“Nietzsche and the Nazis” update

n-n-cover-100x163Since its 2006 publication, my 2:45-hour documentary on Nietzsche and the Nazis has been available from Amazon, Netflix, and other venues.

Beginning this summer, Netflix has made the documentary available via video-stream, which has led to a healthy uptick in feedback — including gratifying praise, interesting new angles, thoughtful disagreement — and a smattering of ad hominem and/or otherwise vituperative attacks from those whose interpretations of National Socialism or Nietzsche are very different than mine.

Probably par for the course when dealing with such weighty matters and polarizing political movements and philosophers.

This summer I have been turning the script into a manuscript (and am almost finished). The manuscript includes the footnotes for all the key quotations and assertions, along with a full bibliography. This will enable scholars and other interested thinkers to check everything for accuracy and to use it for other scholarly purposes.

The script and manuscript are in 38 sections [pdf of the scene selection menu]. The plan is to release the manuscript sections serially over the next few months, each section containing the text, relevant images, and being available in both HTML and PDF formats. When all of the sections of the manuscript have been released, a full version in PDF will also be made available.

Alongside that process, I will post in response to the many very good emails I’ve been receiving from those who have watched the documentary. By far, the most email I’ve been receiving focuses on the two most controversial interpretive points in the documentary:

swastika-112x501. On the Nazis: I argue that they were socialists and anti-capitalist. .

nietzsche_50x572. On Nietzsche: I argue that he is an individualist only in a very limited sense and that he is much more a collectivist than he is an individualist. .

Those two theses have generated the most heat, so in near-future blog posts I will take up two important issues:

Were the Nazis really socialists?
Was Nietzsche an individualist or a collectivist?

If those issues interest you, please sharpen your debating skills, brush up on your history and philosophy, and prepare for some serious intellectual fun.

[Go to the Nietzsche and the Nazis page. Go to the StephenHicks.org main page.]

48 thoughts on ““Nietzsche and the Nazis” update

  • November 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Hello Stephen,
    just watched your documentary, and found it very informative, engaging and provocative; though i may not agree with your portrayal of Nietzsche’s thought in every respect, i very much do appreciate your particular contributions and conjectures, and their evidentiary support stemming from his own, written works. I am in no way an expert on Nietzsche’s philosophy; i recently received my BA in philosophy, yet Nietzsche was almost entirely omitted from the curriculum, and maybe rightly so, in lieu of more “analytical” pathways and subsidiaries. Regardless, i do specify my emphasis and focus as being “continental” in nature, stemming from Kant to Sartre. Thus, the primacy of my understanding of Nietzsche is very much autodidactic.

    That being said, you tend to portray Nietzsche as a deterministic sort of naturalist, psychologically describing men as they are, and not as they ought to be. In many ways, on the cusp of Darwinian naturalism, a lot of this strikes me as novel as pertaining to my understanding of Nietzsche, but in fact, exactly right. However, I don’t really see much of Nietzsche being portrayed normatively at all in your documentary. The problem with this is that I tend to asses Nietzsche predominantly as a normative ethical philosopher, asserting positive statements about what man OUGHT to be (forgive the caps, no italics) regardless of the biological/sociological/psychological condition he has been thrust in.

    My main point is this then: You (possibly incorrectly, but never the mind) downplay Nietzsche’s individualistic overtones, overshadowed by a sort of behavioristic naturalism that is engrained psychologically in every creature, kind of stating that mankind “is what it is;” being predominantly dumb and herd like, it is advanced that mankind is better to seek collective ends instead of trying to assert their individuality. However, could you say that Nietzsche would truly have concurred with Hitler and the Nazi’s in that individuals should ACCEPT this docile acquiescence and thus would have in fact supported that Hitler and that Nazi’s total disregard for human life and support of veritable enslavement? Nietzsche antithetically denounces mankind for this loathsome, apathetical acceptance of power, established by contrived, man-ordained systems of morality (e.g. The Antichrist, Twilight OTI, Geneology of Morals etc.) , and instead asserts that people need to shake themselves of exactly this apathetical indolence that has perpetuated their “herd-i-ness” in order to assert their individuality, embracing their instinctive will to power, thus advancing toward the overman. To me, Nietzsche, throughout the majority of his philosophy seems to despise enslavement, and yet this is exactly what the Nazi’s seem to champion him as espousing. I think this is a fundamentally standard and valid point that dissuades people from aligning Nietzsche with the Nazi’s, and yet it does seem to be tacitly alluded to or implied anywhere in your documentary.

    Thanks so much, appreciate the discussion opportunity, and keep up the good fight!

    Brett Dinovo

  • November 2, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    second to last sentence should read “doesn’t seem…”

  • November 5, 2011 at 9:20 am


    Thank you for your scholarship and leadership.


  • November 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Stephen,
    Are you familiar with Rudiger Safranski’s work on Nietzsche?

    “Nietzsche could envision this higher stage of mankind only as a culmination of culture in its ‘peaks of rapture,’ which is to say in successful individuals and achievements. The will to power unleashes the dynamics of culmination, but it is also the will to power that forms a moral alliance on the side of the weak. This alliance works at cross-purposes with the goal of culmination and ultimately, in Nietzsche’s view, leads to widespread equalization and degeneration. As a modern version of the ‘Christian theory of morality,’ this alliance forms the backbone of democracy and socialism. Nietzsche adamantly opposed all such movements. For him, the meaning of world history was not happiness and prosperity of the greatest possible number but individual manifestations of success in life. The culture of political and social democracy was a concern of the ‘last people,’ whom he disparaged. He threw overboard the state-sponsored ethics of the common welfare because he regarded such ethics as an impediment to the self-configuration of great individuals. If, however, the great personalities were to vanish, the only remaining significance of history would be lost in the process. By defending the residual significance of history, Nietzsche assailed democracy and declared what mattered was ‘delaying the complete appeasement of the democratic herd-animal'(11,587; WP 125) … Nietzsche opted against democratic life organized according to the principle of welfare. For him, a world of that sort would signal the triumph of the human herd animal…

    If we are content to regard this highly personal philosophy and these maneuvers of self-configuration with fascination and perhaps even admiration, but are not willing to abandon the idea of democracy and justice, it is likely that Nietzsche would have accused us of feeble compromise, indecisiveness, and epitomizing the ominous ‘blinking’ of the ‘last men.”

  • November 19, 2011 at 3:01 pm


    “And yet, Nietzsche reacts to the overthrow of the noble valuation with anything but equanimity. Not only are his works suffused with grand schemes to bring about a rebirth of a brutal aristocratic order in the modern period, but Safranski helpfully notes that, when it came to the public policy debates of his day, Nietzsche invariably sided against the vulnerable. He rejected “shortening the length of the workday from twelve hours a day to eleven in Basel.” He was “a proponent of child labor, noting with approval that Basel permitted children over the age of twelve to work up to eleven hours a day.” He opposed the education of workers and thought that the only consideration in their treatment should be whether (in Nietzsche’s words) their “descendants also work well for our descendants.””

  • January 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Hi Stephen,
    Thanks for the great historical work. I’ve recently been very fascinated with the societal forces that shaped the development of the nazi party. The role that the current state of biological thought played was also crucial as far as I can tell. For example, evolutionary theory was co-opted, misrepresented, and totally mis-understood by the nazi’s. I think there is an important parallel between the nazi’s use of philosophy, be it Darwin or Nietzsche to achieve their goals.

  • January 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Dear Prof. Hicks:

    I am interested in conducting a brief course of adult education at our church about our conceptions of everyday ethics (not Christian ethics, necessarily) and I would be delighted to have your permission to show your film to a group of about 20 “seekers” as an instance of a sound process to weigh arguments in an ethical dispute. Could you send me a note via email to either extend or withhold permission for this use?

    I am especially interested in the question of investing texts with absolute authority in an effort to justify what in your schema would be the “instincts” of the followers of an idea. And, while your critique did cover a whale of a lot of territory, I still found myself wondering about your thoughts on two other issues:

    1) Nietzsche’s preoccupation with beautiful language and originality of style;
    2) The peculiar decay of Nietzsche’s mental powers as evidenced in his autobiographical “Ecce Homo”.

    I think I must linger on these topics because of my own preoccupations with language, as a poet.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Jabez L. Van Cleef

  • January 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Excelent article. Some additional info can find here

    In 1919 Gustav Landauer, one of the chief figures of the German Revolution of 1918-19, invited Gesell to become finance minister in the shortlived Bavarian Republic. Both men were arrested and charged with treason. Landauer was murdered in prison; Gesell was acquitted. He continued to publish actively in Berlin where he died in 1930.
    WIR was founded by businessmen Werner Zimmerman and Paul Enz in 1934. It was a direct response to the Great Depression. They built on the legacy of Silvio Gesell, whose thinking also was the basis for the famous Wörgl Scrip and today’s German Regional Currencies, like the Chiemgauer.
    In discussing the future of the Reichsbank, Feder declares that “The breaking of interest slavery is by far the greatest task of National Socialism.”
    Money for Nothing

    President Roosevelt’s Campaign To Incite War in Europe: The Secret Polish Documents.
    The major cause of World War II was fear of Germany’s new banking system, and also the barter trading system that was allowing Germany to displace the USA, Britain, and others in world trade.

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