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The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich: Alfred Baeumler's 'Heroic Realism'

Author(s): Max Whyte


Source: Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 2008), pp. 171-194
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
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Journal of Contemporary History Copyright @ 2008 SAGE Publications, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi
and Singapore, Vol 43(2), 171-194. ISSN 0022-0094.
DOI: 10.1 177/0022009408089028

Max Whyte
The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the
Third Reich: Alfred Baeumler's 'Heroic
Realism'

The nazis, it has long been held, were not interested in ideas.' Arendt's i
ential thesis of the 'banality of evil' in the Third Reich has only recently
subjected to comprehensive criticism. New studies have revealed the perp
tors of National Socialism's crimes as ideologically driven activists, not
bureaucrats and pedantic penpushers.2 Though by no means the most ac
architects of nazi policy, few in the Third Reich were more self-consci
concerned with the 'idea' of National Socialism than its philosophers. An
held greater sway over their attempts to furnish nazi Germany with a
sophical raison d'etre than Friedrich Nietzsche.
Numerous German intellectuals considered Nietzsche the herald of the
'German awakening' and sought to locate his philosophy at the very core of
National Socialist ideology. The identification of Nietzsche as the prophet of
Hitlerism also spread beyond Germany through the polemical works of Anglo-
American and Marxist philosophers.3 Yet, in a process that began soon after
the war and has grown in strength ever since, Nietzsche has been rehabilitated
into the pantheon of great philosophers as an essentially benign thinker largely
concerned with the shaping of the self and the soul, while the 'nazified'
Nietzsche has been summarily dismissed as a crass and manipulative misinter-
pretation.4 As one commentator notes, 'perhaps no opinion in Nietzsche

1 H. Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York 1976), and also H. Mommsen, trans. P.
O'Connor, From Weimar to Auschwitz: Essays in Germany History (London 1991). I gratefully
acknowledge the financial support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain,
which made the research for this paper possible.
2 See, for example, U. Herbert, Best: Biographische Studien iiber Radikalismus, Weltan-
schauung und Vernunft, 1903-1989 [Best: Biographical Studies of Radicalism, Ideology, and
Reason] (Bonn 2001); Y. Lozowick, trans. H. Watzman, Hitler's Bureaucrats: The Nazi Security
Police and the Banality of Evil (London 2002); M.T. Allen, The Business of Genocide: The SS,
Slave Labor, and the Concentration Camps (Chapel Hill, NC, 2002); M. Wildt, Generation des
Unbedingten: das Fiihrungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes [Generation of the Unbound:
the Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office] (Hamburg 2002); and R. Bessel's review, 'Not
Only Obeying Orders', Times Literary Supplement, 24 January 2003.
3 C. Brinton, Nietzsche (New York 1941); B. Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (London
1946), chap. XXV; W.M. McGovern, From Luther to Hitler (Cambridge, MA, 1941); and G.
Lukics, trans. P. Palmer, The Destruction of Reason ([1955] London 1980), chap. III.
4 See most notably W. Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist ([1950]
Princeton 4th edn 1974) and A. Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature (Cambridge, MA, 1985).

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172 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

scholarship is now more widely accepted than that the nazis wer
and/or ignorant in their appropriation of Nietzsche'. 'Nietzsche',
summarizes, 'has in fact been de-nazified'.s
The claim that the National Socialists simply falsified the 'true
has spawned a certain interpretative myopia, a failure to eng
Nietzsche's concrete, historical role in the ideological apparatus o
regime. A comprehensive analysis of what Steven Aschheim calls the 'h
transmission belts'6 between Nietzsche and nazism is predicated on
examination of those philosophers who saw in his work both the a
and the justification of the new regime. Of supreme importance in th
was Alfred Baeumler: an established philosopher in Germany prior
rise to power, author of the influential Nietzsche: The Philos
Politician (1931)7 and Professor of Pedagogy and Politics in Berlin
to 1945. A close personal and professional ally of Alfred Rosenberg
proclaimed 'chief ideologist' of National Socialism - and the prim
between the universities and the so-called Amt Rosenberg,8 Baeu
closer to the centres of power in the Third Reich than any other p
His ideas, as Charles Bambach observes, constituted a 'kind of intel
philosophical nexus' within which National Socialist ideology develo
1930s.9
The appropriation of Nietzsche for the National Socialist cause was not
conducted solely within the academic realm, of course. Nietzsche reached a
popular audience in the Third Reich through a number of channels, from
Gottfried Benn's poetry10 to Joseph Goebbels' propaganda addresses, and the

Continental philosophers have contributed, in a very different way, to the image of the non-polit-
ical Nietzsche. For the likes of Deleuze and Foucault, Nietzsche's philosophy was more anarchic,
more mercurial, more postmodern. G. Deleuze, trans. H. Tomlinson, Nietzsche and Philosophy
(New York 1983) and M. Foucault, trans. D. Bouchard, 'Nietzsche, Genealogy, History', in
Language Countermemory, Practice (Ithaca 1977). German scholars, it should be noted, remain
far more reserved about labelling Nietzsche as the great liberator. See in particular J. Habermas,
trans. F. Lawrence, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge, MA, 1987) and B.
Taureck, Nietzsche und der Faschismus: Eine Studie iiber Nietzsches politische Philosophie und
ihre Folgen [Nietzsche and Fascism: A Study of Nietzsche's Political Philosophy and its
Consequences] (Hamburg 1989).
5 T.B. Strong, 'Nietzsche's Political Misappropriation', in B. Magnus and K.M. Higgins (eds), The
Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche (Cambridge 1996), 131, and K.R. Fischer, 'A Godfather too
Far', in J. Golomb and R.S. Wistrich (eds), Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? (Princeton 2002), 294.
6 S.E. Aschheim, 'Nietzsche, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust', in J. Golomb (ed.), Nietzsche
and Jewish Culture (London 1997), 6.
7 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker (Nietzsche: The Philosopher and
Politician) (Leipzig 1931).
8 Officially, the 'Office for the Surveillance of the Whole Intellectual and Ideological Education
and Training of the NSDAP [Amt fiir die Uberwachung der gesamten geistigen und weltan-
schaulichen Schulung und Erziehung der NSDAP]'.
9 C. Bambach, Heidegger's Roots: Nietzsche, National Socialism, and the Greeks (Ithaca 2003),
275.
10 See J. Wulf, Kultur im Dritten Reich, Band 2, Literatur und Dichtung: Eine Dokumentation
[Culture in the Third Reich, vol. 2, Literature and Poetry: A Documentation] (Frankfurt 1989), 131.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 173

field-grey military editions of his works published to inspire the German


soldiers during the second world war." Yet Baeumler, who consciously
fashioned himself as a public intellectual as well as a philosopher, also made a
considerable impact on the non-academic reception of Nietzsche. He wrote all
the afterwords to the extremely popular 'pocket editions' (Taschenausgaben)
of Nietzsche's works, published in 1930 by Alfred Kroner, and repeatedly
stressed Nietzsche's contemporary relevance in public speeches, radio broad-
casts, and articles for the main National Socialist newspaper, the Vilkischer
Beobachter.12
Despite his intellectual and biographical importance, Baeumler has been
largely ignored by intellectual historians, or else quickly dismissed as an oppor-
tunistic, 'ersatz' scholar. For Walter Kaufmann, 'philosophically, Biumler [sic]
was a nobody'. Carol Diethe characterized Baeumler as an academic charlatan,
who 'bent and twisted Nietzsche's thought on every page'; David Farrell Krell
found it 'pointless and unpleasant' to even discuss his work; and in what is the
most comprehensive and authoritative work on the subject to date, Jacob
Golomb dismissed Baeumler's 'notorious' and 'uncritical' interpretation of
Nietzsche as 'a kind of intellectual Siegfried', and suggested that despite
Nietzsche's radically anti-liberal and anti-humanist vision of progress, 'he
could have only despised and abhorred' the totalitarian regimes that invoked
his spirit.13
The real issue, however, is neither Nietzsche's 'personal responsibility' for
National Socialism, nor the 'actual' concordance between his philosophy and
National Socialist praxis. Trawling through Nietzsche's texts in order to prove
fascist or anti-fascist tendencies is otiose. There is enough variance in his
corpus of work to support either reading (and many others besides). The rela-
tionship between Nietzsche and National Socialism is better understood in
terms of what did happen, rather than what ought to have happened, and

11 In his infamous 'total war' speech at the Berlin Sportpalast on 18 February 1943, shortly after
the German defeat at Stalingrad, for example, Goebbels pronounced: 'As we so often have in the
past, so again shall we now bear the hardest burdens. And we shall once more justify the words of
the philosopher [Nietzsche]: "That which does not kill me makes me stronger"'. H. Heiber (ed.),
Goebbels-Reden [Goebbels' Speeches], vol. 2, 1939-1945 (Diisseldorf 1972), 168.
12 See, for example, A. Baeumler, 'Um Theologie und Wissenschaft. Zum Descartes-Kongre1W'
[On Theology and Scholarship. To the Descartes Congress], Voilkischer Beobachter, 30 July 1937,
1-2; A. Baeumler, 'Friedrich Nietzsche. Zu seinem 100. Geburtstag am 15. Oktober' [Friedrich
Nietzsche: On his 100th Birthday on 15 October], Volkischer Beobachter, 13 October 1944, 1-2;
'Deutsche Geistesgeschichte seit der Reformation. Vortrag von Professor Dr. Alfred Baeumler'
[German Intellectual History Since the Reformation. Speech by Alfred Baeumler], V61kischer
Beobachter, 1 October 1935, 5; and 'Eine Nietzsche-Revision. Zu einem Vortrag Prof. Baeumlers'
[A Revision of Nietzsche: On a Speech by Professor Baeumler], Volkischer Beobachter, 13 March
1945, 2.
13 W. Kaufmann's introduction to F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, ed. W. Kaufmann (New
York 1968), xiii; D.F. Krell's 'Analysis' of M. Heidegger, trans. D.F. Krell Nietzsche (4 vols, New
York 1979-87), IV, 270; C. Diethe, Nietzsche's Sister and the Will to Power: A Biography of
Elisabeth Firster-Nietzsche (Urbana and Chicago 2003), 156; and J. Golomb and R.S. Wistrich
(eds), Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?, op.cit., 42, 5, 14.

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174 Joumal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

certainly not in terms of Nietzsche's supposed approval or disapp


beyond the grave. However problematic, National Socialist approp
Nietzsche cannot be simply bypassed as instances of 'misinterpret
'nazified' Nietzsche has to be fully unpacked before it can be lef
Baeumler's elucidation of Nietzsche as the envoy of a new spirit of 'he
ism' served as a crucial counterpoint for the Nietzsche reception i
Reich. An analysis of its origins, content and impact affords an il
perspective on the darker side of Nietzsche's historical legacy.
A quadrilateral of roughly chronological themes will frame the
case study: identification, legitimization, indoctrination and conf
The identification of Nietzscheanism and National Socialism evolved from an
image of Nietzsche created by a generation of right-wing thinkers in the inter-
war period. Baeumler's Nietzsche: The Philosopher and Politician, which set
the tone for the politicization of Nietzsche during the 1930s and 1940s, had
several historical precedents and was extensively conditioned by the intellec-
tual trends of Weimar Germany. His intellectual endeavour to 'wrest Nietzsche
from the claws of the liberals'14 was seemingly vindicated by the triumph of
National Socialism in 1933. The 'German spring' further fuelled Nietzschean
enthusiasms, as the philosophers of the new Reich - and especially Baeumler
and Heidegger - sought to imbue the political upheavals with a deeper,
world-historical significance. Interpreted as a Nietzschean transvaluation, a
new beginning, 1933 marked the legitimization of the Nietzsche/National
Socialist synthesis. An attempt at indoctrination followed, in order to secure
firmly Nietzsche's reputation as a (proto-)nazi philosopher. Yet the effort to
place Nietzsche at the heart of National Socialist ideology did not go unchal-
lenged. On the contrary, resistance and confrontation from numerous quarters
provided ample nuance to the Nietzsche reception in the Third Reich.
Nietzsche was not co-opted by the nazis en masse - the 'polycratic chaos'
endemic to the political system also functioned at the level of ideology.
Baeumler's portrait of Nietzsche secured a dominant, but not totalizing
influence, and the cracks that spread across its surface adumbrated the ten-
sions at work in the uses (and abuses) of a philosopher who had always
stressed his aversion to 'believers'.
Alfred Baeumler was born in 1887 in Neustadt an der Tafel, then part of
Austria, and studied in Munich, Bonn and Berlin: first art history (inter alia
under Heinrich Wolfflin), and then philosophy and aesthetics. After fighting
for the Austrians in the first world war, he became a German citizen and con-
tinued his studies at the Technical University Dresden, where he became an
associate professor in 1928 and a full professor the following year. Baeumler's
academic career took off in turbulent times. The general crisis of ideology in
the Weimar Republic had brought about a pronounced politicization of philo-
sophy. For a generation of postwar thinkers, indeed, philosophy and politics

14 A. Baeumler, 'Lebenslauf' ('Resume'), 7 October 1934: Philosophisches Archiv der


Universitiit Konstanz, AB 019-03-01.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 175

were indistinguishable spheres of interest."s Baeumler's philosophical develop-


ment in the 1920s - from Kant's aesthetics, through Hegel, Kierkegaard and
Bachofen, to Nietzsche - paralleled an increasing commitment to the politics
of the radical Right. His Nietzsche interpretation marked the culmination of a
process of reciprocal philosophical and political exchange: not only did
Baeumler make Nietzsche serviceable for National Socialism; Nietzsche made
Baeumler more susceptible to the National Socialist alternative.
The politicization of Nietzsche was nothing new, however. As early as the
1870s, Nietzsche was being read in distinctly political terms by the 'Perner-
storfer Circle': a group of Viennese students led by Engelbert Pernerstorfer,
including Gustav Mahler, Victor Adler and the historian Heinrich Friedjung.'6
Nietzsche's prognosis of European degeneracy, and his parallel demand for a
re-evaluation of the stifling morality of the herd, appealed to all who perceived
the roots of spiritual decline in the liberal, bourgeois structures of modernity.
Individual isolation, social disintegration and cultural decline became leit-
motifs of fin-de-siecle art, philosophy and literature. In Germany, as abroad,
the Great War was greeted as a world-historic turning point.17 For the massed
legions of the middle classes at least, the surge of national unity, combined
with the idea of cultural, social and political rebirth, appeared to furnish the
modern world with meaning and purpose.'8 From the outset of the war,
Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche sought to popularize her brother as a German
nationalist and posthumous comrade in arms:

If ever there was a friend of war, who loved warriors and those who struggle, and placed his
highest hopes on them, then it was Friedrich Nietzsche. 'My brothers in War! I love you com-
pletely, I am and I was one of your kind'. That is why so many young heroes are marching
into enemy territory with Zarathustra in their pocket. My brother could never sufficiently
stress the purifying, uplifting and sublime effect of war, and as I have already mentioned,
he received one of his deepest philosophical insights precisely during the period of his war
experience."9

15 See K. Sontheimer, Antidemokratisches Denken in der Weimarer Republik: die politischen


Ideen des deutschen Nationalismus zwischen 1918 und 1933 [Anti-Democratic Thinking in the
Weimar Republic: The Political Ideas of German Nationalism between 1918 and 1933] (Munich
1962) and J. Herf, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the
Third Reich (Cambridge 1984).
16 See W.J. McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria (New Haven 1974),
53-83.

17 See R.N. Stromberg, Redemption by War: The Intellectuals and 1914 (Lawrence, KS, 1982)
and R. Wohl, The Generation of 1914 (London 1980).
18 The working-class youth, it should be stressed, was rather less willing to view the outbreak
of war as a moment of 'spiritual renewal'.
19 E. Forster-Nietzsche, 'Nietzsche und der Krieg', Der Tag, 10 September 1914, 9, reprinted in
Hamburgischer Correspondent, 15 September 1914, 2, cited in C. Diethe, Nietzsche's Sister and
the Will to Power, op. cit., 138. The portrait of Nietzsche as a bellicose German nationalist was
also prominent in British political propaganda. See N. Martin, 'Nietzsche as Hate-Figure in
Britain's Great War: "The Execrable Neech"', in F. Bridgham (ed.), The First World War as
Clash of Cultures (Rochester, NY, 2006), 147-66. Elisabeth and the staff at the Nietzsche Archive
held Baeumler in high regard as the chief protagonist in securing Nietzsche's legacy for the political

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176 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

Prior to 1914, Nietzscheanism had been a primarily left-wing ph


In 1892, Franz Mehring - the leader of the SPD - suggested that N
disdain for the world of the bourgeoisie might allow his work to be co
a 'moment of passage to socialism'.20 Through the course of the G
however, the politics of the Nietzschebild were transformed. Recon
an essentially Germanic figure, Nietzsche soon became a hero for
Thomas Mann, writing in 1918, captured the spirit of this enkin
colossal manliness of [Nietzsche's] soul, his antifeminism, his opp
democracy - what could be more German?'21 Mann's favourab
towards Nietzsche had been shaped by the publication earlier tha
Ernst Bertram's Nietzsche: Attempt at Mythology.22 An affiliate of th
Circle, Bertram taught in Bonn before becoming the professor o
language and literature in Cologne in 1922. His Nietzsche tex
immediate and extensive impact in Germany, and was reprinted
seven times before 1929. Its success stemmed from a highly stylized a
treatment of the eponymous subject. Guided by the dictum 'gre
inevitably our creation, just as we are theirs', Bertram removed Nietzs
all contextual manacles in order to recast the 'legend of a man'.23 In N
own life - replete with tensions, contradictions and tragedy - he
underlying essence of German culture. In Nietzsche's 'saving will
instincts' he found inspiration for a new German Reich - the st
expose a 'secret Germany'. The mythologized Nietzsche was prese
Germanic, Diirerean knight, unswervingly pursuing the Holy Grail of
salvation. Elevated to the status of a mythical prophet, Nietzsche came
bolize 'the lightening breakthrough of the self-knowledge of the V
moment of its greatest inner danger'.24

Right. After the National Socialists seized power in 1933, Elisabeth invited him to
worker at the Archive. Baeumler declined on account of his university commitments,
ing: 'I will not cease to serve the great cause of Friedrich Nietzsche with all my power
A. Baeumler to E. F6rster-Nietzsche, 22 May 1933: Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv, W
144.
20 Cited in M. Warren, 'Nietzsche and Political Philosophy', Political Theory 12(2) (May 1985),
210, n. 7. For more on Nietzsche's influence on fin-de-siecle politics, see R. Hinton Thomas,
Nietzsche in German Politics and Society, 1890-1918 (Manchester 1983).
21 T. Mann, trans. W.D. Morris, Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, ([1918] New York 1983),
57.
22 E. Bertram, Nietzsche: Versuch einer Mythologie [Nietzsche: Attempt at a Mythology],
([1918] 7th edn Bonn 1929). Mann and Bertram's close friendship deteriorated around 1927 as
Bertram embraced National Socialism while Mann belatedly but steadfastly endorsed the Weimar
democracy, a shift precipitated by the assassination of Walter Rathenau in 1922. On the relation-
ship between the two men and their initially similar, but ultimately divergent, appreciation of
Nietzsche, see M.A. Ruehl, 'A Master from Germany: Thomas Mann and the Faustian Charm of
Albrecht Diirer's Ritter, Tod und Teufel", in R. Gorner (ed.), Images and Words. Literary
Representations of Pictorial Themes (Munich 2005), 11-65.
23 E. Bertram, Nietzsche, op. cit., 2.
24 Ibid., 79. The identification of the Germanic hero with the knight in Albrecht Diirer's 'Ritter,
Tod und Teufel' had been popularized in Willibald Hentschel's Varuna, das Gesetz des auf

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 177

Baeumler's Nietzsche: The Philosopher and Politician was conceived as a


philosophical response to Bertram's heroic biography.25 In a letter to Dr.
Arthur Hiibscher (the then President of the Schopenhauer-Gesellschaft) from
1949, Baeumler made explicit that 'the immediate psychological preconditions
of my [Nietzsche] book lay in a vividly felt disaccord with Ernst Bertram's
lyricization of Nietzsche and in my concern with the Greeks'.26 Baeumler
annexed Bertram's v6lkisch and 'Germanified' characterization of Nietzsche,
but sought to delineate the coherent philosophical system behind the legend.
Crucially, the violent dynamism of German tragic culture was not to be identi-
fied - la Bertram - with the Dionysian spirit of music, but with heroism,
self-overcoming and martial ideals. Bertram's attempted mythologization of
Nietzsche only obscured the realist essence of his philosophy:

The book by Ernst Bertram ... shows us a Nietzsche that does not start out from the Will to
Power ... The fundamentally Greek character of his philosophy is entirely misunderstood,
and his malleable concept of justice distorted into a Christian and dialectical non-concept
[Unbegriff].27

Baeumler's identification of an objective Nietzschean system marked a break


not only with Bertram, but also with his own earlier (and rather less adulatory)
reflections on Nietzsche. In his 1926 introduction to a selection of Bachofen's
works, for example, he pinpointed the excessive subjectivity in Nietzsche's
account of the birth of tragedy as the root of its ultimate incoherence:

A simple reflection demonstrates the impossibility of tragedy's development out of Dionysian


enthusiasm. The delight with which the dancer feels himself transformed into the god is the
climax of the Dionysian orgy. As a climax, however, this inner process is also an end. It is
entirely unclear how an objective structure could arise out of ecstasy, a subjective process in
the participant that will always remain subjective. The enthusiastic experience itself lacks not
only any moment of form but also any point of departure for a formative force. The ecstatic-

steigenden und sinkenden Lebens in der Volkergeschichte [Varuna: The Law of Ascending and
Descending Life in the History of the Nations], ([1907] Leipzig 4th edn 1924-25). Both Bertram
and Mann drew attention to Nietzsche's love for Durer's etching: see Bertram's chapter 'Ritter,
Tod und Teufel', in Nietzsche, 42-63, and Mann's Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, 399. In his
Ritter, Tod und Teufel: Der heldische Gedanke [Knight, Death and the Devil: The Heroic Idea]
(Munich 1924), Hans Giinther - later to become the chief racial theorist of the Third Reich -
stressed the volkisch characteristics of the knight: heroism, loyalty, honesty and, crucially, racial
purity. References from G.L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the
Third Reich (New York 1964), 205-9.
25 Thomas Mann had recommended Nietzsche: Attempt at Mythology as 'truly charming'
(wahrhaft liebenswert) to Baeumler over a decade before the publication of Nietzsche: The
Philosopher and Politician. T. Mann to A. Baeumler, 7 March 1920: cited in M. Baeumler, H.
Bruntrager and H. Kurzke (eds), Thomas Mann und Alfred Baeumler: Eine Dokumentation
[Thomas Mann and Alfred Baeumler: A Documentation] (Wiirzburg 1989), 92.
26 A. Baeumler to Dr. Arthur Hiibscher, 8 November 1949: document obtained by the author
from Marianne Baeumler (the original copy lies in the archive of the Schopenhauer-Gesellschaft in
Frankfurt).
27 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, op. cit., 78-9.

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178 Joumal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

ally enraptured character who has felt the presence of god sinks in the end ex
ground. His experience has a clearly limited trajectory, and nothing points bey
process.28

By the end of the decade, however, doubts concerning the Nietzschean


'lonely subject'29 had evaporated. Ernst Niekisch, the founder of German
National Bolshevism, reported that by 1927 Baeumler was in the process of
'switching allegiances from Bachofen to Nietzsche' and that he 'absolutely
considered himself the heroic philosopher'.30 Baeumler's reinterpretation of
Nietzsche synthesized his philosophical and political ambitions; it flattered his
own 'heroic' pretensions, and informed and encouraged his growing fascist
affinities. It was after all Nietzsche, 'the philosopher of activism', who had
opposed the Christian proscription of the political sphere. Genuine philo-
sophical work resulted 'not from the desire to display, not from the acknow-
ledgement of "extramundane" values, but from practice, from the ever
repeated deed'.31 Politics, so it seemed, was destiny. Baeumler joined Alfred
Rosenberg's Fighting League for German Culture (Kampfbund fiir deutsche
Kultur) in 1929.32 The following year he heard Hitler speak in Dresden and
from then on 'set' himself 'in the service of the movement'.33 Having already
met the Fiihrer for an hour-long interview in the Brown House in Munich in
early 1931, he received an invitation to lecture to the Saxony SA in May. While
taking part in a 'night exercise' before the talk, Baeumler and the SA men were
attacked by a 'strong Communist gang'. In his own words, 'a number of SA-
Men were wounded: a thrown brick shattered a bone in the middle of my left
hand. After that, I sent my recently published Nietzsche book to Hitler with a
dedication'.34 Forged in the violence, the identification of Nietzsche and
National Socialism, in Baeumler's mind at least, was complete.
Nietzsche: The Philosopher and Politician was a direct attempt to politicize
Nietzsche in the service of the radical Right (the liberal Berliner Tageblatt

28 A. Baeumler, 'Einleitung: Bachofen, der Mythologe der Romantik' [Introduction: Bachofen,


the Mythologist of Romanticism], in J.J. Bachofen, Der Mythus von Orient und Occident, ed. M.
Schr6ter (Munich 1926), lxxii. Baeumler's introduction was later reprinted as a single monograph,
entitled Das mythische Weltalter (Munich 1965).
29 A. Baeumler, 'Einleitung', op. cit., ccxlii.
30 Ernst Niekisch, Gewagtes Leben. Begegnungen und Begebnisse [Harzardous Life. Encounters
and Events] (Cologne 1958), 252.
31 A. Baeumler, 'Nietzsche und der Nationalsozialismus' [Nietzsche and National Socialism], in
his Studien zur deutschen Geistesgeschichte [Study of German Intellectual History] (Berlin 1937),
283-5.
32 For more on the Kampfbund, see A. Steinweis, 'Weimar Culture and the Rise of National
Socialism: The Kampfbund fir deutsche Kultur', Central European History 24(4) (1991), 402-23;
R. Bollmus, Das Amt Rosenberg und seine Gegner [The Amt Rosenberg and its Enemies], (Munich
2nd edn 2006), 27-53; and E. Piper, Alfred Rosenberg: Hitlers Chefideologe [Alfred Rosenberg:
Hitler's Chief Ideologue] (Munich 2005), 259-75.
33 A. Baeumler, 'Lebenslauf', 7 October 1934: Philosophisches Archiv der Universitiit
34 A. Baeumler, 'Daten im politischen Werdegang des Prof. Baeumlers' [Dates in the Political
Development of Prof. Baeumler], undated, ca. 1934: Bundesarchiv, Berlin-Zehlendorf, NS 8/ 136
Konstanz, AB 019-03-01.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 179

rather appositely reported its appearance under the headline 'Nietzsche as


Fascist').3S In parallel to this publication, however, Baeumler worked exten-
sively as an editor of Nietzsche's texts - thereby exerting a more oblique
influence on the Nietzsche reception in the 1930s. The exclusive copyright held
by Elisabeth F6rster-Nietzsche and the Nietzsche Archive on Nietzsche's
writings expired on 31 December 1930, enabling private publishers to produce
new and affordable editions. Baeumler was commissioned to write the after-
words to the 1930 Kroner edition of Nietzsche's main text (which continued to
be published after 1945 in an unaltered form) and to edit Reclam's 1931 four-
volume Nietzsche Ausgabe.36 He seized on both opportunities to advance his
interpretation of Nietzsche as the monolithic philosopher of heroic realism.
His didactic proclivities did not go unnoticed, however. The Reclam com-
pendium, in particular, incurred the ire of the influential Nietzsche scholar,
literary critic and Bavarian schoolmaster Josef Hofmiller.37 In a vitriolic article
in his journal, the Siiddeutsche Monatshefte, Hofmiller decried the fact that
Baeumler's Nietzsche: The Philosopher and Politician (included in the fourth
volume) and Karl Hecker's biography of Nietzsche (included in volume one)
together took up 435 pages, whilst the works of Nietzsche's middle period -
most notably Human, All-too-Human, Daybreak and The Gay Science - had
been largely effaced. Speculating that a 'poorer construction [of Nietzsche's
work] was unthinkable', he inveighed against the editor's attempt to create a
'rigid and systematic Nietzsche'38 - 'for this system is not the system of
Nietzsche, but the system of Baeumler'.39
Baeumler retorted that an 'understanding for Nietzsche the systematizer'
could no longer be 'shrugged off with a few remarks'. The mark of a philoso-
pher was producing a system, and Nietzsche 'had left behind a closed system,
no smaller or less significant than that of Leibniz'. Nietzsche's literary talents,
according to Baeumler, paled into insignificance compared to this philosophi-
cal achievement:

Once Nietzsche the philosopher has become visible, Nietzsche the writer [Schriftsteller], the
'free-spirit', aphorist and moralist, necessarily recedes into the background.40

35 See A. Baeumler, 'Ausziige aus "Mein Weg als Schriftsteller", 1957' [Excerpts from "My Path
as a Writer", 1957], in M. Baeumler et al., Thomas Mann und Alfred Baeumler, op. cit., 250.
36 Nietzsche Werke. Auswahl in vier Biinden [Selected Works of Nietzsche in Four Volumes]
(Leipzig 1931).
37 The following account of the dispute between Hofmiller and Baeumler draws extensively on
D.M. Hoffmann, Zur Geschichte des Nietzsche-Archivs: Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, Fritz Koegel,
Rudolf Steiner, Gustav Naumann, Josef Hofmiller: Chronik, Studien und Dokumente [On the
History of the Nietzsche Archive: Elisabeth F6rster-Nietzsche, Fritz Koegel, Rudolf Steiner, Gustav
Naumann, Josef Hofmiller: Chronicle, Studies, Documents] (Berlin 1991), 106f.
38 J. Hofmiller, 'Neuerscheinungen' [New Publications], Siiddeutsche Monatshefte, May 1931,
608.

39 J. Hofmiller, 'Nietzsche bei Reclam' [Nietzsche by Reclam], Siiddeutsche Monatshefte, July


1931, 759.
40 A. Baeumler, 'Nietzsche - Schriftsteller oder Philosoph' [Nietzsche: Writer or Philosopher],
Siiddeutsche Monatshefte, June 1931, 686.

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180 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

There can be no doubt, however, that Baeumler deliberately omi


writings from Nietzsche's 'free spirit' phase in order to conceal the am
and perspectivism that lurked therein. The Nietzschean system th
claimed in Nietzsche: The Philosopher and Politician was instead d
The Will to Power, the posthumous collection of Nietzsche's fragm
the years 1883-88 compiled under the auspices of Elisabeth F6rster
For Baeumler, Nietzsche's published works displayed 'many differ
making it 'difficult, though not impossible, to see the unity of the life
Only the Nachlass, Nietzsche's 'philosophical magnum opus', syst
revealed the unity of his creative output and the 'fundamental res
thought'.42
First published in 1901, The Will to Power was expanded from 483 to 1067
aphorisms in the second edition of 1906. Guided by a right-wing, nationalist
agenda, Elisabeth had sought to create an orderly Nietzschean masterpiece. In
practice, a fraction of notes was selected, often revised, and forced into a
framework that had long since been abandoned by Nietzsche. The Will to
Power presented a doctrinal, indurate Nietzsche, whose theories of the fiber-
mensch, the will to power and eternal recurrence took on an ontological
significance that overshadowed the intricacies, nuances and ambivalences of
his early-published works. That said, The Will to Power cannot be dismissed
as sheer apocrypha. Towards the end of his life, Nietzsche became aware of an
increasing divergence between his thought and the medium of publication: 'my
philosophy, if that is what I am entitled to call what torments me down to the
roots of my nature, is no longer communicable, at least not in print'.
Transposing ideas into notes, which Nietzsche did assiduously, seemed at least
'less impossible'.43 Baeumler was certainly not alone in championing The Will
to Power as the decisive Nietzschean text. Heidegger, too, insisted that what
Nietzsche published during his lifetime was 'always a foreground' and that 'his
philosophy proper was left behind as posthumous, unpublished work'.44
From the reams of the Nachlass, Baeumler teased out a concise but wide-
ranging political philosophy. The political perspective, he argued, provided a
crucial Archimedean point and 'the key to understanding all of Nietzsche's
concrete demands and goals'.45 Baeumler interpreted the thesis of the will to
power in the most literal and militaristic terms as a doctrinal truth, founded on
a Heraclitean metaphysics of agonistic becoming. It formed the centre of
Nietzsche's system of thought, the 'productive middle point that conditions
and supports the particulars'.46 In order to establish the will to power as the

41 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, op. cit., 7.


42 Baeumler's introductory lines to his 'Nachwort' to F. Nietzsche, Der Wille Zur Macht:
Versuch einer Umwertung aller Werte [The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of all Values]
(Leipzig 1930), 609.
43 F. Nietzsche to Franz Overbeck, 2 July 1885: cited in F. Nietzsche, Writings from the Late
Notebook (Cambridge 2003), x.
44 M. Heidegger, Nietzsche, I, 9.
45 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, op. cit., 88.
46 A. Baeumler, 'Nachwort' to F. Nietzsche, Der Wille Zur Macht, op. cit., 699.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 181

vital core of Nietzsche's philosophy, Baeumler ousted the theory of eternal


recurrence and downplayed the significance of the Dionysian. The former, in
particular, appeared to abolish the possibility of action altogether by chaining
the will to a predetermined past and future. It constituted an 'erratic boulder'47
to Baeumler's system - one easier to roll aside than to accommodate: 'in terms
of Nietzsche's system, this thought [of the eternal recurrence of the same] is of
no consequence. It has no connection to the thought of the will to power and
indeed, when thought through to its ends, it bursts asunder the coherence of
the philosophy of the will to power'.48
Baeumler preferred to call 'the image of the world that Nietzsche envisioned
Heraclitean rather than Dionysian. Heraclitus from Ephesus - from whom
originated the words: "war is the father of all things" - was the thinker whom
Nietzsche regarded as his essential next-of-kin [Urverwandter] and whom he
most admired throughout his life'. The endlessly evolving world was one of
'becoming', of 'struggle and conquest'.49 Peace and stability were necessarily
ephemeral. All human greatness and achievement stemmed from a primordial
state of conflict. To perceive the world and human beings in this way was 'to
see them as they are: unexhausted and inexhaustible, creating and bringing
forth out of the depths of the unknown, producing figures that come out of the
mixing jug of existence according to a law of eternal justice, figures that fight
one another, maintain themselves in the struggle or go under. If one wants a
formula for this world-view, one may call it heroic realism'."0
From this most basic struggle there arose an 'eternal justice', a natural hier-
archy of power. Enmity, culminating in war, was not merely an unfortunate
contingency of life but its very essence. No overarching, rational telos governed
human existence; only the dynamics of struggle, conquest, self-enhancement
and annihilation. For Baeumler, Nietzsche's deconstruction of transcendental
values rendered traditional models of political and ethical organization obso-
lete. He was the great political theorist of the post-liberal era: 'in the place
of bourgeois moral philosophy, Nietzsche puts the philosophy of the will to
power, i.e. the philosophy of politics'.51 The spiritual decline of the West,
according to Baeumler, stemmed from mistaken assumptions about the nature
of man - errors arising from the Enlightenment tradition and ultimately trace-
able to Christian morality. Nietzsche had shattered these illusions in the most
uncompromising fashion. Democracy, liberalism, humanism and pacifism were
superficial perversions of a natural order of rank (Rangordnung) produced
through struggle. Critically, Baeumler urged, the Nietzschean agon was to be
interpreted as a conflict between groups, races and peoples. As an explicit

47 K. L6with's Appendix to his Nietzsche's Philosophy of Eternal Recurrence of the Same


(Berkeley 1997), 210-14. The Appendix was proscribed during the Third Reich, the critique of
Baeumler therein being deemed 'intolerable' and 'unwelcome'. See Ibid., 257, n. 21.
48 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, op. cit., 80.
49 Ibid., 80, 15.
50 Ibid., 15.
51 A. Baeumler, 'Nietzsche und der Nationalsozialismus', op. cit., 292.

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182 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

attempt to overcome the fetters of individualism, Nietzsche's 'gre


was driven by the feeling of power 'which, from time to time, burst f
unvanquishable sources not only in the soul of the individual but
lower classes [niedere Schichten] of the Volk'.52 Baeumler, along w
National Socialist theorists such as Ernst Horneffer and Kurt Hildebra
transformed Nietzschean philosophy into a collective politics, anch
struggle for dominance between opposing cultural world-views.13
The concept of agonistic politics, from which the victors emerged st
ened and revitalized, was central to the self-perception of th
Socialists. The primordial struggle for existence permitted no
dialogue, compromise, diplomacy, or negotiation in the sphere of
Goebbels pronounced in one of his election speeches:

He who throws the dice for a prize also has to dare a wager, hence we have made
words come true: 'Have the courage to live dangerously.' Obviously major project
carried out as long as dozens of parties get under one's feet. These parties don't m
they only make a fuss. Today one man speaks for the Reich, and his voice echoes
of 66 million people.54

Led by the Fuhrer and inspired by Nietzsche, the challenge facing the
could not be clearer. 'World-historically, Germany can only exist i
of greatness. It has only this one choice: either to be the anti-Roman p
Europe, or to be nothing'."5 The unique characteristics of the Germ
bestowed upon it a historical mission. 'The old task of our race r
before Nietzsche's eyes: the task to be leaders of Europe'.16

52 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, op. cit., 171-2. Baeumler
without acknowledgement, to Nietzsche's reflections 'On Great Politics', in Dayb
S 189. Nietzsche's comments on the 'lower classes' are less than flattering in their ori
which continues: 'There comes again and again the hour when the masses are ready t
life, their goods, their conscience, their virtue so as to acquire that higher enjoymen
torious, capriciously tyrannical nation to rule over other nations (or to think it rule
impulse to squander, sacrifice, hope, trust, to be over-daring and to fantasize spring
abundance that the ambitious or prudently calculating prince can let loose a war
crimes in the good conscience of the people.'
53 Cf. K. Hildebrandt, 'Die Idee des Krieges bei Goethe, H1olderlin, Nietzsche' [Th
in Goethe, H1olderlin, Nietzsche], in A. Faust (ed.), Das Bild des Krieges im deutschen
Image of War in German Thought], vol. 1 (Stuttgart and Berlin 1941), 406-7;
Nietzsche als Vorbote der Gegenwart [Nietzsche as Herald of the Present] (Diisseld
54 J. Goebbels, cited in K. L6with, trans. E. King, My Life in Germany Before an
A Report (London 1994), 148.
55 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, op. cit., 183. The Nietzsc
dichotomy between 'German' and 'Roman' existence, previously popularized by B
Stefan George, became a leitmotif of nazi philosophy. Roman culture, in contra
German primordial authenticity, was derided in the Third Reich as 'rootless' (Heideg
ficial' (Baeumler), 'barbarian' (Richard Oehler), Christian (Heinrich Hirtle) an
miscegenation (Kurt Hildebrandt, who talked of the Roman 'Negrification of th
survey of this rhetorical Kulturkampf, see C. Bambach, Heidegger's Roots, op. cit., 3
56 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, op. cit., 182.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 183

This conclusion had little to do with Nietzsche, and everything to do with


Baeumler's own political prejudices. His reading of Nietzsche nevertheless
resonated with the times. Baeumler was not alone among German philo-
sophers in the early 1930s to invoke Nietzsche as a counterforce to the fetters
of Western 'civilization'. Of particular note in this respect - not least because
of his status as the rising star of German philosophy - was Martin Heidegger.
Though obscured by his later attempts at 'self-choreography and autoexegeti-
cal purgation',"5 Heidegger's initial support for the 'German Revolution' was
also framed in explicitly Nietzschean terms. His postwar assertions that the
Nietzsche lectures, delivered from 1936 to 1941 (though not published until
1961 and then in a significantly revised form), were an integral part of a politi-
cal/philosophical re-evaluation and constituted a confrontation (Auseinander-
setzung) with National Socialism, tell only half the story.58 It was not until
around 1940 that Heidegger came to comprehend both Nietzsche's philosophy
and Hitler's politics (in contrast to his own 'private National Socialism') as
paradigmatic expressions of Western nihilism. In the preceding decade, a
political reading of Nietzsche and a Nietzschean grasp of politics had provided
Heidegger with a philosophical explanation and vindication of nazism.
Having become acquainted in the late 1920s, Baeumler and Heidegger were
on good terms at the time of the National Socialist seizure of power. Heidegger
had been impressed by Baeumler's Bachofen introduction, which he recom-
mended to his friend Elisabeth Blochmann.s9 For his part, Baeumler considered
Heidegger 'the most important German philosopher since Dilthey' and opined
that Being and Time had ushered in a 'new chapter of German philosophical
thought'.60 Shared esteem seems to have formed the basis of a genuine, if short-
lived friendship. In a letter to Walter Eberhardt from 1928, Baeumler
expressed surprise that 'Heidegger has spontaneously written to me requesting
my curriculum vitae - he wants to bring me on board by proposing me as
his successor [at Marburg].'61 Nothing was to come of this, though Baeumler
invited Heidegger to lecture in Dresden in 1928 and again in 1932. Philo-
sophical discussions were conducted while hiking in the B6hmerwald near
Dresden and the Black Forest around Heidegger's Todtnauberg cabin.
We can only speculate about what the two men discussed during these
get-togethers, but - given their interests at the time - Nietzsche would have
been a likely topic of conversation. That they concurred on Nietzsche's

57 C. Bambach, Heidegger's Roots, op. cit., 323.


58 Cf. Heidegger's interview with Der Spiegel in 1966: 'In 1936, I began the Nietzsche lectures.
Anyone with ears to hear heard in these lectures a confrontation with National Socialism.' M.
Heidegger, trans. M.P. Alter and J.D. Caputo, 'Only a God Can Save Us Now', in M. Stassen (ed.),
Martin Heidegger: Philosophical and Political Writings (New York 2003), 33.
59 See J. Storck (ed.), Martin Heidegger-Elisabeth Blockmann Briefwechsel, 1918-1969
(Marburg 1990), 50.
60 A. Baeumler, 'Gutachten iiber Martin Heidegger' [Advisory Opinion of Martin Heidegger],
22 September 1933: Institut fiir Zeitgeschichte, Munich, ED-318, Mappe 19.
61 A. Baeumler to W. Eberhardt, 17 May 1928: cited in M. Baeumler et al., Thomas Mann und
Alfred Baeumler, op. cit., 242-3, n. 9.

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184 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

contemporary relevance can be established independently in any c


both, Nietzsche had not only exposed the nihilistic, hollow and de
structures of modern society, but also brought forth an alternative mo
rediscovery of the Ancient Greeks. Nietzsche's celebration of the he
rational and agonistic aspects of Greek life dovetailed smoot
Heidegger's narrative of philosophy as aletheia,62 his reformulation of
a violent confrontation with Being and his fascination with the Gre
ning. 'The beginning is the strongest and mightiest. What comes aft
not development but the levelling that results from spreading out; it is
to retain the beginning; the beginning is emasculated and exagger
Nowhere was this process of levelling out more visible, for Heidegge
Weimar Germany: politically and militarily impotent, socially ret
the inauthentic structures of das Man and culturally threatened by
contamination'.64
Like Baeumler, Heidegger embraced the National Socialist seizure of power
as a historical caesura and a 'revolutionary awakening' (Aufbruch) - a chance
to recover and harness the potency of the Greek beginning in the service of a
new German future. His rectorial address, 'The Self-Assertion of the German
University',6s though containing only one explicit reference to Nietzsche, was
saturated with Nietzschean terminology: strength, danger, struggle, will, over-
coming, self-assertion and destiny. These goals, explicitly summarized by
Baeumler as 'heroic realism', were the leitmotifs of Heidegger's interpretation
of the 'German revolution' and set the tone of his political enthusiasm for the
following years. Commencing his Nietzsche course in the winter semester of
1936-37, Heidegger continued to view the political situation as a reflex and
response to Nietzsche's thought: 'Europe still wants to cling to "democracy"
and does not want to see that this would constitute its historical death. For
democracy is, as Nietzsche clearly saw, only a degenerate form of nihilism ...
The phrase "God is dead" is not an atheistic proclamation but a formula for
the fundamental experience of an event in the history of the West. I deliber-
ately appropriated this phrase in my rectorial address of 1933'.66
Baeumler shared Heidegger's conviction that Nietzsche's return to the
ancient Greeks and the concept of the agon represented 'a turning back
towards real possibilities in our own [German] nature'.67 For Heidegger, the
identification of the Germans as Urvolk ('archaic people') - a characteristic

62 Traditionally translated as 'truth', for Heidegger aletheia had the more primordial meaning
of 'unconcealment' (Unverborgenheit).
63 M. Heidegger, trans. R. Manheim, An Introduction to Metaphysics (Yale University Press
1987), 62.
64 M. Heidegger to V. Schwoerer, 2 October 1929: cited in M. Stassen (ed.), Martin Heidegger:
Philosophical and Political Writings, op. cit., 1.
65 M. Heidegger, 'The-Self Assertion of the German University', reprinted in ibid., 2-11.
66 M Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 43, Nietzsche: Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst (Frankfurt
am Main 1985), 193.
67 A. Baeumler, 'Nietzsche und der Nationalsozialismus', 250.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 185

shared only by the ancient-Greeks - was rooted in language affinities. For


Baeumler, it was 'the common veneration of manly, youthful enthusiasm that
has led [the Germans] back to the Greeks through Winckelmann and
Nietzsche'.68 Either way, the existence of a Greco-German kinship circum-
scribed a model for the 'new man', an iibermenschlich countertype to the
modern, bourgeois individual.
While the synthesis of Nietzschean thought with National Socialist politics
seemed to be proceeding smoothly, significant obstacles continued to impede
the attempted Gleichschaltung. Nietzsche's comments on heroism in the
godless age, the will to power, and an ethical stance beyond good and evil
could easily be given a fascist slant. His overwhelmingly critical attitude
towards nationalism in general, and German nationalism in particular, was
harder to reconcile with the nazi world-view. Convinced that Nietzsche's
'protesting spirit' made him a quintessentially German figure, Baeumler would
often cite nazi commentaries on Nordic sagas and add in passing: 'these words
could have been spoken by Nietzsche', or, 'this sounds as though it came from
the Genealogy of Morals'.69 Despite such spurious exegesis, Nietzsche's anti-
German remarks were not totally incompatible with the National Socialist
Weltanschauung. Baeumler insisted that Nietzsche's anger was directed not
against the German nation as such, but specifically against Bismarck's Reich.
Nietzsche's concept of grosse Politik was a radical protest against the parlia-
mentarianism, cultural atomism and kulturprotestantisch ethos of Bismarck's
kleindeutsch empire, and contained the promise of a new age of trans-
European politics to replace the marasmus femininus (feminine withering) of
the German spirit.70 In retrospect, his hostility to the culture of the Second
Reich aligned him even closer to the spirit of the Third. Nietzsche, that is, had
become understandable only through and from within the National Socialist
movement.

Baeumler's reading of Nietzsche also underpinned his suppor


Socialist race theory. In the godless, post-humanist age
Nietzsche, only the 'historical realities' of 'blood', Volk and the
a binding force on the individual.71 The fiction of a generalize
given way to the essential truth of the race-struggle. Baeumler
dictable antisemitic conclusions from this proposition. 'The Je
lacked 'formative powers' and had become productive in Germ
history 'only as a parasite'.72 Speaking to fellow nazi philosoph

68 A. Baeumler, Miinnerbund und Wissenschaft (Berlin 1934), 147.


69 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, 94, 95.
70 F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, S 125.
71 A. Baeumler, Alfred Rosenberg und der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts [Alf
the Myth of the Twentieth Century] (Munich 1943), 70.
72 Ibid., 47; A. Baeumler, 'Karl Marx: Der Jude in der deutschen Geistesgesch
The Jew in German Intellectual History], in Weltkampf: Die Judenfrage
Gegenwart [World Struggle: The Jewish Question in History and the Presen
1944), 68.

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186 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

ence in March 1939, he bemoaned the 'decline in values from the Ar


Jew'. Nietzsche was presented as a saviour in the 'struggle of life a
against the Jews', for it was he who had first 'uncovered the ressentim
Jews, which stems from the glorification of suffering'.73 Baeumler's in
of an all-or-nothing struggle against the Jews echoed Hitler's
'prophecy' of the 'annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe', made i
to the Reichstag only six weeks earlier.7' A conference minute recor
his name, 'the evaluation of the challenge of the Fiihrer to J
Wiirdigung der Kampfansage des Fiihrers gegen Juden], suggests that t
sion was intended.75
How these racist imperatives were to be reconciled with Nietzsc
criticism of German antisemites was a thorny issue.76 The attempt
theorists to deal with Nietzsche's praise of the Jews tended more to
absurd than the ingenious. Baeumler suggested that Nietzsche's appa
anti-Semitism', like his regard for the French, was a foil - intended to
size his animosity towards Bismarck's Germany and to implor
generations of Germans to fulfil their world-historical potential.77
Oehler's interpretation that Nietzsche's pro-Jewish comments were
device to attract attention from a German audience displayed a sim
ference towards the plausible.78 In spite of the obvious lacunae, omi
contradictions, however, Nietzsche was championed in the Third
powerful pioneer of race culture by the likes of Hans Giinther, Heinric
and the legal theorist Kurt Kassler. Nietzsche's frequent discussions
ing, his critique of humanism, and his demand that a biological ethi
theological/moral one were frequently portrayed as justifications o
tional racism. As Baeumler summarized:

Here we encounter the basic contradiction: whether one proceeds from a natural life context
or from an equality of individual souls before God. Ultimately the idea of democratic equal-
ity rests upon the latter assumption. The former contains the foundation of a new policy. It

73 Transcripts from the 'German Philosophy Conference' at Schlosl Buderose, March 1939:
Bundesarchiv, Berlin-Zehlendorf, NS 15/312, 59735f.
74 See 'Hitler's Reichstag Speech', 30 January 1939, cited in N.H. Baynes (ed.), The Speeches of
Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939 (New York 1969), vol. 1, 736-41.
75 Transcripts from the 'German Philosophy Conference' at SchloI Buderose, March 1939:
Bundesarchiv, Berlin-Zehlendorf, NS 15/ 312, 59735f.
76 Though Nietzsche should not be whitewashed as a 'philo-Semite', his writings after 1876 fre-
quently denounced antisemites and detailed the multifarious contributions of the Jewish people to
European culture. For more on this issue, see A.E. Eisen, 'Nietzsche and the Jews Reconsidered',
Jewish Social Studies 48(1) (Winter 1986); M.F. Duffy and W. Mittlemen, 'Nietzsche's Attitude
toward the Jews', Journal of the History of Ideas 49(2) (April-June 1988); M. Brinker, 'Nietzsche
and the Jews', in J. Golomb and R.S. Wistrich (eds), Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? ; J. Golomb
(ed.), Nietzsche and Jewish Culture (London 1997).
77 A. Baeumler, Nietzsche, der Philosoph und Politiker, 158.
78 R. Oehler, Friedrich Nietzsche und die deutsche Zukunft [Friedrich Nietzsche and the
German Future] (Leipzig 1935), 87f.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 187

takes unexcelled boldness to base a state upon race. A new order of things is the natural
consequence. It is this order which Nietzsche undertook to establish in opposition to the
existing one.79

The National Socialists plainly concurred with Nietzsche that the breeding
of a new man simultaneously entailed the 'remorseless extermination
[schonungslose Vernichtung] of all degenerate and elements'.80 And
though Nietzsche's biologism was not predicated upon race, his imperative to
'raise apes into men' did, according to R6mer, push open 'a row of mighty
doors that led to a racial view of life'.81
While Baeumler's ideas shaped much of the initial discourse on Nietzsche in
nazi Germany, his interpretation did not exert a homogenizing influence; even
within the constraints of the Third Reich there was room for more than one
Nietzsche. Despite suggestions to the contrary by certain nazis and some
contemporary scholars, there was no generally accepted, monochromatic,
'nazified' Nietzsche to serve as the ideological precursor to Hitler. This ambi-
guity was touched upon in Heinrich Hartle's popular handbook Nietzsche and
National Socialism, published in 1937 and reprinted in 1939, 1942 and 1944.
Hirtle defined his text as 'an attempt to make Nietzsche's ideas fruitful to the
National Socialist worldview', explaining, 'I do not count myself among the
esoteric Nietzscheans; I merely want to present Nietzsche as a great ally in the
present spiritual warfare'.82 He thus extolled the productive ideas in
Nietzsche's philosophy, most notably his critique of the Second Reich, dem-
ocracy and Marxism, and his veneration of war and the breeding of a super-
race. Displaying a palpable intellectual debt to Baeumler, under whose
leadership he worked in the Amt Rosenberg, Hirtle depicted Nietzsche as a
heroic, Nordic pagan, who had opposed the cultural heritage of romanitas in
all its forms - especially Christianity and Renaissance humanism.8 Yet Hirtle
also drew attention to some flaws in Nietzsche's thought - the individualism,
the elitism, the hostility towards the state and the misguided hope for a cosmo-
politan Europe. Unlike Baeumler, Hartle suggested that a synthesis of
Nietzsche's ideas and National Socialist race theory was impossible. Though
Nietzsche had demonstrated 'the error and dangers of a doctrine teaching the
equality of all that bears a human face' - the impossibility, that is, of a uni-
versalist ethics - his understanding of the Volk remained purely 'historical'
and 'intuitive':

79 A. Baeumler, 'Nietzsche und der Nationalsozialismus', 288-94.


80 F. Nietzsche, trans R.J. Hollingdale, Ecce Homo (London 1992), 'Birth of Tragedy', S 4.
81 F. Nietzsche, Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 2 (Munich 1967), 406, 'Nachlass
Fragment', Friihjahr-Herbst 1881; H. Romer, 'Nietzsche und das Rassenproblem' [Nietzsche and
the Problem of Race], Rasse: Monatsschrift fiir den Nordischen Gedanken, 7 (1940), 59.
82 H. Hirtle, Nietzsche und der Nationalsozialismus [Nietzsche and National Socialism]
(Munich 1937), 7.
83 Ibid., 99-102.

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188 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

Nietzsche once attempted to explain the development of a Volk in this way: '
have lived for a long time together under similar conditions (of climate, soil, da
and work), then something arises in which there is a certain "agreement", a Volk
is lacking here, which for us is central: race.84

For Hirtle, therefore, a good deal of sifting was required before


could be made serviceable for National Socialism, and the movem
mately had to part company with the philosopher on the way tow
rigorous 'scientific and biological' conception of race."8
Despite the less sanguine reading, Hartle - like Baeumler - was
to explain Nietzsche's deficiencies away as elements of the Zeitgeist
nineteenth century. Not all National Socialist philosophers were so
Nietzsche's detractors in the Third Reich were both numerous and audible.
Ernst Krieck, an influential nazi ideologue who became the Professor of Peda-
gogy at Heidelberg in 1934 after briefly serving as the rector of the University
of Frankfurt, inveighed passionately against the Nietzsche renaissance. Krieck
viewed Nietzsche as a proponent of rampant individualism, utterly at odds
with the volkisch spirit of National Socialism. Nietzsche's philosophy, he
insisted, 'is no National Socialist ideology - and does not point the way to the
future for the German people'. 'All in all,' he laconically surmised, 'Nietzsche
was an opponent of socialism, an opponent of nationalism, and an opponent
of racial thinking. Apart from these three bents of mind, he might have made
an outstanding nazi'."8 The intellectual historian Christoph Steding came to a
similar conclusion in his 1938 The Reich and the Disease of European Culture,
a mammoth text compiled in the 1920s following research (funded by a
Rockefeller Foundation grant) conducted in several 'Nordic' countries and
republished four times between 1940 and 1945. This was a work of history, in
its author's own words, 'which feels a Reich behind it and is obsessed by the
task of the Reich'.87 Nietzsche, 'the eternal spa guest [ewige Kurgast]', was end-
lessly derided for turning his back on Germany. His animosity to the Second
Reich, Steding insisted, was a disgraceful manifestation of his anti-statism,
philo-Semitism and petty intellectual concerns, and provided definitive proof
of his ideological distance from Hitler's Germany.
Anti-Nietzschean criticism also came from nazi Wagnerians, who never
forgave Nietzsche for the acrimonious split with the Meister. One such asperser
was Curt von Westernhagen, who proclaimed in his vitriolic 1936 Nietzsche,
Jews, Anti-Jews [Nietzsche, Juden, Antijuden]: 'in the armed encounter
[Waffengang] between the Jewish and the German essence, Nietzsche stood in
the ranks of the Jews, out of inclination and calculation, with his heart and his

84 Ibid., 82.
85 Ibid.
86 E. Krieck, 'Die Ahnen des Nationalsozialismus' [The Ancestors of National Socialism]
im Werden 3 (1935), 184.
87 C. Steding, Das Reich und die Krankheit der europdischen Kultur [The Reich and the
of European Culture] (Hamburg 1938), 207.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 189

head'.88 Arthur Drews - a philosophy professor in Karlsruhe - was outraged


'that Nietzsche is now elevated to the role of philosopher of National
Socialism, considering that he preaches ... in virtually all things the opposite
of National Socialism'. Like von Westernhagen, he argued that Nietzsche's
vision of the 'good European' granted the Jews 'a key role in the fusion of all
nations' and castigated Nietzsche's individualism as diametrically opposed to
'the National Socialist principle that puts the common good before personal
advantage'. Anticipating postwar Anglo-American criticisms, Drews con-
cluded that pro-Nietzschean nazis were 'only picking the "raisins" out of the
cake of his "philosophy" and ... [had] no clear idea at all about the context of
his thoughts'.89
In time, it was Heidegger who would become Baeumler's most prominent
critic. The relationship between Heidegger and Baeumler had deteriorated
through the course of 1933 for both philosophical and personal reasons." By
the late 1930s, and despite Heidegger's continued support for National
Socialist domestic and foreign policy, the metaphysical pathos had evaporated.
The concrete realities of nazism had not lived up to his philosophical expecta-
tions. Heidegger's changing valuation of the political situation moved in tandem
with a comprehensive re-evaluation of Nietzsche. The thinker who had previ-
ously come 'closer to the essence of the Greeks than any metaphysical thinker
before him' was soon to be criticized as seeing 'the Greek "world" exclusively
in a Roman way, i.e., in a way at once modern and un-Greek'.91

88 C.von Westernhagen, Nietzsche, Juden, Antijuden [Nietzsche, Jews, Anti-Jews] (Weimar


1936), 73, cited in S. Corngold and G.G. Waite, 'Nietzsche with H6lderlin', in J. Golomb and R.S.
Wistrich (eds), Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? op. cit., 202. Since Wagner's nationalist and anti-
semitic credentials were unquestionable, pro-Nietzschean nazis were always obliged to downplay
the bitter conflict of ideas between the 'seeming antagonists Nietzsche and Wagner'. A. Rosenberg,
Gestaltung der Idee [Formation of the Idea] (Munich 1938), 18, my italics.
89 A. Drews, 'Nietzsche als Philosoph des Nationalsozialismus?' [Nietzsche as the Philosopher
of National Socialism?], Nordische Stimmen 4 (1934), 172-9, cited in Wolfgang Miiller-Lauter,
'Experiences with Nietzsche', in J. Golomb and R.S. Wistrich (eds), Nietzsche, Godfather of
Fascism? op. cit., 70.
90 Baeumler wrote the following lines in his copy of Being and Time: 'the One is omnipresent,
but in such a way that when Existence presses for a decision, it has always slunk away [Das Man
ist iiberall dabei, doch so, dafl es sich auch schon immer davongeschlichen hat, wo das Dasein auf
Entscheidung drdingt]'. The words 'Heidegger's relationship to me - 1933', were appended in the
margin. See M. Baeumler, 'Erinnerung an die Beziehung Alfred Baeumlers zu Martin Heidegger
und Wolfgang Schadewaldt' [Recollection on Alfred Baeumler's Relationship to Martin Heidegger
and Wolfgang Schadewaldt], 5 April 1983: Institut fiir Zeitgeschichte, ED-318, Mappe 28.
Baeumler's rather oblique judgment may be read as suggesting that Heidegger, like the inauthen-
tic das Man he critiqued in Being and Time, lacked the capacity for resolute decision - propos
their friendship at least. Using Wolfgang Schadewaldt as a mediator, Heidegger made a renewed
attempt to correspond with Baeumler in 1951. Baeumler spurned the advance, claiming he was not
in agreement with the development of Heidegger's philosophy. See M. Baeumler et al., Thomas
Mann und Alfred Baeumler, op. cit., 242-3, n. 9.
91 M. Heidegger, Nietzsche, III, 113; M. Heidegger, trans. A. Schuwer and R. Rojcewicz,
Parmenides (Bloomington, IN, 1992), 43.

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190 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

As the Nietzsche lectures progressed, Heidegger came to view Nietzsche


thinker who had almost (but only almost) succeeded in overcoming the n
age. He now aimed to show that Nietzsche's philosophy was the final and
extreme form of the tradition of subject-centred and value-positing m
physics initiated by Plato.

Despite all his overturnings and revaluings of metaphysics, Nietzsche remains in the
broken line of the metaphysical tradition when he calls that which is established and ma
fast in the will to power for its own preservation purely and simply Being, or what is in bein
or truth. Accordingly, truth is a condition posited in the essence of the will to power, nam
the condition of the preservation of power. Truth is, as this condition, a value.92

Nietzsche's 'overturning' (Umkehrung) of metaphysics implied for Heide


an upsetting or turning upside down, but not an overcoming or conque
(Oberwindung). Ultimately, indeed, his philosophy represented not the su
mation, but the 'ultimate entanglement in nihilism' and therefore 'the fu
ment of nihilism proper'."
In 1933, Baeumler and Heidegger had embraced National Socialism
long-awaited counter-movement to the epoch of nihilism diagnosed
Nietzsche. Yet their understanding of both his philosophy and its relation
to Hitler's politics quickly diverged. For Baeumler, National Socialism was
political reflex of Nietzsche's re-evaluation and overcoming of transcende
ism in terms of base urges, ultimately reducible to 'race' and 'blood'. Heidegge
demurred from such biologism, seeing it as another manifestation of tech
scientific nihilism. Baeumler's preoccupation with the superficial detai
power and race, according to Heidegger, only scratched the surfac
Nietzsche's philosophy. By construing Nietzsche as the philosopher of 'h
realism', Baeumler simply perpetuated the metaphysical tradition
Nietzsche had, at least partially, deconstructed. Baeumler's interpretati
was not even convincing as philosophy: his dogmatic adoption and polit
adaptation of the will to power forced him to reject the doctrine of ete
recurrence - 'Nietzsche's most difficult thought, the peak of his meditation'.9
For Heidegger, the essential kernel and the limit of Nietzsche's thought la
the conjunction of the will to power and eternal recurrence. Baeumler's refle
tions on the relationship between the two doctrines totally missed this subtle
'the doctrine of eternal recurrence, where [Baeumler] fears "Egyptiani
militates against his conception of will to power, which in spite of the t
about metaphysics, Baeumler does not grasp metaphysically but interp
politically'.95
It is tempting to draw the wrong conclusions from these multifarious
protests. Put differently, acknowledging the existence of a plethora of detrac-

92 M. Heidegger, trans. W. Lovitt, 'The Word of Nietzsche: "God is Dead"', in The Question
Concerning Technology and Other Essays (New York 1977), 84.
93 M. Heidegger, Nietzsche, IV, 203.
94 M. Heidegger, Nietzsche, I, 22-3.
95 Ibid.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 19 I

tors should not lead us to downplay Nietzsche's significance for National


Socialist ideology. It is unquestionable that Nietzsche was and remained a
potent reference point for philosophers in the Third Reich. Indeed, the intense
polemics of Nietzsche's critics are only intelligible vis-ai-vis the success of the
pro-Nietzschean nazis, and most prominently Baeumler. Heinrich Hoffmann's
photo of Hitler contemplating the bust of Nietzsche in the Weimar Archive
seemed to place an official stamp of legitimacy on Nietzsche's nazi trans-
formation.96 The empty space between the two subjects, the askance stares, the
placement of the bust in the shadow and only half in view may imply that
Hoffmann's photography was meant 'primarily as a picture of Hitler subject-
ing Nietzsche's bust to his glance, and not of the bust itself or of Hitler's intel-
lectual debt to the philosopher'.97 Even if true, however, this detracts only
marginally from the fact that Nietzsche was the only great philosopher 'privi-
leged' to share a double-portrait with the Fiihrer.
Nietzsche remained a conspicuous figure in the Third Reich into the late
1930s and early 1940s. Though Baeumler's political influence was becoming
increasingly circumscribed, he continued to diffuse his Nietzsche interpretation
in the National Socialist press and the lecture halls of the University of Berlin.98
As the war escalated, Nietzsche's philosophy took on a world-historical role
that eclipsed its former, and somewhat provincial, vIlkisch function. The
malleable concept of 'great politics' was invoked to justify both Hitler's impe-
rial conquests and the necessity of the united European front against
Communism. The all-conquering German armies were portrayed as the new
'good Europeans', transforming Nietzsche's dream of continental rejuvenation
into concrete reality. As the French philosopher and politician Marcel D6at
wrote: 'Nietzsche's idea of the selection of "good Europeans" is now being
realized on the battlefield, by the Waffen SS. An aristocracy, a knighthood is
being created by the war that will be the hard, pure nucleus of the Europe of
the future'.99
With the changing favours of the war, National Socialist Nietzscheanism
took on a more sombre, defiant tone. As the 'Thousand Year Reich' collapsed
around them, a number of ideologues looked one last time to Nietzsche for
inspiration. On 15 October 1944, celebrations were held to commemorate the

96 Hoffmann's photo is reprinted in H. Sluga, Heidegger's Crisis: Philosophy and Politics in


Nazi Germany (Cambridge, MA, 1993), 187.
97 Ibid., 186.
98 Baeumler lectured on Nietzsche in the first trimester of 1941 and again in the summer semes-
ter of 1944. See K.-P. Horn, 'Konkurrenz und Koexistenz. Das Padagogische Seminar und das
Institut fdir Politische Padagogik in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus' [Competition and
Coexistence. The Pedagogy Seminar and the Institute for Political Pedagogy in the Time of
National Socialism], in K.-P. Horn (ed.), Padagogik Unter den Linden. Von der Griindung der
Berliner Universitdt im Jahre 1810 bis zum Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts [Pedagogy Unter den
Linden. From the Foundation of the University of Berlin in 1810 until the End of the Twentieth
Century] (Stuttgart 2002), 244-5.
99 M. Deat, Pense'e allemande et pensee frangaise [German Thought and French Thought],
97-8, cited in S.E. Aschheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany, op. cit., 248.

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192 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

centenary of Nietzsche's birthday. Two days before the event, Ba


published a front-page article in the V61kischer Beobachter which
Nietzsche's struggle against his age as a cipher for the fate o
Socialism. Nietzsche had 'lived as a fighter' and died in heroic so
bore the loneliest fate as a critic of his time, 'a seer [Sehender] among
. . . a soldier of knowledge in a lost post'. He had dedicated his li
bating the 'nihilism of values' and the levelling of 'noble and com
characterized the 'age of machines' (Maschinenzivilisation) and led
into the 'mire of abject contentment'.100 National Socialist Germany,
explained, had taken upon itself the noble, unrelenting struggle a
materialist and egalitarian torpidity of Bolshevism, which now th
overrun not only Germany but the entire European contine
Communism represented 'the greatest of all dangers that stands befor
ity'. In the spirit of Nietzsche, National Socialism was taking its o
last stand against this mortal foe.'"'
The memorial event itself took place in the Nietzsche Archive in
Acting as an official representative for Hitler, Rosenberg - w
Baeumler's influence had become a late convert to Nietzscheanism02 - effec-
tively delivered the 'philosophical epitaph' for the nazi era.'03 Tacitly acknow-
ledging that the military conflict was lost, he hinted at the coming 'spiritual'
war in the 'colossal confrontation' with Bolshevism.'04 Nietzsche, he argued,
had been preoccupied by a single question: 'is human greatness still possible
today?' (Ist heute - Gr6ofe m6glich?)"'0 The National Socialists had attempted
to answer this question in the affirmative, to 'eclipse the rest of the world', just
as 'Nietzsche, the individual, eclipsed the powers of his time'. Despite the
failure on the battlefield, Germany still held the key to the redemption of
Europe. The ideas proclaimed by Nietzsche, and made concrete by National
Socialism, would continue to resonate even after the guns fell silent.106

100 A. Baeumler, 'Friedrich Nietzsche. Zu seinem 100. Geburtstag am 15. Oktober' [Friedrich
Nietzsche: On his Hundredth Birthday on 15 October], V1olkischer Beobachter, 13 October 1944,
1-2.
101 Ibid.
102 Nietzsche had barely received a mention in Rosenberg's writings hitherto. His semi-
ideological tract Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts [The Myth of the Twentieth Century] (M
1930), for example, only referred to Nietzsche twice. As recently as 1940, moreover, Ro
had blocked a request from Karl Schlechta to Baeumler for financial support for the historis
tische Ausgabe of Nietzsche's work being prepared in Weimar. The Reichsleiter was of th
ion, Baeumler reported to Schlechta, that 'resources are primarily for newly undertaken re
The Nietzsche-Ausgabe may still be as important - in any case it cannot be considered
research'. A. Baeumler to K. Schlechta, 31 May 1940: Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv, 72/158
103 H. Sluga, Heidegger's Crisis, op. cit., 232.
104 A. Rosenberg, Friedrich Nietzsche. Ansprache bei einer Gedenkstunde anlafllich de
Geburtstages Friedrich Nietzsches am 15. Oktober 1944 in Weimar [Friedrich Niet
Memorial Speech on the Occasion of the Hundreth Birthday of Friedrich Nietzsche on 15 Oc
1944 in Weimar] (Munich 1944), 8.
105 Ibid., 3.
106 Ibid.

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Whyte: The Uses and Abuses of Nietzsche in the Third Reich 193

Rosenberg's grandiloquent rhetoric notwithstanding, the centenary com-


memoration was a rather morose affair. Material shortages were so desperate
that the plans for the event had been scribbled on lose scraps of paper in blunt
pencil.10" Ostentation was not entirely lacking, however. Some months earlier,
Mussolini had sent a vast statue of Dionysus to the Archive from the Republic
of Sal6.108 Yet the memorial hall in which it was to be housed remained un-
finished (despite an earlier donation of 50,000 Reichsmarks from Hitler's 'per-
sonal funds') and the statue, which proved too big for its allotted alcove, had
to be left propped against the wall during the proceedings - an apposite
symbol, perhaps, of Nietzsche's problematic position in the Third Reich.
Nietzsche was always far more than simply the prophet of nazism, and a
general consensus on his precise relationship to National Socialist ideology has
never been reached. There was no orthodox Nietzscheanism in Hitler's
Germany, just as there was no single National Socialist philosophy. Baeumler's
interpretations never gained ascendancy as an uncontested paradigm. But they
did delineate the central themes of the attempted ideological synthesis: the
diagnosis of a degenerate Europe and the parallel obsession with a palingenetic
idea of national renewal; the notion of Rangordnung; the stress on the intrin-
sic relationship between physiology and moral/cultural worth; the fascination
with an enhancement of life through war; and the radical rejection of the
notion of a universally shared humanity. For many intellectuals in the Third
Reich, Nietzsche provided not merely the decorative furnishing of National
Socialism, but its core ideology. This influence cannot be explained away as a
simple act of misappropriation. Baeumler's depiction of Nietzsche as the envoy
of 'heroic realism' was certainly one-sided and myopic, but it was neither
incoherent nor absurd. More than 60 years after its demise, we still have not
fully grasped the 'idea' of National Socialism. That task remains before us.
Understanding of the role of Nietzschean philosophy in the Third Reich
provides at least part of the answer.

Max Whyte
recently completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge on the
relationship between philosophy and politics under National
Socialism, focusing specifically on the contribution made by Alfred
Baeumler to the ideational framework of the Third Reich. Other
interests include the intellectual history of the Weimar Republic and

107 See the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv, 72/2594.


108 See C. Diethe, Nietzsche's Sister and the Will to Power, op. cit., 157, 202, n. 36; D.M.
Hoffmann, 'Zur Geistes- und Kulturgeschichte des Nietzsche-Archives' [On the Intellectual and
Cultural History of the Nietzsche Archive], in A. Emmrich et al., Das Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar
[The Nietzsche Archive in Weimar] (Munich 2000), 21; and M. Zapata Galindo, Triumph des
Willens zur Macht. Zur Nietzsche Rezeption im NS-Staat (Hamburg 1995), 202f. A large dossier
detailing the statue's movement across Europe is contained in the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv,
72/2611.

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194 Journal of Contemporary History Vol 43 No 2

twentieth-century Marxism. He is currently beginning a new r


project on the history of the National Bolshevist movement in
war Germany. This is his first publication.

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