Nietzsche Reception as “Philosopher of Führermenschen” in the Main Nazi Newspaper

By David B. Dennis.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper analyzes how the main newspaper of the Nazi party presented the life and work of Friedrich W. Nietzsche according to the National Socialist world view. It is a study of every major article Der Völkische Beobachter (The Folkish Observer) published about the philosopher. My extensive archival research demonstrates how Nazi Germany attempted to appropriate not only the Germany of “Poets and Thinkers,” but History of Western Humanities from Ancient Greece through the Second World War. To insert into our coverage of National Socialist cultural history more of the materials by which party propagandists tried to appropriate Nietzsche as a “spiritual comrade,” I have examined every page of the Völkischer Beobachter from January 1920 through April 1945 in search of the major pieces it published on the philosopher and his ideas. Drawing from a collection of 32 articles, this essay traces how the paper attempted to transform Nietzsche and his works into propaganda tools, often by smoothing over elements in his biography and works that rendered this nazification process problematic.

Keywords: Modern European Intellectual and Cultural History, German History, Reception Theory, Nazi Culture, Propaganda, Nietzsche, Nietzsche Reception

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 7, pp.39-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 527.077KB).

Prof. David B. Dennis

Associate Professor, Department of History, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA

A former student of Professor George L. Mosse at the University of Wisconsin, and then Professors Robert Wohl, Eugen Weber, Saul Friedlander, and Robert Winter at UCLA, my work has been dedicated to synthesizing approaches to relating the arts to their social contexts, particularly using theories of reception to explore the interface between music and politics in German culture. My main publications include Beethoven in German Politics, 1870-1989 (Yale U. P., 1996); "'The Most German of all German Operas': Die Meistersinger Through the Lens of the Third Reich" in Wagner’s Meistersinger: Performance, History, Representation (Rochester, 2003); "Honor Your German Masters: ‘Classical’ Composers in Nazi Propaganda," Journal of Political and Military Sociology (Winter 2002); "Beethoven At Large: Reception in Literature, the Arts, Philosophy, and Politics" in Cambridge Companion to Beethoven (Cambridge, 2000); and "Brahms’s Requiem eines Unpolitischen," in Diskurse zur deutschen Identität (Wien, 2000). I am presently working on a book which analyzes how the main newspaper of the Nazi party presented the history of Western art, literature, music, and thought according to the National Socialist world view. It is a study of every major article the Völkischer Beobachter published about the leading writers, composers, and artists of the Western tradition.

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