In the April issue of the Journal of Contemporary History, 43(2), Max Whyte turns to examine the use of Nietzschean ideas in Nazi political philosophy. This is to add nuance to the current trend of their “de-nazification.”
…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 misinterpretation. As one commentator notes, ‘perhaps no opinion in Nietzsche scholarship is now more widely accepted than that the nazis were wrong and/or ignorant in their appropriation of Nietzsche’. ‘Nietzsche’, another summarizes, ‘has in fact been de-nazified.’
His essay uses the work of Alfred Baeumler — whose portrait of Nietzsche helped to catalyze the adoption of his ideas by the founders of National Socialism — to reframe the issues under consideration today.
However problematic, National Socialist appropriations of Nietzsche cannot be simply bypassed as instances of ‘misinterpretation’. The ‘nazified’ Nietzsche has to be fully unpacked before it can be left behind…. An analysis of its origins, content and impact affords an illuminating perspective on the darker side of Nietzsche’s historical legacy.