Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Nietzsche and the Nazis: A Movie Review

Mike L.

Nietzsche and the Nazis is a fascinating 2006 lecture on film by professor of intellectual history, Stephen Hicks, in which he asks the same question that people have been asking themselves since World War II: how is it that Germany, perhaps the most educated country in the entire world at the time, could turn to genocidal fascism resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of people in war and the slaughter of two-thirds of Europe’s Jews?

His answer is not that economic troubles, or Germany’s failure in World War I, were the primary causes because, indeed, Italy, a country that prevailed in World War I also turned to fascism and many countries suffering from major economic troubles do not do so. Nor does Hicks find the answer within the “essence” of German culture or the German people, as if there was something inherently evil about the Germans of that time. Yet another answer rejected by Hicks is that the rise of National Socialism in Germany was a result of the personal psychologies, failures, and neuroses, of the main cast of characters.

“Oh, come on,” he says to the camera. “How many failed art students turn to fascism?”

Instead, Hicks finds the answer in ideology and philosophy. A big part of the answer, he suggests, is in the writings of significant intellectuals and opinion makers heading into the 1930s

Millions of voters in a democracy don’t decide spontaneously to vote for this political party or that,” he notes. “A mass political movement requires that much cultural groundwork be done over the course of many years. And this is where intellectuals do their work. Intellectuals develop a culture’s ideals, its hopes, its aspirations in books, magazines, in sermons, and radio broadcasts. It is intellectuals who are a culture’s opinion shapers. It is intellectuals who write opinion pieces for the mass newspapers, who are the professors at the universities, the universities where the next generation of preachers and teachers and politicians and lawyers and physicians are all getting their education.

Hicks demonstrates that support for the Nazis did not come primarily from German street thugs, as is sometimes mistakenly assumed, but from the German middle class and intellectual elites of an intellectual society. Great German philosophers like Martin Heidegger, as well as Nobel prize winning scientists, jurists, celebrated writers and scholars supported the rise of National Socialism because they honestly believed that the ideals of Hitler’s political party represented the best hope for the German people going forward into the twentieth century.

The primary cause of Nazism resides in philosophy, not economics, not psychology, not even politics… National Socialism was a philosophy intensive movement.

The Nazis were idealists, Hicks argues. This is what so many people refuse to understand. The Nazis were not cartoon villains and their supporters were, for the most part, not street thugs. They were, instead, crusaders and idealogues in what they considered to be a noble cause.

The National Socialist German Worker's Party was a highly idealistic political party that attracted young people and college students intent upon a social revolution. They believed in socialism, collectivism, nationalism, and racism. And they opposed both Marxism and capitalism, and, needless to say, associated the Jews with both.

Hicks asks:

Come the 1920s, just how strong is the case for capitalism, liberalism, democracy, republicanism? What if a culture’s brightest intellectuals believe that democracy is a historical blip? What if they believe that the lesson of history is that people need structure and strong leadership? What if they think that history shows that some cultures are obviously superior to others, superior in their arts, their science, and technology, their religion? What if they believe that history shows that we live in a harsh world of conflict and that in such a world strength and assertiveness against your enemy are necessary to survive?

Hicks finds three main ideological themes, aside from racism, in the rise of German National Socialism: collectivism, socialism, and nationalism. Combining these themes, Nazism became a moral ideal and a spiritual crusade, with a huge following among the idealistic young.

The book burnings were not instigated by non-intellectuals, but by the students themselves.

But, if other great social-political movements drew their inspiration from certain key thinkers, who, asks Hicks, did the Nazis look to? When we think about the rise of Communism in the twentieth century the name that immediately comes to mind as the ideological father of the movement is Karl Marx. When we think about the rise of liberal-democracy and the American Revolution we look to John Locke as a primary spiritual forefather.

For the Nazis, Hicks argues, it is Friedrich Nietzsche who served that role.

If the Nazis were brutal it is, in part, because they embraced an ideal of brutality that was meant to advance the well-being of the volk. The Nazis weren’t cruel merely for the sake of cruelty, but out of a moral understanding of the world that places a premium on strength in a zero-sum contest between the “races.” Nietzsche maintained that there are essentially two types of people in the world, those with a slave’s morality and those with a master’s morality. Neither morality comes from a transcendent being because God is, after all, according to Nietzsche, "dead."  Instead, morality depends upon our biological natures and different biological natures have different moral codes. If one is a sheep what is moral would be sticking together, but if one is a wolf what is moral is aggression. In both cases, morality is a survival mechanism. A wolf who thinks that killing and eating a sheep is immoral will not survive for long.

Hicks then raises the question of whether or not, given Nietzsche’s philosophy, the Nazis were correct to regard him as a true ideological predecessor? What he finds is that in some ways they were and in some ways they were not.

For example, Nietzsche never argued, as the Nazis did, that some “races” were superior to others. Nor did Nietzsche admire the contemporary Germans, the volk. Quite the contrary. Nor was Nietzsche an anti-Semite and he viewed Christianity and Judaism as ideological allies because they both embraced, according to his philosophy, "the slave’s morality."

In other ways, however, the Nazis were right to see Nietzsche as a spiritual father to their movement. According to Hicks, both the Nazis and Nietzsche were anti-individualistic. Nietzsche believed in a form of biological determinism (an anti-individualist notion) and saw no value in the vast majority of the lives of individual people. Nietzsche’s goal was not to improve the life of the individual, but to promote the emergence of the uber-mensch for the purpose of creating a stronger species of human.

Both Nietzsche and the Nazis saw conflict as essential and good and zero-sum conflict as fundamental to the human condition.  Both were irrationalists in their view of psychology and believed in instinct over intellect. Both praised war as something that could bring out the very best in people. Both were anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and anti-capitalist.

Hicks ends his discussion with an appeal to rationality and discussion. We can fight them in theory or we can fight them on the battlefield. It is better, Hicks argues, to fight them in theory in order to prevent the rise of fascism in the future. This is where he leaves his argument and who among us would disagree with his conclusion?

Of course it is better to fight them in theory, rather than on the field of battle.

But, today, who is “them”? The Nazis, after all, are long gone and right-wing fascism is not on the rise in Europe or the west. We do see a form of genocidal fascism rising up in the Middle East, however, under the misnomer “Arab Spring.” It is the rise of radical Islam that represents the foremost geopolitical problem in the world today. Our conflict with this movement is often discussed as a battle for hearts and minds, but is it? It should be, perhaps, but do we see the west mounting actual arguments against the fascist nature of radical Islam?

I would argue that in certain conservative circles there is a discussion of the philosophical-political differences between the prevalent trends that characterize the west versus those that characterize radical Islam. This conversation, however, is only taking place on the political right, because the political left refuses to acknowledge what is before their very eyes. For the most part, the progressive-left refuses to discuss radical Islam because to do so marks one as an “Islamophobe.” In this way the progressive movement has removed itself from the discussion almost entirely.

We cannot beat them on theoretical grounds if we insist upon censoring ourselves and those around us. Further, if the left refuses to even have the discussion this leaves their political rivals on the right in charge of defining the terms of that discussion and thereby having the greater influence. It also means that, for all intents and purposes, the western left has abandoned any real fight for social justice beyond their own communities and thus has abandoned its core value of "universal human rights."

One cannot stand for universal human rights, if one will not stand up for the rights of women in the Middle East.

One cannot stand for universal human rights, if one will not stand up for the rights of gay people in the Middle East.

And one cannot stand for universal human rights, if one will not stand up for the rights of the Jewish people to live in peace and security in the Middle East.

Sad, but true.


  1. What tends to be overlooked by most is that the main problem, and the most powerful forces involved, are not the forces of the Islamic supremacist political movement, but are, rather, the organizations of the Western "Establishment" (governments, mass-media, academia, European corporations) - that are promoting, colluding with, and enabling, the Islamic supremacist political movement and waging an ideological racist, and, in many cases, actually intendedly genocidal, propaganda and diplomatic war against the Jewish people.

    Moreover, what is most overlooked, and what is, by most people, even entirely unknown, is the most active, most influential, role that is being played in this by the Putin-(KGB)-led regime of Russia -- propagandicly (the propaganda news agency "Russia Today", etc.), and with more covert deceitful tactics of the KGB tactic of "ideological subversion" -- deceitful posing, etc..

    To understand the nature of the Soviet regime's attitude toward, and agenda toward, the Jewish people and Israel, please see the almost identical iconography of Nazi(National Socialist(NAtionalsoZIalistische)/Soviet-(so-called "Anti-Zionist")(/and, also, contemporary-Muslim-Arab) political cartoons -- which is iconography which is displayed in the following article: "How Did the Holocaust Happen? Just Look Around." (http://danielbielak.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-did-holocaust-happen-just-look.html)

    Russia is actively materially helping and enabling Iran to get nuclear weapons. Russia is supporting the Iranian-allied Assad regime of Syria.

    Mike, earlier, soon before you were going to change the URL of your blog from "karmafishies.blogspot.com" to "israelthrives.blogspot.com", after you announced that you were going to change the URL of your blog from "karmafishies.blogspot.com" to "israelthrives.blogspot.com", someone else created the URL "israelthrives.blogspot.com", and on the page of that URL, posted a photograph of Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria, with the words: "Long live Syria". Who do you think did that? I'm almost certain that it was not those who figuratively call themselves, and who you call, "Kossacks", and who you wrote that you thought that they had done that, who did that.

    My blog has been getting strange regular multiple web hits from a source in Russia from "shady" web domains for several months, and, soon before then, and also recently, I experienced several disturbing encounters online, and I've observed some disturbing phenomena online (including a web site that was hosting an article by a Pakistani British Muslim formerly indoctrinated former anti-Israeli/anti-Jewish racist who, after reading the book A Case For Israel, and after, subsequently, visiting Israel, is now a pro-Israeli activist, to which I listed a link being shut down by what seemed to by a DoS Hacker attack), which, I think, are related to that.

    Mike, it's not paranoia when, in fact, "they are" actually "out to get you".

    When will Jewish people learn?

    1. DoS Hacker attack = "Denial-of-service" hacker attack

    2. Update:

      I saw some evidence that indicated that the sources that were listed as being from Russia may have been from Iran.

  2. Hi Dan,

    I find it rather difficult to believe that any government actor, anywhere in the world, would seek to undermine this blog.

    We're too small fry.

    I mean, our numbers last month were the best, yet, with something over 10,000 page views, not including my own, but that is still very small.

    So, no, I doubt very much that the person who grabbed my announced domain name was anything other than some childish authoritarian progressive.

    It's a shame about the progressive-left.

    If they ever stood for something aside from humanitarian racism and hatred of the "other," they no longer do.

  3. No activity engaged in by Jewish people to try to protect Jewish people from genocidal anti-Jewish racists has been thought too "small-fry" to be perceived as being a threat by, and to be tried to be undermined by, powerful malicious people who are genocidal anti-Jewish racists.

    The fact that so many Jewish people have always "found" "it rather difficult to believe" that very powerful people hate, and have sought to annihilate, the Jewish people, by very concerted and concentrated efforts, has been a big, detrimental, problem with the Jewish people.

    It may not have been, or it may have been, governmental who did the particular action of creating that URL israelthrives.blogspot.com, but it certainly was genocidal anti-Jewish racists who have been following your blog, and who I think are the Russian sources who have been web-hitting my blog and who, I think, shut down, with a hack attack, the web site of the Jewish Canadian News after I, on this blog, posted a link to that article that I referred to in my previous comment.

    Also, as I said, I've had certain other experiences online that I think are related to these events.



    The modus operendi of the KGB ("ideological subversion"):

    An interview with Yuri Bezmenov, former member of, and defector from, the KGB Novosti Press agency:

    Soviet Subversion of the Free World Press, 1984 - Complete

    1. Well, perhaps you're right.

      It's not that I find it difficult to imagine that genocidal anti-Semites are, in fact, genocidal anti-Semites. After all, they scream it at us from the rooftops on a daily basis in the Arab-Muslim world.

      I just find it difficult to believe that they, or their allies, would bother concerning themselves with me.

      Maybe I am wrong.

    2. I think that it's just something to keep in mind and to be aware of.

    3. What I think is especially important for authentically liberal people to know and be aware of is how the KGB indoctrinated the Western political Left.

      The contemporary "Left" is now simply the other, and now the most socially prominent, "side of the coin" of the Nazi so-called "Far Right".

      The actual Nazi side of the coin, however, still actually exists, and although it is not *socially* prominent, is actually politically powerful.

      After World War II, most of the members of the Nazi regime of Germany were let free. (After World War II, several thousand of them even constituted the founding membership of the CIA, and were recruited into the CIA, soon after World War II, by the founder of the CIA, Allen Dulles -- who, in the 1930's, with his friend Jack Philby, provided, and profited from providing, petroleum from Muslim Arab states to the Nazi regime of Germany. Jack Philby was a British official, and was a self-professed Socialist, and was one of the main administrators of the British Mandate of Palestine, and converted to Islam in 1930, and was a fervent supporter of the Nazis.)

      Ever heard of the Underground Reich?

      Look at German industry.

      German corporations have been supporting, enabling the Islamic supremacist regime in Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

      Who is Who in German trade with Iran?, by German academic scholar, and former member of the "Anti-Zionist" Left in Germany, Matthias Küntzel

      Ahmadinejad's Bank, by Matthias Küntzel; "Germany has to make up its mind about calling a halt to the activties of Hamburg-based EIH bank"

  4. An interesting piece, Mike. Thanks.

    Mike and others, I think we would do well to listen carefully to what Daniel has to say. The fact we are "small fry" is not reason to think they would not be bothered with us. On the contrary. You could say that of all of Jews. It is the fact that we are small fry that attracts them.

    I'm pretty small fry by any definition. I once had a reply post in morse code to a comment I had put up on a political blog. When translated it said "One day you will say something fatal".

    The comment name included my street adddress.