On the “blond beast” and racism [Section 28 of Nietzsche and the Nazis]

[This is Section 28 of Nietzsche and the Nazis.]

28. On the “blond beast” and racism

Take the phrase “the blond beast.”

nn-front-cover-thumbIn recoiling from what he saw as a flaccid nineteenth-century European culture, Nietzsche often called longingly for “some pack of blond beasts of prey, a conqueror and master race which, organized for war and with the ability to organize, unhesitatingly lays its terrible claws upon a populace.”[87] And he spoke of “[t]he deep and icy mistrust the German still arouses today whenever he gets into a position of power is an echo of that inextinguishable horror with which Europe observed for centuries that raging of the Blond Germanic beast.” And again inspirationally about what one finds “at the bottom of all these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast, prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness.”[88]

What are we to make of these regular positive mentions of the “blond beast”? It is clear what the Nazis made of them—an endorsement by Nietzsche of the racial superiority of the German Aryan type.

But for those who have read the original Nietzsche, that interpretation clearly takes Nietzsche’s words out of context. In context, the “blond beast” that Nietzsche refers to is the lion, the great feline predator with the shaggy blond mane and the terrific roar. Nietzsche does believe that the Germans once, a long time ago, manifested the spirit of the lion—but they were not unique in that regard. The spirit and power of the lion have been manifested by peoples of many races.

To see this, let us put one of the quotations in full context. The quotation begins this way: “at the bottom of all these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast, prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get out again and go back to the wilderness …”

Now let us complete the sentence as Nietzsche wrote it: “the Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings—they all shared this need.”[89]

So Nietzsche clearly is using the lion analogically and comparing its predatory power to the predatory power that humans of many different racial types have manifested. Nietzsche here lists six different racial and ethnic groups, and the Germans are not special in that list. So while Nietzsche does endorse a strongly biological basis for cultures, he does not endorse racism of the sort that says any one race is biologically necessarily superior to any other.

This is a clear difference with the Nazis. The Nazis were racist and thought of the Germanic racial type as superior to all others the world over. Nietzsche disagreed.

This leads us directly to a second major point of difference.

[Update: The entire Nietzsche and the Nazis in hardcover and Kindle at Amazon.]


[87] GM 2:17.

[88] GM 1:11.

[89] GM 1:11.


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10 thoughts on “On the “blond beast” and racism [Section 28 of Nietzsche and the Nazis]

  • May 1, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I was first introduced to Nietzsche in college. My philosophy professor started the class with a disclaimer about Nietzsche NOT being an anti-semite using well chosen quotes. We were handed a printout of the second chapter of “On the Genealogy of Morals” , (I don’t know why the book wasn’t made available to us from the college bookstore.) I thought some of the author’s remarks were a bit questionable but mostly I thoroughly enjoyed the class my reading left a strong impression on me. I was raised Catholic, I used to go to mass as a child, confess to imaginary sins, hear about how Jesus died for our sins, about the meek being blessed and I thought: is it just me or is this crap? Finally, the answer was, yes, absolutely. I bought the whole book, as well as many others and enjoyed their iconoclasm. But still, a few things bothered me: why did he blame the Jews for Christianism ? Why was war and violence so great? Still I liked his analysis of self-deception and guilt and I let it slide. But I can’t take it anymore. I mean come on : when he talks about the darker, lower races; the perils of intermixing different classes or races the advantages of abstinence what am I supposed to think. Of course he is racist, of course he would have at least partially approved fascism, of course he was a sickly, frustrated and fairly neurotic unhappy man trying to keep up appearances. I can still appreciate his catchiest insights but I don’t understand why we can’t simply admit that the man was flawed, prejudiced, classist, racist, etc.. Had he been born a couple of hundred years before, nobody would mind even today. But he came along not long before Hitler and, perhaps unfairly, it’s harder to view war-mongering and racial classifications as innocuous. Nowadays I just stick to hardcore scientists. Neither the meek nor the strong shall prevail. We all know that an ecosystem needs an adequate predator to prey ratio to sustain itself. It’s not a battle, it’s a symbiotic or parasitic relation. In any case, Nietzsche is old news.

  • October 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    @Marie-Claude Blais: I have a feeling that you have a tendancy not to pay attention, and to hear only what you are interested in. The idea that there can be a right or wrong answer in the realm of religious views means you’ve missed the point of philosophy altogether. Finding the answer is not as important as understanding the question. If you found an answer that suits you, that’s all well and good, but thinking that there is an answer that suits everyone is simply ignorant.

    You probably didn’t pay much attention when you were raised Catholic either, otherwise you’d know why the Jews can be blamed for Christianity: Christianity started as a Jewish cult, based off of ancient Jewish texts and prophecies. If there were no Jews, there would be no Christians.

    As for views about intermixing races and the like, this was all part of the “science” of eugenics that was incredibly popular in the early 1900’s, and will forever be considered pure evil due to Hitler. The idea is along the same lines as purebreeding dogs: The best, most desireable traits in any animal, including man, can only be prolonged and perfected through breeding them to accept those traits as the genetic standard. For a very broad example, if tall people are healthier, the idea is to not mix the genes of tall people with short people. Or, if taken to an absurd extreme, to not let short people breed at all. Eventually all mankind will be tall, and their healthier traits will dominate the species, making the entire human race better as a result. It’s not necessarily racism to say that X race is more prone to heart failure due to genetics, and thus other races shouldn’t breed with that race to protect all mankind from heart failure.

    If eugenics had been around a few hundred years earlier, and hadn’t been ruined by an evil dictator, it’s incredibly likely that things like cancer, heart disease, diabites, and untold dozens of other hereditary diseases wouldn’t be nearly as widesprea as they are today. If that’s racism, well I guess it’s better to live with a crippling disease than a little bit of objective hate.

  • October 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    @FigmentImage can hatred ever be objective?

  • January 2, 2011 at 9:59 am

    @FigmentImage Except that pure breed dogs are less healthy, and often plagued by debilitating and painful deformities and crippling hereditary diseases, where as mutts tend to live longer and be healthier over-all.

  • January 7, 2011 at 9:35 am

    “Blonde beast” was the Roman slur for germanic people. They were supposedly the inferior race to the healthy dark Romans. Go figure…

  • January 22, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Nietzsche was super racist. Hundreds and hundreds of Nietzsche’s original phrases reveal an explicit biological, social and personal criminal racist (anti-deutsch, sure!). These texts are hidden or manipulate by certain ideologists by ignorance or by mauvase foi. Sorry, but see yourself some texts instill at work, with citations : http://www.alonsofia.com/nietzsche Mensch.html

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  • October 3, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Well, I’m afraid that adding “the Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian Vikings—they all shared this need” to the quote doesn’t make it in any sense less open to a Nazi-esque reading, since all but two of those groups were considered by the Nazis to be of the same race (Aryan) and those two were not thought of as enemies but the Nazis.

    I’m not disputing Nietzches’ intent here, I’m just saying you should probably be more familiar with Nazi ideology before trying to prove a certain statement is not compatible with Nazism.

  • October 3, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Thanks, Rowan. A quick response.
    In a list of six groups, “all but two” is 33%, which is a significant quantity. So even with an expansionist Nazi-esque definition of “Aryan,” the point holds easily that the Nazi use of “blond beast” is a misuse of Nietzsche.

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