any ideology is necessarily to embrace its polar opposite. 

On the contrary, embracing an opposite form of extremism is often only provokes a counter-reaction and is hence counterproductuve. In contrast, often the best way to defeat extremism is to actually address some of the legitimate issues raised by the extremists and offer practical, realistic solutions and compromise – i.e. moderation rather than extremism. 

Thus, in the UK, the two main post-war electoral manifestations of what was arguably a resurgent Nazi-style racial nationalism were the National Front in the 1970s and the British National Party (BNP) in the 2000s, each of whom achieved some rather modest electoral successes, and inspired a great deal of media-led moral-panic, in their respective heydays before quickly fading into electoral irrelevance. 

Yet each were defeated, not by the emergence of an opposite extremism of either left or right, nor by the often violent agitation and activism of self-styled ‘anti-fascists’, but rather by the emergence of political figures or movements that addressed some of the the legitimate issues raised by the extremist groups, especially regarding immigration, but cloaked them in more moderate language. 

Thus, in the 2000s, the BNP was largely outflanked by the rise of the UKIP, which echoed many of the BNP’s concerns regarding mass immigration, but largely avoided any association with racism, white supremacism or neo-Nazism. In short, UKIP outflanked the BNP by being precisely what the BNP had long pretended to be – namely, a non-racist, anti-immigration civic nationalist party – only, in the case of UKIP, the act actually appeared genuine.

Meanwhile, in the 1970s, the collapse and implosion of the National Front was largely credited to the rise of Margaret Thatcher, who, in one infamous interview, empathized with the fear of many British people that their country being “swamped by people with a different culture”, though, in truth, once in power, she did little to arrest or even slow, let alone reverse, this ongoing and now surely irreversible process of demographic transformation

Misreading Nietzsche 

Why, then, has Nietzsche come to be so misunderstood? How is it that this nineteenth German philosopher has come to be claimed as a precursor by everyone from Fascists and libertarians to leftist postmodernists. 

The fault, in my view, lies largely with Nietzsche himself, in particular his obscure, esoteric writing style, especially in his infamously indecipherable, Thus Spake Zarathustra, but to some extent throughout his entire body of writing. 

Indeed, Nietzsche, perhaps to his credit, even admits to adopting a deliberately impenetrable prose style, not so much admitting as proudly declaring as much in one parenthesis from Beyond Good and Evil that has been variously translated as: 

I obviously do everything to be ‘hard to understand’ myself


I do everything to be difficultly understood myself”  (Beyond Good and Evil: II, 27).

Admittedly, here, the wording, or at least the various English renderings, is itself not entirely clear in its meaning. However, the fact that even this single seemingly simple sentence lends itself to somewhat different interpretations only illustrates the scale of the problem. 

In my view, as I have written previously, philosophers who adopt an aphoristic style of writing generally substitute bad poetry for good arguments. 

Thus, in one sense at least leftist postmodernists are right to claim Nietzsche as a philosophical precursor: He, like them, delights in pretentious obfuscation and obscurantism

The best writers, in my view, generally present their ideas in the clearest and simplest language that the complexity of their ideas permit. 

Indeed, the most profound thinkers generally have no need increase the complexity of ideas that are already inherently complex through deliberately obscure or impenetrable language. 

In contrast, it is only those with only banal and unoriginal ideas who adopt deliberately complex and confusing language in order to conceal the banality and unoriginality of their ideas. 

Thus, Richard DawkinsFirst Law of the Conservation of Difficulty states: 

Obscurantism in an academic subject expands to fill the vacuum of its intrinsic simplicity.”  

What applies to an academic subject applies equally to individual writers – namely. as a general rule, the greater the obscurantism, the less the substance and insight. 

Yet, unlike the postmodernists, poststucturalists, deconstructionalists, continental philosophers and other assorted ‘professional damned fools’ who so often claim him as a precursor, Nietzsche is indeed, in my view, an important, profound and original thinker. 

Moreover, far from replacing good philosophy with bad poetry, Nietzsche is, besides being a profound and original thinker, also a magnificent prose stylist, the brilliance of whose writing shines through even in translation. 

Conclusion – Was Nietzsche a Nazi? 

The Nazis, we are repeatedly reassured by leftists, misunderstood Nietzsche. Either that or they deliberated misrepresented and misappropriated him. At any rate, one thing is clear – they were wrong. 

This argument is largely correct – as far as it goes. 

The Nazis did indeed engage in a disingenuous and highly selective reading of Nietzsche’s work, selectively quoting his words out of context, and conveniently ignoring, or even suppressing, those passages of his writing where he explicitly condemns both antiSemitism and German nationalism

The problem with this view is not that it is wrong – but rather with what it leaves out. 

Nietzsche may not have been a Nazi, but he was certainly an elitist and anti-egalitarian, opposed to socialism, liberalism, democracy and pretty much the entire liberal democratic political and social worldview of the contemporary west.

Indeed, although, today, in America at least, atheism tends to be associated with leftist, or at least liberal views, and Christianity with conservatism and the right, Nietzsche opposed socialism precisely because he saw it as an inheritance of the very JudeoChristianslave morality’ to which his philosophy stood in opposition, albeit divested of the very religious foundation which provided this moral system with a justification and basis.

Thus, in The Will to Power, he observes that “socialists appeal to the Christian instincts” and bewails “the socialistic ideal” as merely “the residue of Christianity and of Rousseau in the de-Christianised world” (The Will to Power: III, 765; IV, 1017). Likewise, he laments of the English in Twilight of the Idols:

They are rid of the Christian God and therefore think it all the more incumbent upon them to hold tight to Christian morality” (Twilight of the Idols: IX, 5).

While Nietzsche would certainly have disapproved of many aspects of Nazi ideology, it is not at all clear that he would have considered our own twenty-first century western culture as any better. Indeed he may well have considered it considerably worse. 

Thus, it is indeed true that Nietzsche was no National Socialist, but he was also far from a leftist or a liberal, and was far from politically correct by modern standards in his views regarding the Jews, for example. 

Indeed, the worldview of this most elitist and anti-egalitarian of thinkers is arguably even less reconcilable with contemporary left-liberal notions of social justice than is that of the Nazis themselves.  

Thus, if the Nazis did indeed misappropriate Nietzsche’s philosophy, then this misappropriation was as nothing compared to that of those leftists, post-modernists, post-structuralists and other such ‘professional damned fools’ who have vainly, and dishonestly, attempted to claim this most anti-egalitarian and elitist of thinkers on behalf of the left


[1] The claim that the foreign policies of governmental regimes of all ideological persuasions are governed less by their ideology than by power politics, is, of course, a central tenet, indeed perhaps the central tenet of the realist school of international relations theory. Indeed, Hitler himself provided a good example of this when, despite his ideological opposition to Judeo-Bolshevism and desire for lebensraum in the East, not to mention disparaging racial attitude to the Slavic peoples, nevertheless, rebuffed in his efforts to come to an understanding with Britain and France, or form an alliance with Poland, instead sent Ribbentrop to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. It can even be argued that it was Hitler’s abandonment of pragmatic realpolitik in favour of ideological imperative, when he later invaded the Soviet Union that led to his own, and his regime’s, demise.

[2] Curiously missing from all such lists is Nietzsche’s own early idol, Arthur Schopenhauer. Yet it was Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, that Hitler claimed to have carried with him in the trenches in his knapsack throughout the First World War, and Schopenhauer even has the dubious distinction of having his antisemitic comments regarding Jews favourably quoted by Hitler in Mein Kampf. Indeed, according to the recollections of filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler professed to prefer Schopenhauer over Nietzsche, Hitler being quoted as asserting: 

I can’t really do much with Nietzsche… He is more an artist than a philosopher; he doesn’t have the crystal-clear understanding of Schopenhauer. Of course, I value Nietzsche as a genius. He writes possibly the most beautiful language that German literature has to offer us today, but he is not my guide” (quoted: Hitler’s Private Library: p107). 

Somewhat disconcertingly, this assessment of Nietzsche – namely as “more… artist than philosopher” and far from “crystal-clear” in his writing style, but nevertheless a brilliant prose stylist, the beauty of whose writing shines through even in English translation – actually rather reflects my own assessment. Moreover, I too am an admirer of Schopenhauer’s writings, albeit not so much his philosophy, let alone his metaphysics, but more his theory of human behaviour and psychology.
Yet, on reflection, Schopenhauer is surely rightly omitted from lists of the philosophical influences on Nazism. Save for the antisemitic remarks quoted in Mein Kampf, which are hardly an integral part of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, there is little in Schopenhauer’s body of writing, let alone in his philosophical writings, that can be seen to jibe with National Socialism policy or ideology.
Indeed, Schopenhauer’s philosophy, to the extent it is prescriptive at all, advocates an ascetic withdrawal from worldly temptation, and championed art as a form of escapism. Although Hitler was indeed in later lifereportedly, a vegetarian, who also abstained from alcohol, and also an art lover who found escapism in both movies and the operas of Wagner, the latter himself a disciple of Schopenhauer. and seems, for most of his adult life, to have had little active sex life, nevertheless the NSDAP programme, like all political programmes, involved active engagement with the world, something Schopenhauer would likely have dismissed as largely futile and a waste of effort.
Indeed, Hitler himself aptly summarized why Schopenhauer’s philosophy could never be a basis for any type of active political programme, let alone that of the NSDAP, in a comment quoted by Hanfstaengl, where he bemoans Schopenhauer’s influence on his own former mentor Eckart, remarking: 

Schopenhauer has done Eckart no good. He has made him a doubting Thomas, who only looks forward to a Nirvana. Where would I get if I listened to all his [Schopenhauer’s] transcendental talk? A nice ultimate wisdom that: To reduce on[e]self to a minimum of desire and will. Once will is gone all is gone. This life is War” (quoted in: Hitler’s Philosophers: p24). 

Modern left-liberal apologists for Nietzsche often attempt to characterize Nietzsche as a largely apolitical thinker. This is, of course, deluded apologetics. However, as applied to Schopenhauer, the claim is indeed largely valid. 

[3] Hicks does not mention the figure who was, in my perhaps eccentric view, the greatest thinker associated with the NSDAP, namely Nobel Prize winning ethologist Konrad Lorenz, perhaps because, unlike the other thinkers whom he does discuss, Lorenz only joined the NSDAP several years after they had come to power, and his association with the NSDAP could therefore be dismissed as purely opportunistic. Alternatively, Hicks may have overlooked Lorenz simply because Lorenz was a biologist rather than a philosopher, though it should be noted that Lorenz also made important contributions to philosophy as well, in particular his pioneering work in evolutionary epistemology.

[4] It is true that Nietzsche does not actually envisage or advocate a return to the ‘master morality’ of an earlier age, but rather the construction of a new morality, the outline of which could, at the time he wrote, only be foreseen in rough outline. Nevertheless, it is clear he favoured this ‘master morality’ over the ‘slave morality’ that he associated with Christianity and our own post-Christian ethics, and also that he viewed the coming morality of the Übermensch as having much more in common with the ‘master morality’ of old than with the Christian ‘slave morality’ he so disparages. 

[5] Hitler exerted a direct impact on world history from 1933 until his death in 1945. Yet Hitler, or at least the spectre of Hitler, continues to exert an indirect but not insubstantial impact on contemporary world politics as a kind of ‘bogeyman’, whom we define our views in opposition to, and invoke as a kind of threat or form of guilt-by-association. This is most obvious in the familiar ‘reductio ad Hitlerum’. Of course, in considering the question of whether Hitler may indeed qualify as a ‘great man’, we are not using the word ‘great’ in a moral sense. Rather, we are employing the term in the older sense, meaning ‘large in size’. This exculpatory clarificiation we might aptly term the Farrakhan proviso

[6] Collectivists are, almost by definition, authoritarian, since collectivism necessarily demands that individual rights and freedoms be curtailed or restricted for the benefit of the collective, and this invariably requires coercion because people have evolved to selfishly promote their own inclusive fitness at the expense of that of rivals and competitors. However, authoritarianism can also be justified on non-collectivist grounds. Thus, Nietzsche’s proposed restrictions of the individual liberty of the ‘herd animal’ and ‘chandala’ are justified not by reference to the individual or collective interests of such ‘chandala’, but rather by reference to the interests of the superior man and of the higher evolution of mankind.

[7] The first of these is a pair of interviews that were supposedly conducted with Hitler by German journalist Richard Breiting in 1931, to which Hicks sources several supposed quotations from Hitler (p117; p122; p124; p125; p133). Unfortunately, however, the interviews, only published in 1968 by Yugoslavian journalist Edouard Calic several decades after they were supposedly conducted, contain anachronistic material and are hence almost certainly post-war forgeries. Richard Evans, for example, described them as having obviously been in large part, if not completely, made up by Calic himself (Evans 2014).
The other is Hermann Rauschning’s The Voice of Destruction, published in Britain under the title Hitler Speaks, to which Hicks sources several quotations from Hitler (p120; p125; 126; p134). This is now widely recognised as a fraudulent work of wartime propaganda. Historians now believe that Rauschning actually only met with Hitler on a few occasions, was certainly not a close confident and that most, if not all, of the conversations with Hitler recounted in The Voice of Destruction are pure inventions.
Thus, for example, Ian Kershaw in the first volume of his Hitler biography, Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris, makes sure to emphasize in his preface: 

I have on no single occasion cited Hermann Rauschning’s Hitler Speaks [the title under which The Voice of Destruction was published in Britain], a work now regarded to have so little authenticity that it is best to disregard it altogether” (Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris: pxvi). 

Similarly, Richard Evans definitively concludes:

Nothing was genuine in Rauschning’s book: his ‘conversations with Hitler’ had no more taken place than his conversations with Göring. He had been put up to writing the book by Winston Churchill’s literary agent, Emery Reeves, who was also responsible for another highly dubious set of memoirs, the industrialist Fritz Thyssen’s I Paid Hitler” (Evans 2014).

Admittedly, Rauschning’s work was once taken seriously by mainstream historians, and The Voice of Destruction is cited repeatedly in such early and still-celebrated works as Trevor-Roper’s The Last Days of Hitler, first published in 1947, and Bullock’s Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, first published in 1952.  However, Hicks’s own book was published in 2006, by which time Rauschning’s work had already long previously been exposed as a hoax. 
Indeed, it is something of an indictment of the standards, not to mention the politicized and moralistic tenor, of what we might call ‘Hitler historiography’ that this work was ever taken seriously by historians in the first place. First published in the USA in 1940, it was it was clearly a work of anti-Nazi wartime propaganda and much of the material is quite fantastic in content.
For example, there are bizarre passages about Hitler having been “long been in bondage to a magic which might well have been described, not only in metaphor but in literal fact, as that of evil spirits” and of Hitler “wak[ing] at night with convulsive shrieks”, and one such passage describes how Hitler: 

Stood swaying in his room, looking wildly about him. “He! He! He’s been here!” he gasped. His lips were blue. Sweat streamed down his face. Suddenly he began to reel off figures, and odd words and broken phrases, entirely devoid of sense. It sounded horrible. He used strangely composed and entirely un-German word-formations. Then he stood quite still, only his lips moving. He was massaged and offered something to drink. Then he suddenly broke out — “There, there! In the comer! Who’s that.?” He stamped and shrieked in the familiar way. He was shown that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the room, and then he gradually grew calm” (The Voice of Destruction: p256) 

Yet, oddy, the first doubts regarding the authenticity of the conversations reported in The Voice of Destruction were raised, not by mainstream historians studying the Third Reich, but rather by an obscure Swiss researcher, Wolfgang Haenel, who first presented his thesis at a conference organized by a research institute widely associated with so-called ‘holocaust denial’. Moreover, other self-styled ‘holocaust revisionists’ were among the first to endorse Haenel’s critique of Rauschning’s work. Yet his conclusions are now belatedly accepted by virtually all mainstream scholars in the field. This perhaps suggests that such ‘revisionist’ research is not always without value.

[8] It must be acknowledged here that the question of the religious views of Hitler is a matter of some controversy. It is sometimes suggested that the hostile view of Christianity expressed in Hitler’s Table Talk reflect less the opinion of Hitler, and more those of of Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, who was responsible for transcribing much of this material. Bormann is indeed known to have been hostile to Christianity, and Speer, who disliked Bormann, indeed remarks in his memoirs that:

If in the course of such a monologue Hitler had pronounced a more negative judgment upon the church, Bormann would undoubtedly have taken from his jacket pocket one of the white cards he always carried with him. For he noted down all Hitler’s remarks that seemed to him important; and there was hardly anything he wrote down more eagerly than deprecating comments on the church” (Inside the Third Reich: p95). 

However, Speer does not deny that Hitler himself indeed made such remarks. Indeed, it is hardly likely that Bormann, a faithful, if not obsequious, acolyte of the Fürher, would ever dare to falsely attribute to Hitler remarks which the latter had never uttered or views to which he did not subscribe. At any rate, the views attributed to Hitler in Table Talk are corroborated in other sources, such as in Goebbels’s diaries and indeed in Speer’s memoirs
It is also true that, elsewhere in Table Talk, Hitler talks approvingly of Jesus as “most certainly not a Jew”, and as fighting “against the materialism of His age, and, therefore, against the Jews”. This is, of course, a very odd and eccentric, not to mention historically unsupported, perspective on the historical Jesus.
However, it is interesting to note that, despite his disdain for Christianity, Nietzsche too, despite his more orthodox view of the historical Jesus, nevertheless professes to admire Jesus in The Antichrist. Indeed, in placing the blame for Christianity squarely on Paul of Tarsus, not Jesus himself, Hitler is therefore again following Nietzsche, who, in The Antichrist, similarly condemns Paul as the true founder of Christianity and of the Christian slave morality that infected western man.
Just to clarify, I am not here suggesting that Hitler’s views with respect to Christianity are identical to those of Nietzsche. On the contrary, they clearly differ in several respects, not least in their differing historical perspectives on the historial Jesus.
Nevertheless, Hitler’s religious views, as expressed in his Table Talk, clearly mirror those of Nietzsche in certain key respects, not least in seeing Christianity as the greatest tragedy to befall humanity, as inimical to life itself, and as a malign invention of or inheritance from Jews and Judaism. Given these parallels, it seems almost certain that the German Führer had read the works of Nietzsche and, to some extent, been influenced by his ideas.
Interestingly, elsewhere in his Table Talk, Hitler also condemns atheism, describing it as “a return to the state of the animal” and argues that “the notion of divinity gives most men the opportunity to concretise the feeling they have of supernatural” (Table Talk: p123; p61). Hitler also often referred to God, and especially providence, in a metaphoric sense. Indeed, he even himself professes a belief in a God, albeit of a decidedly non-Chrisitian Pantheistic form, defining God as “the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe” (Table Talk: p6).
However, this only demonstrates that there are other forms of theism, and deism, besides Christianity, and that one can be opposed to Christianity without being opposed to all religion. Thus, Goebbels declares in his Diary: 

The Fuhrer is deeply religious, though completely anti-Christian” (The Goebbels diaries, 1939-1941: p77). 

The general impression from Table Talk is that Hitler sees himself, perhaps surprisingly, as a scientific materialist, albeit one who, like, it must be said, no few modern scientific materialists, actually often knows embarrassingly little about science. (For example, in Table Talk, Hitler repeatedly endorses Hörbiger’s World Ice Theory, comparing Hörbiger to Copernicus in his impact on cosmology, and even proposing opposing the “pseudo-science of the Catholic Church” with the ‘science’ of PtolemyCopernicus, and, yes, Hörbiger: Table Talk: p249; p324; p445.)

[9] After all, socialists already have the horrors of Mau, Stalin, Pol Pot and North Korea among many others on their hands. To be associated also with National Socialism in Germany as well would effectively make socialism responsible for virtually all of the great atrocities of the twentieth century, rather than merely just the vast majority of them. 

[10] Interestingly, although dictionary definitions available on the internet vary considerably, most definitions of ‘socialism tend to be much narrower than my definition, emphasizing, in particular, common or public ownership of the means of production. Partly, this reflects, I suspect, the different connotations of the word in British- and American-English. Thus, in America, where, until recently, socialism was widely seen as anathema, the term was associated with, and indeed barely distinguished from, communism or Marxism. In Britain, however, where the Labour Party, one of the two main parties of the post-war era, traditionally styled itself ‘socialist’, despite generally advocating and pursuing policies that would be closer to what would be called, on continental Europe, ‘social democracy’, the word has much less radical connotations.

[11] Admittedly, reducing unemployment also seems to have been a further objective of some of the large public works projects undertaken under the Nazis (e.g. the construction of the autobahns), and this can indeed be seen as a socialist objective. However, socialists are, of course, not alone in seeing job creation as desirable and high rates of unemployment as undesirable. On the contrary, the desirability of job creation and of reducing unemployment is widely accepted across the political spectrum. Politicians differ primarily on the best way to achieve this goals. Those on the left are more likely to favour increasing public sector employment, including through the sorts of public works projects employed by the Nazis. Neo-liberals favour cutting taxes, in order to increase spending and investment, which they theorize will increase private sextor employment.

[12] It is possible Hitler’s own views evolved over time, and he too may initially have been more sympathetic to socialist policies. Thus, still largely unexplained is the full story of Hitler’s apparent involvement with the short-lived revolutionary communist regime in Munich in 1919, led by the Jewish communist Kurt Eisner. Ron Rosenbaum writes:

One piece of evidence adduced for this view documents Hitler’s successful candidacy for a position on the soldier’s council in a regiment that remained loyal to the short-lived Bolshevik regime that ruled Munich for a few weeks in April 1919. Another is a piece of faded, scratchy newsreel footage showing the February 1919 funeral procession for Kurt Eisner, the assassinated Jewish leader of the socialist regime then in power. Slowed down and studied, the funeral footage shows a figure who looks remarkably like Hitler marching in a detachment of soldiers, all wearing armbands on their uniforms in tribute to Eisner and the socialist regime that preceded the Bolshevik one” (Explaining Hitler: pxxxvii). 

If indeed Hitler was indeed a supporter of the Peoples’ State of Bavaria, which remains far from proven, and this was not mere opportunism, then it remains to be proven when his later antiSemitic and anti-Marxist views became crystalized. It is clear that, by the time he joined the nascent DAP, Hitler was already a confirmed anti-Semite. However, perhaps he still remained something of a socialist at this time. Indeed, this might explain why he was attracted to the German Workers’ Party, which, at that early time, indeed seems to have had a broadly socialist orientation. 

[13] In fact, Nietzsche is wrong to credit the Jews as the first to perform this transvaluation of values that elevated asceticism, poverty and abstinence from worldly pleasures into a positive value. On the contrary, similar and analogous notions of asceticism seem to have had an entirely independent, and apparently prior, origin in the Indian subcontinent, in the form of both Buddhism and especially Jainism

[14] The supposed proof of this theory in to be found in the state of Israel, where Jews find themselves as a majority, and where, far from embodying the sort of ideals of multiculturalism and tolerance that Jews have typically been associated with championing in the west, there is an apartheid state, the persecution of the country’s Palestinian minority, an immigration policy that overtly discriminates against non-Jews, not to mention increasing levels of conservatism and religiosity

[15] This is, for example, an integral part of the influential definition of fascism espoused by historian and political theorist Roger Griffin in his book, The Nature of Fascism.

[16] In fact, whether Nietzsche indeed envisaged the Übermensch in this way – namely as a real-world coming savior promising a new transvaluation of values and revitablization of society and civilization that would restore the warrior ethos of the ancients – is not at all clear. In fact, the concept of the Übermensch is mentioned quite infrequently in his writings, largely in Thus Spake Zarathustra and Ecce Homo, and is neither fully developed nor clearly explained. It has even been suggested that the importance of this concept in Nietzsche’s thought has been exaggerated, partly on account of its use in use in the title of George Bernard Shaw’s famous play, Man and Superman, which explores Nietzschean themes.
Elsewhere in his writing, Nietzsche is seemingly resolutely ‘blackpilled’ regarding the inevitability of moral and spiritual decline and the impossibility of any recovery. Thus, in Twilight of the Idols, he reproaches the conservatives for attempting to turn back the clock, declaring that an arrest, let alone a reverse, in the degeneration of mankind and civilization is an impossibility:

It cannot be helped: we must go forward,—that is to say step by step further and further into decadence (—this is my definition of modern ‘progress’). We can hinder this development, and by so doing dam up and accumulate degeneration itself and render it more convulsive, more volcanic: we cannot do more” (Twilight of the Idols: VIII, 43).

In other words, not only is God indeed dead (as are Zeus, Jupiter, Thor and Wotan), but, unlike Jesus in the Gospels, he can never be resurrected.

[17] Of course, another difference between Nietzsche and the Nazis is that the contemporary German culture that each regarded as decadent were separated from each other by several decades. Thus, while Hitler may have despised the German culture of the 1920s as, in many respects, decadent, he nevertheless admired in many respects the German culture of Nietzsche’s time and certainly regarded this Germany as superior to the Weimar-era Germany in which he found himself after the First World War. 
Nevertheless, Hitler did not regard the Germany of Nietzsche’s own time as any kind of ‘golden age’ or ‘lost Eden’. On the contrary, he would have deplored the Germany of Nietzsche’s day both for its alleged domination by Jews and the fact that, even after Bismarck’s supposed unification of Germany, Hitler’s own native Austria remained outside the German Reich.
Thus, neither Nietzsche nor Hitler were mere reactionaries nostalgically looking to turn back the clock. On the contrary, Nietzsche considers this an imposibility, writing:

It cannot be helped: we must go forward,—that is to say step by step further and further into decadence (—this is my definition of modern ‘progress’). We can hinder this development, and by so doing dam up and accumulate degeneration itself and render it more convulsive, more volcanic: we cannot do more” (Twilight of the Idols: VIII, 43).

Thus, just as Nietzsche does not yearn for a return to the master morality or paganism of pre-Christian Europe and classical antiquity, but rather for the coming Übermensch and new transvaluation of values that he would deliver, so Hitler’s own ‘golden age’ was to be found, not in the nineteenth century, nor even in classical antiquity, but rather in the new thousand year Reich he envisaged and sought to construct.

[18] Other English translations render the German as the “blond Teutonic beast [emphasis added]”. At any rate, regardless of the precise translation, it is clear that a reference to the ancient Germanic peoples is intended. 

[19] Nietzsche has an odd attitude to Darwinism and social Darwinism. On the one hand, he frequently disparages Darwin and Darwinism. On the other hand, his moral philosophy directly parallels that of the social Darwinists, albeit bereft of the Darwinian theory that provides the ostensible justification and basis for this moral philosophy
Interestingly, Hitler too has an ambiguous, and, in some respects, similar, relationship with both Darwinism and social Darwinism. On the one hand, Hitler, like Nietzsche, frequently espouses views that read very much like social Darwinism. For example, in Mein Kampf, Hitler writes:

Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live” (Mein Kampf).

Similarly, in his Table Talk, Hitler is quoted as declaring:

By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest” (Hitler’s Table Talk).

Both these quotations definitely sound like social Darwinism. Yet, interestingly, Hitler never actually mentions Darwin or Darwinism, his reference to the law of selection” being the closest he comes to referencing the theory of evolution, and even this is ambiguous. Moreover, in a different passage from Table Talk, Hitler seemingly emphatically rejects the theory of evolution, demanding: 

Where do we acquire the right to believe that man has not always been what he is now? The study of nature teaches us that, in the animal kingdom just as much as in the vegetable kingdom, variations have occurred. They’ve occurred within the species, but none of these variations has an importance comparable with that which separates man from the monkey — assuming that this transformation really took place” (Hitler’s Table Talk: p248). 

What are we to make of this? Clearly, Hitler often contradicted himself and seemingly expressed contradictory and inconsistent views.
Moreover, both Hitler and Nietzsche didn’t really understand Darwin’s theory of evolution. Thus, Nietzsche suggested that the struggle between individuals concerns, not mere survival, but rather power. In fact, it concerns neither survival nor power as such – but rather reproductive success (which tends to correlate with power, especially among men,which is why men, in particular, are known to seek power). Spencer’s phrase, survival of the fittest, is useful only once we recognise that the ‘survival’ promoted by selection is the survival of genes rather than of individual organisms themsevles.
But we must recognize that it is possible, and quite logically consistent, to espouse something very similar in content to a social Darwinist moral framework without actually justifying this moral framework by reference to Darwinism.
In short, both Nietzsche and Hitler seem to be advocating something akin to ‘social Darwinism without the Darwinism’.

[20] Interestingly, even Gobineau’s successor and disciple, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, widely and rightly regarded as a virulent anti-Semite, at least with respect to the  Ashkenazim, nevertheless professed to admire Sephardi Jews. He did so primarily on account of their supposed ‘racial purity’, including their refusal to intermingle and intermarry with the Ashkenazim.

[21] The exact connotations of this passage may depend on the translation. The version I have quoted comes from the Manheim edition. However, a different translation renders the passage, not as The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew, but rather The Jew offers the most striking contrast to the Aryan”. This alternative translation has rather different, and less flattering, connotations, given that Hitler famously extolled Aryans as the master race. 


11 thoughts on “Hitler, Hicks, Nietzsche and Nazism

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