Nietzsche and fascismSee also Nietzsche's criticism of anti-Semitism and nationalism.
The Italian and German fascist regimes were eager to lay claim to Nietzsche's ideas, and to position themselves as inspired by them. In 1932, Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche received a bouquet of roses from Adolf Hitler during a German premiere of Benito Mussolini's 100 Days, and in 1934 Hitler personally presented her with a wreath for Nietzsche's grave carrying the words "To A Great Fighter". Also in 1934, Elisabeth gave to Hitler Nietzsche's favorite walking stick, and Hitler was photographed gazing into the eyes of a white marble bust of Nietzsche. Heinrich Hoffmann's popular biography Hitler as Nobody Knows Him (which sold nearly a half-million copies by 1938) featured this photo with the caption reading: "The Führer before the bust of the German philosopher whose ideas have fertilized two great popular movements: the National Socialist of Germany and the Fascist of Italy."
Nietzsche was no less popular among French fascists, perhaps with more doctrinal truthfulness, as Robert S. Wistrich has pointed out
The "fascist" Nietzsche was above all considered to be a heroic opponent of necrotic Enlightenment "rationality" and a kind of spiritual vitalist, who had glorified war and violence in an age of herd-lemming shopkeepers, inspiring the anti-Marxist revolutions of the interwar period. According to the French fascist Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, it was the Nietzschean emphasis on the autotelic power of the Will that inspired the mystic voluntarism and political activism of his comrades. Such politicized readings were vehemently rejected by another French writer, the socialo-communist anarchist Georges Bataille, who in the 1930s sought to establish (in ambiguous success) the "radical incompatibility" between Nietzsche (as a thinker who abhorred mass politics) and "the Fascist reactionaries." He argued that nothing was more alien to Nietzsche than the pan-Germanism, racism, militarism and anti-Semitism of the Nazis, into whose service the German philosopher had been pressed. Bataille here was sharp-witted but combined half-truths without his customary dialectical finesse.The German philosopher Heidegger, who was (with great harm to his subsequent reputation) an active member of the Nazi Party, himself noted that everyone in his day was either 'for' or 'against' Nietzsche while claiming that this thinker heard a "command to reflect on the essence of a planetary domination." Alan D. Schrift cites this passage and writes, "That Heidegger sees Nietzsche heeding a command to reflect and prepare for earthly domination is of less interest to me than his noting that everyone thinks in terms of a position for or against Nietzsche. In particular, the gesture of setting up 'Nietzsche' as a battlefield on which to take one's stand against or to enter into competition with the ideas of one's intellectual predecessors or rivals has happened quite frequently in the twentieth century."
Marching in ideological warfare against the arrows from Bataille, Thomas Mann, the far more centrist Albert Camus and others, the Nazi movement, despite Nietzsche' virulent hatred of both volkist-populist socialist and nationalism ("national socialism), did, in certain of its emphases, share an affinity with Nietzsche's ideas, including his ferocious attacks against democracy, egalitarianism, the communistic-socialistic social model, popular Christianity, parliamentary government, and a number of other things. In The Will to Power Nietzsche praised – sometimes metaphorically, other times both metaphorically and literally – the sublimity of war and warriors, and heralded an international ruling race that would become the "lords of the earth". Here Nietzsche was referring to pan-Europeanism of a Caesarist type, positively embracing Jews, not a Germanic master race but a neo-imperial elite of culturally refined "redeemers" of humanity, otherwise wretched and plebeian and ugly in its mindless existence.
The Nazis appropriated, or rather received also inspiration in this case, from Nietzsche's extremely old-fashioned and semi-feudal views on women: Nietzsche despised modern feminism, along with democracy and socialism, as mere egalitarian leveling movements of nihilism. He forthrightly declared, "Man shall be trained for war and woman for the procreation of the warrior, anything else is folly"; and was indeed unified with the Nazi world-view at least in terms of the social role of women: "They belong in the kitchen and their chief role in life is to beget children for German warriors." Here is one area where Nietzsche indeed did not contradict the Nazis in his politics of "aristocratic radicalism."
During the interbellum years, certain Nazis had employed a highly selective reading of Nietzsche's work to advance their ideology, notably Alfred Baeumler, who strikingly omitted the fact of Nietzsche's anti-socialism and anti-nationalism (for Nietzsche, both equally contemptible mass herd movements of modernity) in his reading of The Will to Power. The era of Nazi rule (1933–1945) saw Nietzsche's writings widely studied in German (and, after 1938, Austrian) schools and universities. Despite the fact that Nietzsche had expressed his disgust with plebeian-volkist anti-Semitism and supremacist German nationalism in the most forthright terms possible (e.g. he resolved "to have nothing to do with anyone involved in the perfidious race-fraud"), phrases like "the will to power" became common in Nazi circles. The wide popularity of Nietzsche among Nazis stemmed in part from the endeavors of his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the editor of Nietzsche's work after his 1889 breakdown, and an eventual Nazi sympathizer. Mazzino Montinari, while editing Nietzsche's posthumous works in the 1960s, found that Förster-Nietzsche, while editing the posthumous fragments making up The Will to Power, had cut extracts, changed their order, added titles of her own invention, included passages of others authors copied by Nietzsche as if they had been written by Nietzsche himself, etc.
Quite understandably, Nietzsche's reception among the more intellectually percipient or zealous fascists was not universally warm. For example, one "rabidly Nazi writer, Curt von Westernhagen, who announced in his book Nietzsche, Juden, Antijuden (1936) that the time had come to expose the 'defective personality of Nietzsche whose inordinate tributes for, and espousal of, Jews had caused him to depart from the Germanic principles enunciated by Meister Richard Wagner'."
The real problem with the labelling of Nietzsche as a Fascist, or worse, a Nazi, is that it ignores the fact that Nietzsche's aristocratism seeks to revive an older conception of politics, one which he locates in Greek agon which [...] has striking affinities with the philosophy of action expounded in our own time by Hannah Arendt. Once an affinity like this is appreciated, the absurdity of describing Nietzsche's political thought as 'Fascist', or Nazi, becomes readily apparent.Ansell-Pearson here summarizes the complexity and semantic absurdity of the whole matter (although the fashionable reference to Arendt is dubitable). Nietzsche was an unabashed "radical aristocrat" who admired archaic Homeric individualism, the Viking warlords who became the Normans who sublimated their warlike energy into administrating Europe, personally from childhood was enmeshed in the feudal, martial element remaining in bourgeois culture; and Nietzsche's disavowal and irreverence for the Imperial Germany of his time was solely due to its policy of compromising with the "anarchist-socialist dogs", making concessions to democratic and socialistic demands Nietzsche found intolerable for cultural reasons. Leon Trotsky, rightly or wrongly, identified Bonapartism as a precursor or antecedent of Fascism; and Nietzsche lauded and praised Napoleon like no other, except perhaps Caesar. Nietzsche personally was devoted to Napoleon Bonaparte because Napoleon, in his own eyes, became a self-made, meritocratic warrior-leader and "revolutionary counter-revolutionary", who never had illusions about the commonality and simply wanted to unify Europe according to meritological criteria: "the tools to him that can handle them" was also Nietzsche's rigorously meritocratic, elitist attitude. Nietzsche was not a post-structuralist soft-peddler, but an ultra-reactionary neo-Platonist socially and neo-Machiavellian synarchic trans-national elitist, an expositor of "esoteric" caste hierarchy based on culture and spirit, who wanted the highest bloodlines of Scandinavia, Germany, Central Europe, Slovenia and Israel to intermarry "eugenically"—and the type of purely pan-Germanic volkist populism Hitler developed, in which legitimacy of political power rested on the "beer-glutted" German masses Nietzsche wholly abominated, appealing to every German as "peasant-soldier", only shared the smallest lineaments of political philosophy with Nietzsche.