Alice Malone
Editing: Roderic Day, Damon Phos

Elisabeth’s Nietzsche (2024)

42 minutes | English

The following discussion owes much to to Robert Holub and Domenico Losurdo, cited throughout, for their thorough primary research into a very persistent myth. I hope this summary of some of their findings, interweaved with some of my own original considerations, contributes to introducing their ideas to newer audiences.
 — A. M.


Introduction: The Elisabeth Conspiracy

Nietzsche’s left-wing advocates often brush away any criticism of the philosopher’s judeophobic and pro-eugenics views with the explanation that his work was corrupted by his sister. The charge goes something like this: Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, a fascist-sympathizer who co-founded an Aryan colony in Paraguay in the 1880s, [1] manipulated or outright fabricated portions of The Will To Power and other works based on Nietzsche’s unpublished notes. Owing to this editorial malpractice, Nietzsche’s work was transformed into something beloved by proto-fascists and the Nazis that succeeded them. This simple narrative of betrayal — that a meddling sister took advantage of her capacity as executor of her dead brother’s estate — enables fans of Nietzsche to praise the thinker unreservedly, removing any need to question why his thought was so popular among fascists and Nazis.

This myth has little basis in reality.

In its crudest form, the narrative is immediately undermined by two undeniable facts.

First, any accusation that suggests Förster-Nietzsche’s manipulations served to make Nietzsche’s work more palatable specifically to the Nazis can be dismissed based on basic chronology: she first published The Will To Power in 1901, nearly two decades before the founding of the Nazi party. Hitler was about 12 years old.

Second, Nietzsche’s original works are not lost to his sister’s tampering. In the latter half of the twentieth century, Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari compiled a new collection of Nietzsche’s work based on the original documents. [2] This has since become the scholarly standard. Although the philological neutrality of these editors has also been questioned, [3] the curious reader can now cross-reference any passage to examine editions wholly free from any designs by someone who later went on to become a Nazi. This is essential: the “real Nietzsche” is not some ideal counterfactual lost to his sister’s rewriting of history.

That said, the ideological roots of Nazism trace back to earlier that the formation of the party itself, and far outside the bounds of Germany. [4] Thus, although the crudest version of the story — that Elisabeth in some way was working at the behest of the Nazi party — is rendered nonsensical, the more sophisticated question of latent influence remains. For much of the twentieth century, only Förster-Nietzsche’s editions of the documents were available, shaping perceptions of Nietzsche among Nazis and other readers alike. However, with the publication of the new editions from the original, untampered archives, we can evaluate the specific editorial decisions she made. So let’s examine in more detail the claims that Förster-Nietzsche’s vandalism of Nietzsche’s work is primarily or solely to blame for its appropriation by antisemites, eugenicists, and proto-fascists of all stripes.

The Case Against Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

The case against Förster-Nietzsche rests on three points:

  1. Elisabeth manipulated, omitted, forged, re-arranged, or through other editorial (mal-)practice created a manuscript that did not faithfully reflect Nietzsche’s unpublished writing.
  2. Elisabeth did so with the intent of better aligning Nietzsche’s work with (her own) fascist ideology.
  3. It is Elisabeth’s edits, and not Nietzsche’s own work, published during his lifetime, that contributed to this popularity with fascists.

The first point is easy to prove, and is not contested. For example, on the subject of Elisabeth’s edition of her brother’s work, Domenico Losurdo states “There can be no doubt that the text of The Will to Power is more an ‘interpretation’ than a ‘fact’.” [5] Robert Holub, arguing also against her being “unfairly blamed,” readily admits that “it is evident that [Förster-Nietzsche] often took liberties with the manuscripts in her possession.” [6] The translator of the Penguin edition of The Will to Power, a more neutral commentator, describes Förster-Nietzsche as “an unreliable custodian of the Nietzsche corpus,” but goes on to note that “no one has ever satisfactorily shown that The Will to Power is unrepresentative of his unpublished writings or the thoughts which animated them throughout the 1880s.” [7]

So, it’s beyond question that Förster-Nietzsche edited the documents. But what about the second argument? Did she edit them with an intent to align Nietzsche’s work with an antisemitic and German-nationalist audience? If we look at examples of her omissions, insertions, and other questionable editorial choices, we are in fact left with the opposite impression: they appear aimed at emphasizing Nietzsche’s criticism of antisemitism and German nationalism!

Let’s take one interesting example: a letter from Friedrich to Elisabeth dated December 26th, 1887. This letter is a representative example of what Elisabeth’s critics call a “falsification”: the only existing edition was penned by her, and the original by Friedrich, if it exists, has not been found. Colli and Montinari include it in their edition of Nietzsche’s collected works, but in a separate section of unverified “Urabschriften.” [8] If we assume that this letter is pure fabrication on her part, it would present an ideal opportunity for Förster-Nietzsche to insert the beliefs she wanted her audience to associate with Nietzsche. Do we see evidence of her aligning this “falsified” Nietzsche with antisemitism and nationalism?

You did one of the greatest, stupidest things, my poor Llama [9] — for you and for me! Your connection with an antisemitic leader reflects an alienation from my entire way of being that always fills me with resentment or melancholy anew. You say that you married the colonizer Förster and not the antisemite, and this is true; but in the eyes of the world Förster will remain the antisemitic leader for the rest of his life.

You know, my good Llama, it is a matter of honor for me to be absolutely clear and unambiguous about antisemitism, namely to reject it, as I do in my writings. In recent times I have been inundated with letters and antisemitic correspondence; my aversion to this party (which would love to take advantage of my name!) has been expressed as much as possible, but my relation with Förster, as well as the legacy of my former antisemitic publisher Schmeitzner, repeatedly lead the supporters of this unpleasant party to believe that I must belong to them. You can hardly imagine how much this harms and has harmed me. The entire German press has been silent about my writings — ever since! says Overbeck! Above all, it arouses mistrust of my character, as if I were publicly rejecting something that I secretly favor, — and the fact that I am unable to do anything about the fact that the name “Zarathustra” is used in every antisemitic journal has almost made me ill several times. [10]

Elisabeth’s alleged forgery has Friedrich explicitly and unequivocally lamenting any association with antisemitism! Why would Förster-Nietzsche include this passage — available only as a copy made in her own hand, easily destroyed or hidden — if her hopes were to tie him closer to the antisemitic proto-fascist movements of the time?

Let’s consider another instance of her editorial meddling, this time an omission. In Förster-Nietzsche’s version of The Will To Power:

The rights which a man arrogates to himself are relative to the duties which he sets himself, and to the tasks which he feels capable of performing. The great majority of men have no right to life, and are only a misfortune to their higher fellows. [11]

As it turns out, in comparison to the original drafts rediscovered by Colli and Montinari, Elisabeth deleted two lines (italics mine):

The rights which a man arrogates to himself are relative to the duties which he sets himself, and to the tasks which he feels capable of performing. The great majority of men have no right to life, and are only a misfortune to their higher fellows. I do not even give the deformed the right. There are deformed peoples too. [12]

If Nietzsche’s sister sought to better align his work with pro-eugenics and fascist movements of the era, why would she soften this aphorism by removing those last two lines?

In addition to editing his posthumous works, Förster-Nietzsche wrote extensively about her brother. Given her stature and reputation, her biographical accounts and reflections would offer a great opportunity for Elisabeth to shape how her contemporaries saw her brother. However, here too her writing portrays the man as the opposite of a nationalist, emphasizing how his pan-Europeanism prevailed over narrow German parochialism:

It is true that he never made enthusiastic speeches about “the German woman,” he was probably too much of a good European from his youth; he also heard angry speeches against the female sex in his formative youthful years under Schopenhauer, which made a deep impression on him precisely because his knowledge of this matter was poor at the time. [13]

Indeed, at least one pro-Nazi reader of The Will To Power and Förster-Nietzsche’s biographies accused her of being too accepting of Jews: she thanked Jewish fans of Nietzsche, and even honoured one of them, Georg Simmel, as “a witness for the correct interpretation of her brother’s doctrine.” [14]

Elisabeth’s edits generally indicate a desire to play down Friedrich’s early missteps, and distance even herself from the antisemitism of her late husband. In his 2014 rebuttal to Holub’s critical defense of Förster-Nietzsche, Christian Niemeyer highlights several instances of Förster-Nietzsche suppressing or destroying personal correspondence, such as Nietzsche’s letters to his physician. [15] That Förster-Nietzsche exercised questionable editorial judgement is not being denied, [16] but we cannot simply presume that her changes tilt towards ingratiating Nietzsche with fascists. The motivation could be as banal as the avoidance of familial embarrassment. These are issues that are likely to occur whenever a family member is tasked with an archival record that includes revealing details about their own life. [17]

The very decision to make the work public in anything but an unedited record of Nietzsche’s notebooks is also sometimes called into question. For example, Montinari wrote an entire book titled The Will to Power Does Not Exist, in which he argues that Nietzsche had ceased plans to write a book called The Will To Power, and that Förster-Nietzsche transgressed in rearranging drafts to create such a work. [18] This argument is not convincing. Nietzsche had already begun developing the concept of the will to power in works he published during his lifetime. For example, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra we read:

Wherever I found a living thing, there found I Will to Power; and even in the will of the servant found I the will to be master. [19]

Countering Montinari’s thesis, R. Kevin Hill argues that “Nietzsche’s abandonment of the Will to Power project seems to imply frustration with his inability to fashion them into a coherent whole, rather than any rejection of their content. If that is correct, the editors may have done him a favour, not a disservice.” [20]

In this context, is it really so sinister for Elisabeth to popularize her brother’s works under a title familiar to readers? History is full of examples of editors exercising simple commercial savvy. [21] Such routine editorial practice cannot be automatically presumed to have been driven by the goal of ingratiating the late author to the budding fascist movement.

Alternatively, we can explore the radically opposite possibility: that, although Elisabeth’s edits had the effect of minimizing the literal prevalence of antisemitic and eugenic themes, she was still driven by cunning and fascist intent. Nietzsche himself was no stranger to intelligent self-censorship. In lecture notes that would later form the basis of his 1872 book The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche bluntly stated that his attacks on “Socratism” and the decaying forces of modernity were intended against “the Jewish press.” His close friends at the time, Richard and his wife Cosima Wagner, both antisemites, expressed concern. Cosima wrote to him:

Do not name the Jews, especially not en passant. Later, if you want to engage in this terrible struggle, in God’s name, but not at the start, so that not everything on your path turns into confusion and entanglement. I hope you do not misunderstand me. You will know how much I agree, from the depths of my soul, with your statements, but not now, and not in that way. [22]

Nietzsche appears to have heeded the advice: the published version blames “the press” instead. [23]

It is entirely possible that Elisabeth pursued a similar tactic: publish for a broad audience, maintaining plausible deniability while nevertheless presenting arguments consistent with antisemitic or fascistic goals. [24] In this scenario, the charge against Förster-Nietzsche becomes nearly inverted: precisely by making Nietzsche’s work softer and more palatable to a general public, she was being faithful to both her brother and the movement. Certainly not a good look for Elisabeth, but hardly a credit to Friedrich!

Nietzsche’s Fans Before Elisabeth

If we accept that Elisabeth is not responsible for making Nietzsche palatable to the Nazis, that means that the responsibility lies elsewhere. Let us consider the third argument in the sequence above: Is it reasonable to claim that Nietzsche’s warm reception by the Nazi Party is owed entirely or even primarily to Förster-Nietzsche’s meddling? Were this the case, we would expect to see little purchase of Nietzsche’s ideas in right-wing eugenicist or antisemitic circles during Nietzsche’s lifetime, prior to his sister’s involvement. Is this what we observe?

Let’s consider the works published before his sister took over his archives around 1894 — pure, unadultered, unimpeachable examples of Nietzsche’s true voice. Observe the phrase from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, published in 1885, that Alfred Ploetz, an ethnonationalist and future Nazi supporter, chose as the epigraph to the 1895 book in which he coined the concept of Rassenhygiene [racial hygiene]:

Upward goes our way, from genus to over genus.
But we shudder at the degenerate sense which says, “Everything for me.” [25] [26]

Was Ploetz’s kinship with Zarathustra a rare fluke? Far from it. In a letter to a friend, Nietzsche notes amusedly that “the antisemites are enamored with Zarathustra, ‘the divine man’; and there is a particular antisemitic interpretation of it, which made me laugh greatly.” Nietzsche was familiar with antisemitic discourse because Theodor Fritsch, editor of Antisemitische Correspondenz [Antisemitic Correspondence], had started sending Nietzsche his journal, which, Nietzsche notes, was “sent only privately, only to ‘reliable party members’.” The antisemites were indeed fond of Nietzsche; his name “appears in almost every issue.” [27]

Meanwhile, Alexander Tille saw a direct connection between Darwin and Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s identification of Christian ideals and slave morality as the source of cultural degeneration earned his praise, playing the role of a historical-cultural correlate to his Social-Darwinist and eugenicist views. He quotes Nietzsche thus:

The “general love of humanity” alleviates the “hardships and horrors of the fight” or at least protects the failed from being trampled without mercy. [28]

(Incidentally, this appreciation moved him to produce the first English translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.)

Nietzsche’s work also appealed to eugenicists outside of Germany. French aristocrat George Vacher de Lapouge, whose works on scientific racism were explicitly cited by the Nazis, saw in Nietzsche a counterpart that was tackling “in the same way” the topic he explored in his 1888 book Heredity in Political Science — namely the need to apply Darwinian theories of heredity to “the progress of humanity through the use of reasoned selection,” so that “the pure Aryan race would be preserved.” [29]

In short: there is no doubt that eugenicists and antisemites found plenty to like in Nietzsche’s early works. Still, are they perhaps simply misunderstanding the man?

Nietzsche Before Elisabeth

In 1881, over a decade before his sister took over his archives, Nietzsche waxed poetic about Greece:

The Greeks provide us with the model of a race and a culture that has become pure: and it is to be hoped that one day Europe will also succeed in becoming a pure European race and culture. [30]

Nietzsche enthusiasts might reflexively argue that this is metaphorical purification. Does a metaphorical interpretation make sense? The passage further reads:

In the end, however, if the process of purification is successful, all the strength that was earlier expended on the battle of disharmonious qualities is now at the disposal of the entire organism: which is why races that have become purified have always grown stronger and more beautiful as well. [31]

Let us ask the question more plainly: Is the Nazi embrace of Nietzsche at all a malappropriation? Let us study some of Nietzsche’s manuscripts, restricting ourselves only to works completed during Nietzsche’s lifetime, not at all besmirched by Elisabeth.

Nietzsche upheld the creation of art as the purpose of existence. Moreover, he believed that only those organisms that lived lives of leisure (otium — related to the Spanish ocio — sloth) were capable of creating art. His worldview thus necessitated the existence of an enslaved class:

Accordingly we must accept this cruel sounding truth, that slavery is of the essence of Culture; a truth of course, which leaves no doubt as to the absolute value of Existence. This truth is the vulture, that gnaws at the liver of the Promethean promoter of Culture. The misery of toiling men must still increase in order to make the production of the world of art possible to a small number of Olympian men. [32]

Was this perhaps a single, isolated proposal? No. This theme repeats throughout his work:

A higher culture can only originate where there are two distinct castes of society: that of the working class, and that of the leisured class who are capable of true leisure; or, more strongly expressed, the caste of compulsory labour and the caste of free labour. The point of view of the division of happiness is not essential when it is a question of the production of a higher culture; in any case, however, the leisured caste is more susceptible to suffering and suffer more, their pleasure in existence is less and their task is greater. Now supposing there should be quite an interchange between the two castes, so that on the one hand the duller and less intelligent families and individuals are lowered from the higher caste into the lower, and, on the other hand, the freer men of the lower caste obtain access to the higher, a condition of things would be attained beyond which one can only perceive the open sea of vague wishes. Thus speaks to us the vanishing voice of the olden time; but where are there still ears to hear it? [33]

The “vanishing voice of the olden time” is a reference to Ancient Greece. Nietzsche viewed modernity as decay. His idea of salvation took the form of a “return” to an idealized form of Ancient Greece — a “return” to a well-regimented slave society. He saw political struggles unfolding tragically everywhere, and mourned the consistent defeat of the nobler side: rationality was defeating instinct, liberal capitalism was defeating aristocracy, Christians and socialists were defeating caste.

Here we find the source of that hatred that has been nourished by the Communists and Socialists as well as their paler descendants, the white race of ‘Liberals’ of every age against the arts, but also against classical antiquity. If culture were really left to the discretion of a people, if inescapable powers, which are law and restraint to the individual, did not rule, then the glorification of spiritual poverty and the iconoclastic destruction of the claims of art would be more than the revolt of the oppressed masses against drone-like individuals: it would be the cry of compassion tearing down the walls of culture; the urge for justice, for equal sharing of the pain, would swamp all other ideas. [34]

In all cases he accused his enemies of levelling tendencies inexorably leading to the outcome that he found most repulsive: a society where all humans would be equal, and equally poor.

To forestall this outcome, Nietzsche did not shy away from making prescriptions. How would such a society of slaves — “the majority of the people, who exist for service and general utility, and are only so far entitled to exist” [35] — and masters be established? One battlefield was epistemological: Nietzsche took aim at rationality — “a dangerous, life-undermining force” [36] — elevating in its place a subjective perspectivism that corroded the very idea of objective, scientific truth. In fact, Nietzsche decried science itself as one of the levelling forces; “a fine instance of secret motive, in which the vulgar antagonism to everything privileged and autocratic […] is once more disguised.” [37]

Because he famously declared God to be dead, he is sometimes portrayed as something of an early atheist, in the style of other “enlighteners” of the 19th century. In reality, Nietzsche was an avid advocate of mystification and esotericism, and a staunch supporter of religion insofar as he felt it could be cynically wielded as a powerful tool for controlling the masses:

The philosopher, as we free spirits understand him… will use religion for his disciplining [Züchtung] and educating work, just as he will use the contemporary political and economic conditions… [T]o ordinary men… religion gives invaluable contentedness with their lot and condition, peace of heart, ennoblement of obedience, … something of justification of all the commonplaceness, all the meanness, all the semi-animal poverty of their souls. Religion, together with the religious significance of life, sheds sunshine over such perpetually harassed men, and makes even their own aspect endurable to them, …almost turning suffering to account, and in the end even hallowing and vindicating it. There is perhaps nothing so admirable in Christianity and Buddhism as their art of teaching even the lowest to elevate themselves by piety to a seemingly higher order of things, and thereby to retain their satisfaction with the actual world in which they find it difficult enough to live — this very difficulty being necessary. [38]

Nietzsche’s desires for a return to a noble society of aristocrats and slaves was not restricted to fantasizing about the final outcome, nor did he view the matter as solely a battle of ideas. His contemplation of the tasks necessary for “the rearing of a new ruling caste for Europe” [39] was neither brief nor squeamish. For instance, he suggested the possibility of combining the German aristocracy’s “hereditary art of commanding” with the Jewish “genius for money and patience.” [40] This idea was expressed in cruder and more concise terms in his unpublished fragments, recovered by Colli and Montinari: “christliche Hengste, jüdische Stuten” [“Christian stallions, Jewish mares”]. [41] [42] The general idea was eugenics: the need to preserve the superior elements from contamination by the parasitic and decadent ones. He also contemplated emigration and immigration (“Better to go abroad, to seek to become master in new and savage regions of the world […] perhaps we shall also bring in numerous Chinese: and they will bring with them the modes of life and thought suitable to industrious ants”) [43] and educational policy (“If they will have slaves, then it is madness to educate them to be masters”). [44] In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in a chapter described as “a valuable epitome of practically all [Nietzsche’s] leading principles,” [45] Nietzsche’s protagonist preaches:

Where the strong are weak and the noble all-too-soft — there they build their nauseating nests: the parasites live where the great have little secret sores. […]
O my brothers, am I cruel? But I say: what is falling, we should still push. Everything today falls and decays: who would check it? But I — I even want to push it. [46]

None other than Joseph Goebbels would cite this exact passage in a speech against “Western plutocracy” and Soviet Bolshevism:

What must fall, falls — and our only task is to give it a push. [47]

This need to actively purge the weak and degenerate becomes an obsession in late Nietzsche, towards the end of his life. It’s not hard to see why Tille and Lapouge considered him to be one of their own:

The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it. [48]

That party of life which takes in hand the greatest of all tasks, the higher breeding of humanity, together with the remorseless extermination of all degenerate and parasitic elements, will again make possible on earth that superfluity of life out of which the dionysian condition must again proceed. [49]

This is why Nietzsche saw this political project threatened by the French Revolution, Christians, and Socialists — “the poisonous doctrine” of “equal rights for all”: [50]

Finally — it is the most terrible thing — in the concept of the good human being, taking sides with everything that is weak, sick, failing, suffering in oneself, everything that should perish — the law of selection is crossed, an ideal is made out of the contradiction against the proud and well-behaved, against the yes-men, against the man who is sure of the future, who guarantees the future — this is now called the evil one… And all this was believed as morality! [51]

Is it really preposterous to trace a genealogy — something Nietzsche did not shy from — between these ideas and those of the later theorists of fascism and Nazism?

For example, Nietzsche’s critique of modernity finds parallels in the Nazi philosopher Heidegger. [52] The call to end the lives of the “weak and botched” sees a recognizable and grim echo in the later Nazi designation of Lebensunwertes Leben [“lives unworthy of life”], people who were subject to eugenic extermination. The identification of socialists as a primary political opposition to his political project likewise puts Nietzsche on the same side of the battle lines as the Nazis. [53] [54]

Nietzsche was a political thinker. He discussed current affairs, and proposed a “party of life” that would bring about the world he envisioned. Like all good philosophers — “good” in the sense of craft — his philosophy drew from and reacted to the political developments of his era — particularly the abolition of slavery in the U.S. and of serfdom in Russia and the European upheavals due to the stirrings of the working classes. Furthermore, he kept abreast of scientific (and pseudo-scientific) discoveries, reading and discussing writers from Darwin to the eugenicist Francis Galton. [55] [56] He synthesized these ideas and gave them new forms, and his works were popular — including, as we have seen, among proto-fascists.

Trying to create a version of Nietzsche for whom the themes of slavery and eugenics were “metaphor” requires reinventing him as a naive savant of a philosopher, somehow unable to connect the practical discussions he was having daily with the philosophical works of such popular acclaim. Of course, we can readily grant, with Losurdo, that Nietzsche’s conception of caste was less racially determined than that of the Nazis, [57] and other qualifications of that sort. Nevertheless, the case against the sister, whatever her other personal heinous sins and associations, lies in ruin.


It would be absurd to claim Nietzsche caused Nazism. But who does? The development and dissemination of ideas is far too complicated for that, and besides, ideologues are usually deliverers of notions whose times have come, not their inventors. However, we have seen how Nietzsche influenced eugenicists and fascists even within his lifetime. It is therefore no less absurd to attempt to sever the clear links between Nietzsche’s philosophy and the fascist terror that emerged in its wake.

We’ve seen that, although Förster-Nietzsche was an “unreliable custodian” of Nietzsche’s works, her editing practices show a tendency to soften his antisemitism and German nationalism, and that proto-fascists found philosophical inspiration in works Nietzsche published in his lifetime. The “Elisabeth Conspiracy” allows its proponents to discard the inconvenient overtly fascistic elements while retaining whatever aesthetic and beautiful quotes resonated with them.

In fact, juxtaposing the repulsive content of Nietzsche’s thought with its beautiful form brings to the fore one of the rarest and most impressive of Nietzsche’s merits: the seductiveness of his writing. The reader is repeatedly complimented, ushered into an exclusive and worthy circle (“we free spirits”). As Day writes, “Nietzsche helps explain how fantasies of ‘slavery’ and ‘extermination’ could become respectable and even beautiful.” [58] It is understandable that readers would want to wash away the problematic aspects of his philosophy so that they may more freely indulge in his poetry. But the counter-revolutionary and aristocratic aspects of Nietzsche are inseparable from the rest of his philosophy — and were interwoven into his work prior to any meddling by his sister.

Förster-Nietzsche did not work on Nietzsche’s archive alone. [59] Is it not a triumph of Nietzsche’s reactionary seductiveness that his fans insist on identifying a woman, howevermuch a vile Nazi woman, as the sacrificial lamb that cleanses him of his sins?

But she does not want truth — what does woman care for truth? From the very first, nothing is more foreign, more repugnant, or more hostile to woman than truth — her great art is falsehood, her chief concern is appearance and beauty. [60]

Perhaps we should credit Nietzsche for preemptively validating, for his future defenders, an alluring theory about a sororal forgerer!

Trying to cleanse Friedrich Nietzsche of his advocacy of slavery and eugenics, avoiding the unifying themes of his philosophy, strips him of what made him an interesting and remarkable thinker. After all, if you’re interested in bringing about a socialist revolution, it is worth engaging with one of the leading counter-revolutionary philosophers, treating him as such. To do that means grappling with him in full, and not hiding him behind his sister.

[1] Her funeral in 1935 was even attended by Hitler. [web] 

[2] Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe (1967) and Briefwechsel. Kritische Gesamtausgabe (1975), accessible in an easily searchable and conveniently linkable online database, eKGWB. [web] 

[3] In this case, of suppressing antisemitic themes and depoliticizing Nietzsche. See Domenico Losurdo, “How One Constructs Nietzsche’s Innocence: Publishers, Translators, Interpreters” in Nietzsche, The Aristocratic Rebel (2002). 

[4] Domenico Losurdo, “The International Origins of Nazism” (2010). [web] 

[5] “Elisabeth’s Conspiracy” in Nietzsche, the Aristocratic Rebel: Intellectual Biography and Critical Balance-Sheet (2002). 

[6] “Placing Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche in the Crosshairs”, Nietzsche-Studien (2014). [web] 

[7] R. Kevin Hill. “Introduction” to The Will to Power, xvi (2017). 

[8] See also: Christian Niemeyer, “Die schwester! schwester! ’s klingt so fürchterlich! Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche als Verfälscherin der Briefe und werke ihres Bruders — eine offenbar notwendige Rückerinnerung” in Nietzscheforschung, vol. 16, p 335–55 (2009). 

[9] Nietzsche’s nickname for his sister was llama. [61] [62] 

[10] Friedrich Nietzsche, Gesammelte Briefe, edited by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. vol. 5, part 2, pp. 752–55 (1909). [web] 

[11] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power §872 (1901). [web] 

[12] Friedrich Nietzsche, Kritische Studienausgabe Volume XI, 102. Edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Quoted in Losurdo (2002). 

[13] “Es ist richtig, datz er niemals begeisterte Reden auf ‘das deukche Weib’ gehalten hat, dazu war er wohl von Jugend auf ein ze guter Europaer; auch hat er im den wichtigten Junglingsjahren Schopehauers wufte Reden gegen das weibliche Geschlecht fennen gelernt, die gerade deshalb tiesen Eindrud auf ihn machten, weil damals seine kenntnik in dieser hinsicht gering war.” — Förster-Nietzsche, Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1895). [web] 

[14] Curt von Westernhagen, Nietzsche, Juden, Antijuden (1936). Quoted in Losurdo (2002) p. 714-5. 

[15] Christian Niemeyer, “Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche im Kontext. Eine Antwort auf Robert C. Holub” (2014). [web] 

[16] Besides, proponents of the “Elisabeth Conspiracy” are not without their own philological shortcomings. As Holub notes, Christian Niemeyer “reproaches Förster-Nietzsche for not using the original letter, although it was in [Nietzsche’s friend] Overbeck’s possession” at the time. — Robert C. Holub, “Placing Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche in the Crosshairs”, Nietzsche-Studien (2014). [web] 

[17] For example, Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton briefly discusses his family destroying letters with potentially embarrassing revelations about his sexual orientation. — R. D. 

[18] Mazzino Montinari, The Will to Power Does Not Exist (1997). [web] 

[19] Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885). [web] 

[20] “Introduction” to The Will to Power xvi (2017). 

[21] Tony Tulathimutte, “Title Fights” (25 May 2016), The Paris Review. [web] The story of the original title for Casablanca is particularly fun. [web] 

[22] Briefwechsel. Kritische Gesamtausgabe. Edited Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Quoted in Losurdo (2002) p. 113. 

[23] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy §22 (1872). [web] 

[24] In the 20th century this was sometimes called “dog whistle politics”: the same exact message can appear to some as perfectly innocuous, while others understand it as a vicious “inside joke.” [web] — R. D. 

[25] Alfred Ploetz, Grundlinien einer Rassenhygiene [Principles of Racial Hygiene] (1895). [web] 

[26] Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Bestowing Virtue”, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885). Walter Kauffman translation (1954). Thomas Common translation (1917). [web] 

[27] Friedrich Nietzsche, Letter to Franz Overbeck, March 24. 1887. [en] [de]

[28] Alexander Tille, From Darwin to Nietzsche, a development ethics book, p. 196-197, see also p. 211-212 (1895). [web] 

[29] George Vacher de Lapouge, Les Selections Sociales, p. 469-470 (published 1896, based on lectures given 1888-1889). [web] 

[30] Friedrich Nietzsche, Dawn, Thoughts on the Presumptions of Morality §272. English translation by Brittain Smith, based on the Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari edition. 

[31] Ibid. 

[32] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greek State (1871). [web] 

[33] Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human §439 (1878). [web] 

[34] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Greek State (1871). [web] 

[35] Friederich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil §61 (1886). [web] 

[36] Friederich Nietzsche, “The Birth of Tragedy” §1, Ecce Homo (1888). [web] 

[37] Friederich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil §22 (1886). [web] 

[38] Friederich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil §61 (1886). [web] 

[39] Friederich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, §251 (1886). [web] 

[40] Ibid. 

[41] Friederich Nietzsche, Kritische Studienausgabe Volume 14, 370. Edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. [web] 

[42] Possibly a reference to policy proposed by Bismarck. [web] 

[43] Friederich Nietzsche, Daybreak (1881). 

[44] Friederich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols §40 (1889). [web] 

[45] Anthony M. Ludovici, in the Appendix to the Thomas Common translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1917). [web] 

[46] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Old and New Tables” 19-20, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1888). Walter Kauffman translation (1954). Thomas Common translation (1917). [web] 

[47] “Was fallen muß, das fällt — und uns bleibt dabei nur die Aufgabe, es zu stoßen!” — Joseph Goebbels. Reden Volume 2, p. 62. [web] 

[48] Friederich Nietzsche, The Antichrist 2 (written 1888, published 1895). [web] 

[49] Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Birth of Tragedy”, Ecce Homo (1888). [web] 

[50] Friederich Nietzsche, The Antichrist §43 (written 1888, published 1895). [web] 

[51] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Why I am a Destiny” §8, Ecce Homo (1888). [web] 

[52] Domenico Losurdo, “Radical Antimodernism and Nonactuality: Nietzsche and Heidegger”, Heidegger and the Ideology of War: Community, Death, and the West, (1991). [web] 

[53] Joe Emersberger, “Mein Kampf: Hitler’s Love Letter to Western Imperialism” (2022). [web] 

[54] And, not so accidentally, on the side of the liberals too. — Roderic Day, “Really Existing Fascism” (2021). [web] 

[55] Losurdo (2002) pp. 608, 635. 

[56] “[T]he history of criminal families, for which the Englishman Galton (‘the hereditary genius’) collected the greatest material, always leads back to a person who is too strong for a certain social level.” — Letter to August Strindberg, 8 December 1888. [web]

[57] Domenico Losurdo interviewed about Friedrich Nietzsche (2009). [web] 

[58] Roderic Day, “Really Existing Fascism” (2021). [web] 

[59] Heinrich Köselitz (alias Peter Gast), a close friend and writing partner of Nietzsche’s, carried out most of the editing of The Will to Power, along with his associates. 

[60] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (1886), 232. [web] 

[61] Förster-Nietzsche happily describes the origin of her nickname as an entry in a childhood favourite book on nature: “The llama is a strange animal; it voluntarily bears the heaviest burdens, but if you try to force it or treat it badly, it refuses to eat and lies down in the dust to die.” Der junge Nietzsche, p. 44 (1912). [web] 

[62] An editorial note in the French edition of Montinari’s The Will to Power Does Not Exist [web] cites Curt Paul Janz’s suggestion that Nietzsche was also inspired by a passage in Friedrich Schoedler’s The Book of Nature (p. 453, 1851): “it is peculiar that the lama sprays his saliva, mixed with half-digested food, onto the opponent as a means of defense.” [web]